›› BOYS ON FILM #18 - HEROS ‹‹

Once again the good folk at Peccadillo Pictures proudly present a wondrous collection of ten short films that and in the main, focus on the "heros" of life.
Only and as captivating as some of the shorts featured are, this is hardly a compilation geared to the gay core of the series,
making for a sexually diverse collection that's in danger of overlooking its target audience.

›› Overall Duration - 133 mins | DVD Release Date - 30th April, 2018 ‹‹

›› revised: Monday, 17th October, 2022 ‹‹

›› Dániel ‹‹

a short film by Dean Loxton.

2015 | 14 mins | UK.

a telling variant on male prostitution.

Dave says:

Like many a short film I could name, this sensual work from writer and director Dean Loxton showcases a story that all but yearns for the next chapter to be told.

It tells the story of Hungarian student Dániel (Csémy Balázs); a likeable young man who pays for his education by working part-time as an escort in London. Invited to a dinner party by his best friend Nori (Hilda Péter); she surprises Dániel and for that matter everyone present, by arriving with her newfound boyfriend Tom (Henry Garrett). Only have the two men already met?

Intercut with flashbacks of Dániel's working life, here we find Loxton pay specific attention to Hungarian culture and in particular its food and drink. Yet at heart, this is the story of a young man who pays for his studies the only way he knows how to and to that end Balázs brings a beautifully natural take to his character. That the dialogue between Tom and Dániel is minimal to say the least is perhaps of no surprise, given this short ends at the point in which you begin to wonder in what direction the narrative could go, making for a telling variant on male prostitution and the hypocrisy of those who are all too keen to pay for sex, only to take a moralistic tone to those who service their carnal desires. Say no more.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - bare-arsed cheek | Overall - file under ... 3+ stars

›› Buddy ‹‹

a short film by Niels Bourgonje.

2015 | 12 mins | Netherlands.

the hope for reconciliation with an ex-lover.

Dave says:

Directed and co-written by Niels Bourgonje, alongside producer Edwin Goldman, this telling short film follows the life of Jeroen (Daniel Cornelissen); a young man who finds himself being asked by his ex-lover Chris (Tobias Nierop) to accompany him for moral support for his HIV test. Arriving at the clinic, Jeroen's only too happy to attend, somehow hoping that a spark of romance may still simmer below the surface of a relationship that he's never really got over. Only is there any hope for reconciliation with a man seemingly more concerned with his mobile, than being honest with his ex?

Well-played throughout, this short has an achingly realistic feel to it thanks largely to the fine performances by the Cornelissen / Nierop pairing who between them wonderfully convey the awkwardness of a reunion between ex-lovers, to that of the ever anxious wait for a result that could be life-changing.

Yet whilst Nierop is splendid in his role, this work frankly belongs to Cornelissen whose subtle eye movements all but showcase the inner feelings of a man who clearly wants to turn back time and start over again with his ex. And here the Bourgonje / Goldman boys delight in keeping you guessing, playing the "will they or won't they get back together again" card right up to the shorts' moving close-of-play. And here I'll let the result speak for itself.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - none | Overall - file under ... 3+ stars

›› Half a Life ‹‹

a short film by Tamara Shogaolu.

2017 | 12 mins | Egypt - Netherlands - US.

a moving testimony on the fight to love your heart's desire.

Dave says:

Over the years I've reviewed many a film that has bravely shone the spotlight on the plight of gay man and women living in countries in which the gay rights that we all but take for granted in the West, are seemingly but a dream. And this achingly poignant work by Tamara Shogaolu is yet another shining example of a director going out of their way to illustrate that human rights, are far from universal.

Mixing animation with actual footage that graphically depicts the bloody reality of the Egyptian authorities cracking down on the demands for rights of any kind, this work focuses on the life of a young man who tries to come to the rescue of a youth being beaten by a group of homophobic thugs, only to face instead the institutionalized brutality of the authorities. Forced to decide between staying in the country he loves so much, or seeking asylum elsewhere as a refugee, this is a man who instead opts for join the emerging LGBT rights movement in his home country, even if by doing so he knowingly has put his very life at risk.

