›› Keep Off the Grass ‹‹

a short film by Francis Rudd.

2022 | 11 mins | UK.

an achingly raw depiction of a young man coming to terms with his sexuality.

Dave says:

From writer and director Francis Rudd comes this achingly raw depiction of a young man coming to terms with his sexuality on the football pitch.

For eighteen-year-old Sunny Cooper (Charles Humphreys) lives for football, ever to be found training with his teammates and in particular with his close friend Josh (Charlie Howard). Only their amateur football club isn't doing too well, a fact not lost on their homophobic manager (KC Flanagan) who lets his views on their dire situation known in no uncertain terms, along the way firmly aiming the words "playing like a f***ing fairy" in Sunny's direction. Desperately in need of a win come end of season match day, can Sunny somehow reconcile his love of the game, with his unspoken love for Josh?

Nurturing a cast of largely fresh faces whose youth and sheer energy give this short a lush sense of realism, by no surprise this is a work dominated by the struggle of a young man to come to terms with his sexuality, both personally and professionally and in doing so, come out to a teammate hoping that in Sunny he's found more than just a friend. To that end, the Howard / Humphreys pairing shine in their respective roles, often letting their eye contact do the talking rather than the dialogue itself, even if Humphreys' lets slip a key line that would have benefited from another take. Then again, Sunny's younger brother Finn (Elliot Douglas) almost ends up stealing the show in accepting his siblings' sexuality, perhaps even before the man himself was able to do so.

That being openly gay in football is not an oxymoron, is to state the obvious. Yet and like many a title I could mention, The Pass included, this emotional work reflects the fact that and in the main, the sport itself remains far from a welcoming environment for anyone of differing sexuality; albeit that is apart from the good folk at Tooting & Mitcham Football Club whose ground was used for filming. What is equally the case, is that this marks a wondrous directorial debut from Rudd; that of a beautifully told coming out story, complete with a touching close-of-play. Need more be said?

›› an Iris Prize nominated short film.
›› screened as part of the Iris Prize 'Queer Youth' / Channel 4 short films collection / UK.

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




›› Nânt ‹‹

a short film by Tom Chetwode Barton.

2022 | 17 mins | Wales - UK.

a wonderfully surreal take on standing tall as an out 'n' proud gay man.

Dave says:

Radically different to the standard scenario of "to thy ownself, being true," here we find writer and director Tom Chetwode Barton deliver a work that's probably unlike anything you've seen before.

At heart however, this is the story of Dion (Pete MacHale); a young man whose falsetto voice has seen him take the place of the AWOL soprano in the community choir, much to the ridicule of three of its bigoted younger members. Not that it helps that Dion also happens to be the only gay in the village, his out personality all too often resulting with him being subject to both physical and verbal abuse by those of narrow minds. Yet there's a new gay boy in the valley by the name of Jude (Dylan Brady); a youth who's only too aware of the pain of prejudice and how much words can hurt. Only will Jude stand up and be counted alongside Dion, when the bullies from the choir come calling?

For that and in the main is the synopsis of this work; only it's not quite as simple as that. For here Barton has gone out of his way to deliver a short film that whilst proudly gay to the core throughout, is equally as surreal as you can get. Complete with a trio of spirits from Wales' ancient past that help Dion navigate his sexual awakening, with the man himself more often seen wearing a frock than not, this is a narrative that speaks, if not shouts of standing up to homophobia and therein being of support to those struggling to find the inner strength to be true to their sexual self.

To that end, Meredydd Rhisiart has drawn the short straw, having the unwelcome task of portraying the central homophobic bully of the piece in the form of Geraint, even if there's a catch in the tale for those who stay tuned through end credits. That both Brady and MacHale of Dungarees fame shine in their touching roles, goes without saying, in a work that's beautifully Jarmanesque at times, mixing realism with surrealism, gender and sexuality and Welsh myths and legends, as enhanced by the diverse locations of the region, having been filmed in Snowdonia National Park and Galeri Caernarfon area of Wales.

That this somewhat dreamlike, if not strikingly bizarre in places tale closes with Dion standing up to the ingrained homophobia from those around him is not a spoiler, given here Barton has taken the meaning of standing tall as an out 'n' proud gay man to a whole new level. A wonderfully surreal delight, if perhaps not for those who prefer a more traditional styled narrative. But you know, I liked it.

