LGBT Review: The Male Gaze: Strikers & Defenders

The third edition of gay-themed short film collection The Male Gaze, titled Strikers & Defenders hits Amazon Prime Video and Vimeo this Friday (July 31st). We review the four shorts which make up the collection below. You can pre-order the short collection here.

Islands (Inseln) 
Dir. Ron Jäger

This German short from filmmaker Ron Jäger takes on the idea of homophobic bullying in a school sports team when Theo’s feelings for his classmate Linus are discovered by the other boys. With no one to turn to, Theo finds support in his old PE teacher who sensitively helps him come to terms with his feelings. The short does in impressive job at capturing the delicate nature of coming out and the impact that the guidance of a teacher/mentor figure can have – intertwining these. Whilst Mr Kruger initially feels uncomfortable and intimidated by the prospect of supporting Theo – he quickly becomes a kind, guiding figure. Islands is a short, sensitive film that shows that support can often come from unlikely places.

Play It Like a Man (Un été viril) 
Dir. Laurent Lunetta

Laurent Lunetta writes and directs this hard-hitting short which sees two fifteen year old footballers uncover that their coach is taking photos of them to fulfil his voyeuristic desires when they discover his mobile phone. Confused and filled with rage by what they discover, the pair begin a path of destruction in the coach’s home. Whilst Lunetta’s short explores the boys heading towards adult life – shown in scenes of them spying on people at a nudist beach – the boys are unprepared for the adult nature of their coach’s behaviour, with both young actors doing an excellent job at capturing their confused rage. The short tackles uncomfortable territory and Lunetta does not shy away from exploring some brutal realities. There is an impressive sense of character development that goes into the short film, capturing the fury pf these boys teetering on young adulthood.

Dir: Peter Lee Scott
United Kingdom

British short Colours from Peter Lee Scott tackles homophobia in grassroots level football as a team lead by a brutish captain, uncover that Tom – one of their players – is gay. Tom’s teammate and close friend Adam is forced with the dilemma of falling into line and excommunicating his friend or standing up for what he truly feels is right. Colours does not shy away from capturing the insecurities some straight men feel when faced by a gay man who is their equal – in this case, star footballer Tom is a threat to the unpleasant team captain. Peter Lee Scott gives an insight into some of the fears and anxieties gay footballers face – Tom even attempting to distance his boyfriend from games to avoid suspicion from his teammates. This empathetic tale gains a further human angle from the character of Adam – attempting to decide whether to support Tom or potentially make himself a target by defending him. Colours is an effective short film that reminds us there is still much work to be done to support positive queer representation in major leagues and grassroots football.

Through the Fields (Passer les champs)
Dirs: Fabien Cavacas, Camille Melvil

The jewel in the crown of Strikes and Defenders is Through the Fields from filmmakers Fabien Cavacas and Camille Melvil. This character study of two brothers – seventeen year old and gay Theo (Pierre Prieur) and Lucas (Maxime Taffanel) his straight twenty-two year old brother. Theo has confided his sexuality to his older brother who is accepting, but still coming to terms with this – something heightened when Theo confesses that he is meeting up with an older man who he has met online. Through the Fields takes us on an engaging narrative journey where initially Lucas is somewhat uncomfortable with his brother’s sexuality – as showcased in his discomfort when a teammate begins casually flirting with his brother Theo. This discomfort continues when Lucas discovers that Theo plans to meet an older man online, despite him suggesting it is a bad idea. When this meeting does not go as planned, Lucas is faced to confront any potential discomfort head on and be there to support his younger sibling. This tale of brotherly love is an impressive one that shines through emotive yet natural performances from Prieur and Taffanel, sensitive direction from Cavacas and Melvil, and a subtle narrative journey at its core.

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