All of which makes for a moving testimony on the fight to love your heart's desire in a country in which and whilst homosexuality is officially not illegal, nonetheless finds the state use various 'morality provisions' under the pretext of laws prohibiting 'debauchery' to and in effect, criminalize same-sex activity.

That the Egyptian revolution of the 25th January, 2011 provided a political momentum that led not only to the fight for LGBT rights, but equally women's rights and human rights in general, is not in doubt. Yet here I'm reminded of the words of Human Rights Watch, who cite Egypt as "one of the worst offenders in a context of criminalization, violence and discrimination in all regions of the world, detaining dozens of LGBT people and submitting them to abuses, including forced anal exams on a regular basis." That Shogaolu has not shied away from depicting such is to her credit. Just as the fact that all too many of our rainbow friends have been arrested and sentenced for up to twelve years imprisonment just for being their gay self, is to Egypt's shame. A telling work; indeed, on being forced to live half a life.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - none | Overall - file under ... 4 stars

›› Undress Me - Ta av mig ‹‹

a short film by Victor Lindgren.

2012 | 15 mins | Sweden.

a beautifully played work on our perceptions of gender.

Dave says:

From co-writer and director Victor Lindgren comes those beautifully played work that poignantly questions, if not challenges our perceptions of gender.

For free and single Han (Björn Elgerd) loves his weekends, seemingly ending up in bed with a different girl when every Saturday comes. And there's no exception to the rule this weekend, when Han chances upon Mikaela (Jana Bringlöv Ekspong), only to find in her something different. Taller than his usual casual encounter and with a deep tone to her voice, it isn't long before Mikaela informs Han of the trans-gendered truth to her sexuality. Yet rather than say no to a night of sexual delights of the "you show me yours and I'll show you mine" kind, Han instead wants to learn more about the woman he finds himself attracted to.

In short and by way of a narrative that has Mikaela reveal early on to having been born a man, here we find Lindgren deliver a tale of the twenty questions and more variety and whilst it's undoubtedly informative, any chance of a romance developing between the two stars of the show is immediately cast to the wind, as Mikaela justifiably feels ill-at-ease to reveal so much personal information about herself, to a total stranger. To that end, joint co-writer and lead Ekspong is simply wondrous in the part, her eye movements vividly conveying the emotions of a woman just longing for love and not a visit from the sexual inquisition.

Revealing and in more ways than one, whilst never explicit, this is also a work about the Kinsey scale of human sexuality and how Han, played delightfully by Elgerd, starts to question his own sexuality and if anything, the thin dividing line between his curiosity and sexual attraction. True, some may question the inclusion of a 'boy meets girl' story in a series for gay men, leading many to call for the trans community to rightly have a series of their own. But that said, what is not in doubt is that the show belongs to Ekspong, even if Elgerd's character has a fitting and quite touching last word on the matter. Say no more.

Trans Visibility - overt | Nudity - the full male / female monty | Overall - file under ... 3+ stars

›› The Colour of His Hair ‹‹

a short film by Sam Ashby.

2017 | 23 mins | UK.

the reality of living life when homosexuality was still a criminal offence.

Dave says:

Following the publication of The Wolfenden Report in 1957 that recommended that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence" and the lack of any impetus from the Government of the day to act upon its findings, a group of "cultural luminaries" alongside some broad-minded Members of Parliament established the Homosexual Law Reform Society the following year, so as to campaign for the implementation of the report's recommendations. That they would eventually succeed with the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts in England and Wales, through the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, is now part of LGBT history and yet the work undertaken by this steadfast group of individuals has been largely overlooked until now, that is.

For this part drama / part documentary short film from director Sam Ashby turns the spotlight firmly on their sterling efforts and in particular that of an unrealized twenty-six page film outline written in 1964 by Elizabeth Montagu; half-sister of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu that acutely reflected "the personal and social problems affecting homosexuals" in an era in which those of gay inclination were in constant fear of assault, entrapment, blackmail, let alone the never-ending dread of the boys in blue knocking at the door; day or night.

