It is a truly phenomenal feat that Peccadillo Pictures’ ever-stellar Boys On Film series has made it to a staggering twenty-one entries, with Beautiful Secret serving as the most recent. Released on the 1st of March on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand, the set presents nine short films from around the globe – each providing an eye-opening, thought-provoking, titillating or simply sheer entertaining take on the gay experience. With shorts from the UK, Romania, Sydney, Switzerland, and Canada, Beautiful Secret is one of the most wonderfully eclectic releases yet under the BOF banner.
Memoirs of a Geezer
Director: Theo James Krekis
Duration: 4 minutes
Compiled used archive footage, Memoirs of a Geezer provides a collage of the life of a laddish gay man from his early years to middle age. Capturing early questioning and expressions of his sexuality paired with expectations of lad culture, Theo James Krekis’s punchy short plays with the idea that ‘perception is a funny thing’ with the narrator regular repeating this line as the short progresses. Exploring first gay experiences, crushes, family relationships (and responses to coming out), and questioning balancing machismo culture with the queer experience, Memoirs of a Geezer benefits from emotional narration and a sense of authenticity garnered through impressively crafted ‘archive’ footage.
We Are Dancers
Director: Joe Morris
Duration: 30 minutes
In post-Weimar Germany, the newfound freedoms and liberations of the era are gradually creeping to an end. Frau Hansi and his troupe of cabaret performers are fighting a battle to promote their creative and artist freedom amidst the emerge of fascism. This tale of freedom of speech, sexuality, and individuality against the oppressive right proves a tense, defiant watch with much strength drawn from the impressive lead character Frau Hansi – impeccably played by a defiant Hans Piesbergen. Joe Morris’ short feels prescient and timely as we face a worrying time of right-wing resurgence in the West.
My Dad Works the Night Shift
Director: Zachary Ayotte
Duration: 14 minutes
The most impressive moment of BOF21 is Zachary Ayotte’s My Dad Works the Night Shift which tackles queer coming of age against the backdrop of stringent parents and religious upbringing. Pairing religious imagery with the fiery rebellion of youth and queerness captured in fourteen year old Félix (Victor Boudreault) and his desire for his religious father to discover his lusting after for older boy Vincent (Antoine L’Écuyer), Ayotte’s short feels sharp and gripping. This tale of queer rebellion against oppressors is beautifully shot from moody sequences in swimming pool changing rooms (Félix’s meeting ground with Vincent) to the overwhelming oppression of religious identity from the fourteen year old’s church and school.
Director: Loïc Hobi
Duration: 21 minutes
Feeling as though it is straight from the pages of Jean Genet capturing the blend of queer and machismo culture in its examination of aimless docker Theo pining for escape in his small coastal town. Theo is mesmerised by older boy Vincent and longs to join his group of gruff macho sea trawlers. Loïc Hobi’s short explores concepts from the homosexual gaze to the blurring of queer and machismo culture through invasive hazing rituals. With hints of voyeurism in Theo’s adoration of Vincent and his crew paired with exploration of the gruff violence of men who entrance him. Capturing the barren darkness and misty sea fairing folklore of the seaside town where Theo lives, L’Homme Jetée is as rich aesthetically as it is thematically.
My Sweet Prince
Director: Jason Bradbury
Duration: 12 minutes
Taking us to the Isle of Wight in 2003, Jason Bradbury’s fictional short feels almost autobiographical as it explores fifteen year old Tommy and his search for connection over the internet. With grungy emo aesthetics, Tommy’s day is explored through hand-held, early 00s effect video footage capturing him hanging with friends and loitering around the town centre. These scenes feel slightly unfocussed (what else would you expect from sloshed teenagers filming), but My Sweet Prince finds its narrative track in capturing Tommy delving into the world of chat rooms where he meets another young boy. Chock full of nineties/noughties nostalgia from the bleeping of dial-up rooters to Windows 98, My Sweet Prince is an intriguing account of how early domestic technology would adapt the queer coming of age experience.
Director: Abel Rubinstein
Duration: 5 minutes
Dating Blake (Pete MacHale) and Cane (Ludovic Jean-Francios) hang-out and play video games and grapple with their insecurities. Blake is trans and Cane is cisgender with an impressive bond, continually seeking to understand each other. Director Abel Rubinstein uses a bright colour palette which brings some visual interest to Dungarees yet the short is lacking in its characterisation and development. At five minutes we only get a snippet of this story without MacHale or Jean-Francios getting the chance to flesh out the characters beyond surface level. This feels slight and forgettable, despite an interesting premise which is left feeling largely unexplored.
Clothes and Blow
Director: Sam Peter Jackson
Duration: 23 minutes
American voiceover artist living in London, Daniel, coasts through life on autopilot with life essentially being a series of Grindr hook-ups and unsatisfying jobs. The unexpected arrival of his mother sees him re-evaluate how fully and truthfully he is living his life. There is a lot of comic potential well executed in Sam Peter Jackson’s short – whether that be the awkwardness of Daniel’s hook-ups or his embarrassment at his overbearing mother’s behaviour. Yet there is an impressive sense of heart and sentimentality at the core of Clothes and Blow with the memories of past traumas, secrecy and performative family relations emerging as the short progresses. Jackson teeters on the lines between amusing and heartfelt with a strong handle on the short’s tone.
Director: George Dogaru
Duration: 14 minutes
Normal Guy from George Dogaru is a massively impressive for director George Dogaru’s first independent short. This tale of Romanian Daniel and his attempt to meet Prince Charming in a club has interesting musings about family, homophobia, and queer life in Eastern Europe. Daniel is determined to find the right man and taking home a handsome yet hugely inebriated stranger in a club sees him leaving his straight brother’s girlfriend out in the cold. As Daniel’s heart is broken, his brutish big brother’s previously homophobic, dismissive behaviour shows a softer side showcasing that the bond of family is more important than out differences.
Directors: Pierce Hadjincola & Sinclar Suhood
Duration: 9 minutes
Australian short Pretty Boy from filmmakers Pierce Hadjincola & Sinclar Suhood examines a gay teen of colour battling the forces of prejudice and indifference from those around him. Capturing the misunderstandings of society – none more so than our protagonists own mother, Pretty Boy examines the isolation and lack of understanding faced by queer minority teens in a punchy, impactful manner. With striking cinematography capturing the juxtaposition between urban and rural Australian landscapes and a striking central turn from Mert Altunsoy means that each of the nine minutes of Pretty Boy is expertly utilised.