The latest instalment of the gay-themed Boys on Film short film series arrives this Monday (May 18th) reaching a milestone twentieth release. The collection, dubbed Heaven Can Wait, provides an eclectic mix of shorts from all over the globe. We review them below. In the meantime, Boys on Film 20: Heaven Can Wait can be ordered from Amazon or Vimeo.
Dir. Bassem Ben Brahim (Tunisia)
The beautiful hand-drawn short charts the coming of age of a queer man in Tunisia. With no dialogue to be heard, this Beethoven scored film opens with a young boy refusing to conform to the traditional expectations of his gender: choosing dolls over footballs, rejecting female crushes, and instead developing male crushes. Yet there is a sadness lurking within the beauty of Chromophobia as we see our protagonist falling in love with someone of his own gender leading to his imprisonment in the non-LGBT accommodating nation. Director Bassem Ben Brahim then takes the short on a metaphorical trip using aquatic imagery of sharks and mermaid, where the true self of our protagonist is chased by the sharks of intolerance. This is a gorgeous, poetic short with a deep lyricism and interesting musings on the sad realities of LGBT life in conservative nations.
Dir. Jimi Vall Peterson (Sweden)
Swedish short Sleepover is a punchy, effective film that fully utilises its punchy nine minute runtime. Opening with two young men on what appears to be a date at the cinema – director Jimi Vall Peterson throws a curveball when revealing the flirtatious banter between the boys is the joking of two friends and not two men on a traditional date. As the short progresses, the unspoken underlying romantic notions between Emil (Simon Eriksson) for his friend Adam (Hjalmar Hardestam) grow apparent. Lingering camera shots and Emil scanning his friend’s bedroom for signs of queerness adds an emotional tension – will his feelings be reciprocated or not? Both leads capture the tension in a natural, unforced manner in this quiet, realistic short.
Dir. Mickey Jones (UK)
Philip Olivier leads Just Me where he stars as a soon-to-be-married man, Scott, with a suppressed gay past. The unexpected arrival of police officer Connor (Carl Loughlin) a romantic figure from his past sees Scott’s facade begin to unravel and old desires rear their head. Mickey Jones has crafted a highly-charged short that explores the concept of suppressed sexuality, with the director keeping us engaged as he explores these desires bubbling to the forefront. Powerful scenes of Scott letting go in a gay club and caving to the sexual tension between he and Connor makes Just Me a sharply engaging ride.
Dir. Matthew Jacobs Morgan (UK)
Mine breaks new ground in its glimpse into the fractured relationship of two gay parents. Ben, the biological father of daughter Lottie, begins to feud with non-biological father Liam who feels like a third wheel in his partner’s relationship with his daughter. Despite raising an interesting question about gay parenthood, Matthew Jacobs Morgan’s short is perhaps one of the most forgettable of the set despite performances with conviction from the leads.
Don’t Blame Jack
Dir. Dale John Allen (UK)
Dale John Allen’s Don’t Blame Jack is perhaps the jewel in the crown of BOF20 shining as a sharp, poetically lyrical, powerhouse short. Opening with brutal narration from lead Jordan Tweddle, the short delves into the mental health struggles of young gay writer Jack. Taking new medication, Jack desperately searches for a way to replicate the adrenaline-fuelled manic highs he’s given up. Finding an initial sexual rush in a romantic encounter with Frank, this makes part of an emotional catharsis that Jack goes through as the short progresses. Tweddle’s performance is raw and unflinching capturing Jack’s struggles in a naturalistic, authentic way. Paired with stunning sexually-charged imagery and poetic seaside locations, Don’t Blame Jack is an enthralling watch in both its visuals and narrative.
Dir. Dir. Timothy Ryan Hickernell (USA)
A slightly lighter digestif following Don’t Blame Jack, Ryan Hickernell’s Foreign Lovers sees an American actor (Hiclernell, who also scribes this) stumble into a fleeting romantic encounter with an Italian dancer (Lucio Nieto). Both beautiful actors bring a warmth and humanity to the tale which takes on the struggles faced by many queer people in the addictive nature of app culture, instead celebrating the natural, chance encounters that make life spontaneous and interesting. This a short and sweetly sexy encounter filled with charm.
Dir. Layke Anderson (UK)
Stephen Fry executive produces Mankind from Layke Anderson. Opening with a hedonistic rave looking like its shot by Gaspar Noé, Mankind unravels its enigmatic narrative to explore the relationship of feuding couple Will and Evan. Anderson and co-writer Ryan Child keep their cards close to their chests throughout gradually unveiling more details of the source of the couple’s argument with light touches of sci-fi scattered throughout. Mankind tackles complex questions, mainly, does scientific advancement take precedent over the progression of personal relationships? Anderson makes effective use of flashback to establish Will and Evan’s romantic backstory, whilst keeping proceedings swift and effective.
Dir. Christopher Manning (UK)
ISHA follows Romanian immigrant Rahmi (Hora Savescu) as he lives in the UK with his conservative Muslim family whilst keeping his sexuality secret. Manning does an impressive job at capturing the complex family dynamics in a short space of time, delving into this in a delicate, naturalistic manner. With his younger brother veering into trouble and Rahmi having to lie about his whereabouts when visiting his lover, suspicion soon raises.
Dir. Jay Russell (USA)
RUOK showcases some amusing thoughts about app culture whilst also putting queer friendships under the microscope. Jay Russell uses impressive stylistic tricks to keep the narrative fast paced and fresh – messages fire up on the screen, whilst the camera is panning between the respective living rooms of feuding best friends Alex and Brian – quite a neat visual trick. The relationship between the pair is suffering due to one sleeping with the other’s crush and whilst the focus of the short is on the repairing of this relationship, Russell packs an interesting twist into the end of RUOK.
Dir. Chintes Lundgren (Estonia)
What if the Moomins starred in a queer coming of age love story? Well the result would be something akin to Manivald, an Estonian animated short which sees 33 year old fox Manivald and his elderly mother both fall for the same fox plumber Toomas. Whilst Toomas’s affections to Manivald trigger the latter’s emotional and sexual awakening, this is scheduled to end in heartbreak. With curious handcrafted animation, Manivald is wholly original in its scrappy sweetness.
The World in Your Window
Dir. Zoe McIntosh (New Zealand)
Closing segment The World in Your Window studies the relationship between eight year old Jesse and his grieving father. Capturing the pair stuck in a spiral of nostalgia and grief – reflected perfectly in McIntosh’s dazzling direction and sparse use of dialogue – they are literally pulled from their grief by tattooed, V8-driving transsexual Repa in this warm, touching, and wholly uplifting short.