Yet with all this going for it and in spite of actors Sean Hart and Josh O'Connor of The Durrells, The Crown and indeed God's Own Country fame perfectly cast as the loving couple of the piece, let alone exclusive access to the revealing and in more ways than one, vaults of The Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive, the result is somehow a soulless experience. This however is not to diminish in any way the laudable work undertaken by the Homosexual Law Reform Society; far from it. Nor that of the attention to period detail of the scripted sequences. But with typeset styled credits that are so faint you can barely read them and a narrative that seemingly finds it different to seamlessly merge the two differing mediums together, you're left with home movie footage of the era, together with the telling words of gay activist John Alcock to speak of the reality of living life when homosexuality was still a criminal offence.

That many a film has walked similar ground, including the acclaimed 2017 Fergus O'Brien feature Against the Law, amongst others, goes without saying. Sadly this short, whilst a worthy contribution to gay cinema, frankly does not have the same degree of emotional impact as other works of this nature, even if its raw honesty in detailing times that were, deserves a round of applause in itself.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - the photographic erect monty | Overall - file under ... 3 stars

›› Silly Girl ‹‹

a short film by Hope Dickson Leach.

2016 | 5 mins | UK.

exploring how gender impacts and influences our lives.

Dave says:

Based on a work originally commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre, London, this thought-provoking short film sets out to explore how gender impacts and influences our lives. In doing so, we encounter Joanne (Ciara Baxendale) and Joel (co-writer Jason Barker), only for their after school catch-up to be interrupted when fellow student Lisa (Mollie Lambert) turns up out of the blue and openly declares that she "likes girls" to a clearly surprised and somewhat bewildered Joanne, given she's never really thought of herself as "a girl" before.

Complete with all the raging hormones of adolescent youth, let alone teenage acne and vomit, this gritty work has a lot going for it, given there's actually more to the story than what may at first appear, as it actually revolves around a 40-something transexual man recalling his first romantic entanglement.

Expletive driven from the onset, sadly this achingly real work is all but over before you know it, even if some may question just what this rainbow piece is doing in a shorts collection aimed at gay men? Frankly I'm left wondering myself, given this work had previously been released as part of the GIRLS ON FILM #2 BEFORE DAWN compilation. Enough said.

Gay Visibility - none | Nudity - none | Overall - file under ... 3 stars

›› An Evening - En Aften ‹‹

a short film by Søren Green.

2016 | 10 mins | Denmark.

the developing relationship between a pair of gay teenagers.

Dave says:

As the second chapter in the continuing story of the developing relationship between gay teenagers Mathias (Ulrik Windfeldt-Schmidt) and Frederik (Jacob August Ottensten); see An Afternoon for the first instalment, co-writer and director Søren Green has once again beautifully captured the inner yearnings of a pair of young men who only have eyes for each other.

Yet all is not as it appears. For whilst Mathias is only too happy to have seemingly spent an evening of sexual tenderness with Frederik, the man himself is clearly struggling to come to terms not only with his feeling for Mathias, but of a sexuality that's taking him in a direction that he never expected to go.

With wonderfully natural performances from the two, this well-played piece has a lush tactile feel to it, as here we find Frederik in a state of sexual confusion; playing it straight one moment, whilst equally looking at his best friend with eyes of sexual exploration the next. Jealous when Mathias' friend Amalie (Julia Wentzel Olsen) unexpectedly shows up, only for her to suggest that the two of them look cute together, the raging hormones of adolescent youth are soon to be seen. Yet therein lies the twist to this tale; for could the scenes of sexual tenderness between the boys have been a figment of Frederik's imagination? No doubt the closing chapter of this wondrous trilogy of short films will let us know, as the two come to spend A Night with each other.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - from the waist up | Overall - file under ... 3+ stars

›› AIDS: Doctors and Nurses tell their Stories ‹‹

a short film by Alejandro Medina.

2017 | 26 mins | UK.

a deeply moving documentary on those who cared for Britain's first AIDS patients.

Dave says:

Directed with an abundance of TLC by Alejandro Medina, this informative, poignant, but above all deeply moving documentary tells the story on the onset of HIV in the United Kingdom, mixing photos of the period with the touching testimony of doctors and nurses who cared for Britain's first AIDS patients.