›› an Iris Prize nominated short film.
›› screened as part of the Iris Prize 'Queer Youth' / Channel 4 short films collection / UK.

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




›› Silence ‹‹

a short film by TJ O' Grady Peyton.

2020 | 14 mins | UK.

a beautifully played work on being true to your heart.

Dave says:

In many ways there's nothing remotely gay in this short film from co-writer and director TJ O' Grady Peyton. Yet the premise is one that forms the narrative core of many a gay work; namely being different to those around you.

Not that this is a coming out piece. Rather this beautifully played work revolves around Joseph (Kai Joseph Keenan-Felix); a young man who escapes the boredom of lockdown by venturing out at night to a nearby industrial wasteland to cover decaying walls with paint: graffiti artist fashion. Only it's on one such occasion that destiny is set to play its part, when Joseph chances upon a young girl (Lauryn Bryan) doing ballet to classical music. Intrigued by what he saw and more than curious, Joseph begins to imitate her dance movements in private, all too aware of the repercussions on the home front if discovered, given his bigoted father (Kai Owen) would prefer his son playing football with the lads, rather than practicing pirouettes. Yet when his passion for dance becomes known, will Joseph succumb to social conformity, or remain true to his heart?

In many ways, this short film could be summarized as 'Billy Elliot in Lockdown' and there's nothing wrong with that, given likewise it shines the spotlight on being true to yourself, in spite of the prejudice from others who rather than encourage your natural talent, do everything they can to kill it. To that end, Keenan-Felix shines are the new self-taught ballet boy in town, whose unexpected love of dance is a surprise to him and a total shock to his family; his father being more concerned with how such would reflect on his standing in the community, rather than nurturing his son's gift.

Yet as honest a work as this is in depicting the inner struggle of a young man to dance his way out of lockdown, therein lies the problem with the narrative and indeed it could be argued with society itself. Given twenty-three years after Jamie Bell danced his way into our hearts, it's still assumed that because a young man likes dance / ballet, he has to be gay. Which is the same mindset as saying that just because you like sport, you have to be straight. Thankfully Joseph's sexuality remains undefined throughout, opting instead to let his dance steps do the talking. And frankly, it's all the better for it.

›› an Iris Prize nominated short film.
›› screened as part of the Iris Prize 'Queer Youth' / Channel 4 short films collection / UK.

Gay Visibility - none | Nudity - from the waist up | Overall - file under ... 3+ stars




›› Homebird ‹‹

a short film by Caleb J. Roberts.

2022 | 12 mins | Northern Ireland.

the emotional reunion between a father and his gay son.

Dave says:

From writer and director Caleb J. Roberts comes this well-played work on the meaning of family and if anything, the act of forgiveness, as the two men come to appreciate what means the most to them in life.

Not that it begins that way, given young Conor (Peter Young) flew the Irish coop months ago to spend time with his boyfriend on the mainland. That was then however and this is now, with Conor having returned to Northern Ireland; his University education and boyfriend for that matter, a thing of the past. Only before the family 'welcome home' meal beckons, a tense meeting with his father awaits...

Essentially a two-man play, here we find Roberts vividly showcase the emotional reunion between a father and his gay son, one all the more complicated given the mixed communications between the two. For Conor outed himself to his parents on the day that he ran away across the water with some wee lad: in his father's words and view. Now back on home ground, Conor knows that he must now face the reality of what he avoided back then, namely the homophobic wrath of his father ... or perhaps not?

For here Roberts has turned the coming out scenario on its head, given and with a spoiler warning firmly in place, the narrative finds Conor's father furious not with his son for being gay; rather for having upped sticks without a single goodbye to his parents, leaving both distraught by his sudden absence. To that end, seasoned actor James Doran as Conor's Da Dermot excels as a man desperately trying to reconnect with his estranged son, hoping that a night at the local seaside amusements may somehow help bring the two together, knowing at some point he has to discuss his son's sexuality and utter words that he's unaccustomed to using. Doran thankfully does not overplay the part, allowing actor, writer and director Young to shine as his son, with a wonderfully natural performance throughout. Frankly, I wanted to see more of this short film that's simply; a pure delight.

›› an Iris Prize nominated short film.
›› screened as part of the Iris Prize 'Queer Youth' / Channel 4 short films collection / UK.
›› posted: Wednesday, 31st May, 2023.

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

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