The result is a powerful and highly emotional work that by no surprise makes for difficult viewing at times, as it charts how the "gay cancer" that at first was thought of as "an American thing" that would never come to Britain, became an all too real reality for all too many, in the early '80s. And just like the recent COVID pandemic, no one was prepared for what they were facing. Making the rules up as they went along, hospital wards became filled with patients who in the face of death were willing to take experimental drugs complete with horrendous side effects, in the hope that they would give them another week, another month of life. For this was an era when staff knew that at the end of the day, all they could do was to make the time left on earth to those in their palliative care, the best they could.

Yet amongst all of the grief, sadness and despair, there was humour, often black, to get through the dark days and times. And when the media turned on the gay community, the gay community united in its demands for better care and treatments, with the combination therapies of today the result of a movement determined to put pressure on the government to get its act together and care for their fellow human beings.

Nursing in what felt like a war zone, it goes without saying that many left the profession that was their calling in life, no longer able to deal with the emotions of seeing so many young men die in less than two years, if that, through no fault of their own, having literally been to one too many funerals of those they still mourn to this day. That being HIV positive is thankfully no longer the death sentence that it once was, is acknowledged at the close of this compelling documentary. Yet at a time when thousands of gay men were courageously battling against AIDS, knowing that there was no chance of a cure, it was the doctors and nurses who did everything they could for patients who became friends, that's aptly reflected in the title of this entry in the BOYS ON FILM series, being simply HEROS.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - none | Overall - file under ... 5 stars

›› It's Consuming Me ‹‹

a short film by Kai Stänicke.

2012 | 3 mins | Germany.

the dramatic life and times of a young man in three minutes.

Dave says:

Noted writer and director Kai Stänicke is known for packing a lot into limited film durations and this wondrous work is no exception, charting as-it-does the recollections of a young man whose life is all but consumed with thoughts of his ex-boyfriend and that of his new lover.

Beginning in surreal style with the young man (Volkmar Leif Gilbert; aka Volkmar Welzel) sitting against a tree in the middle of a forest with an telephone somewhat bizarrely at his feet, this is but a cinematic collage of scenes that highlight the highs and lows of their relationship and of a boyfriend (Alberto Venceslau) whose outer tenderness is brutally juxtaposed with violence.

The result is an at times sexually direct, but never explicit work that not surprisingly grabs your attention from the onset and frankly never lets go, thanks in no small part to its rapid-fire styled editing, as nicely punctuated by the poetic voiceover of the piece. Indeed, as a depiction of the dramatic life and times of a young man in three minutes, it's simply captivating, even if you cannot help but wonder just how long it took to film each individual segment, in order to create such a breathtaking montage? Proudly gay-to-the-core, goes without saying.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - from the waist up | Overall - file under ... 4 stars

›› Mother Knows Best - Mamma Vet Bäst ‹‹

a short film by Mikael Bundsen.

2016 | 13 mins | Sweden.

the turning point in a mother and son relationship.

Dave says:

Written and directed by Mikael Bundsen, this wondrous short film is yet another variant on the coming out theme, only in a way that takes you completely by surprise.

Given and apart from separated parents, it would appear that all is well within the newfound family unit, as a mother, wonderfully played by Hanna Ullerstam, drops off her son's boyfriend, cue Karl-Erik Franzén in the role, before returning home with her son, as played by Alexander Gustavsson. At first glance, she could not be more welcoming, seemingly completely at ease with not only her son's sexuality, but the goodbye kisses in the backseat between the two young men. Only scratch below the surface and is a homophobe to be found?

For that's the dominating question here, as the conversation between mother and son thereafter turns from the open arms of sexual acceptance, to words of advice that threaten to completely change their relationship, as we find a mother all too eager to try to persuade her son not to be open with his sexuality and in particular in the direction of his father. Only here her bigoted words spectacularly backfire as she's soon to learn a series of bitter home truths, including the fact that her son has been out to his father for years, only for her to have just recently learned of the true nature of his sexuality. It's a draw-dropping moment that causes her to question as to why her son feels more sexually at ease with his father, than with her and of a son confronted with the fact that his mother had long suspected that he's gay, but didn't do or say anything about it.

In short, this beautifully played work is all about the turning point in a mother and son relationship and how things between them will never be the same again. Deeply poignant; goes without saying.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - none | Overall - file under ... 4 stars

›› copyright © 2022 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com ‹‹
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