by Robin Finetto, Boys on Film 19
Recently released, this is the 19th volume in the BOYS ON FILM catalogue, but only my first time watching the series. BOF 19 wraps up its teenage years compiling and celebrating ten short LGBTQ films under the header ‘NO ORDINARY BOY’. Although all dealing with issues of identity and sexuality of some kind, none of these films are alike. Ranging from comedy to romance to thriller, even animation, the collection boasts directorial voices from around the world, many recounting their own experiences.
Some of my highlights include:
Dean Loxton’s MEATOO, following an actor being auditioned by a casting director whose behaviour and demands turn more and more predatory. Although written and shot in one day, MEATOO seems flawlessly calculated, with a bubbling atmosphere and a slick 4-minute runtime. Inspired by casting experiences of his own, Loxton says “It was only a few years later, looking back, that I saw it for what it was – a hotel, only the director, me half naked. I was twenty – I felt for the lads in their late-teens waiting to go in. Some had their mum’s with them that I doubt were allowed in the room.”
THE FISH CURRY, is one of the short films that makes BOYS ON FILM 19 as eclectic a collection as it is. Directed by Indian animator Abhishek Verma, it tells the story of Lalit, a young man finally coming out to his parents over their favourite dish, a fish curry. The intimate story is paired with striking visuals and a haunting cartoonish look, reminiscent of the films of Sylvain Chomet. With the short animation Abhishek Verma seeks to compare love to food, “it should make people understand that love is like food – it helps you to be happy, it can take away your hunger. There’s no point in making a separation based on sexuality, religion, colour, caste, or class. It’s all about love!”
JERMAINE AND ELSIE by actor / director Leon Lopez moved me more than I had anticipated. Especially well written and acted, it’s a short film touching on topics such as race, identity and the kindness between strangers. We follow young black carer Jermaine, docile and kind, as he looks after the older, more opinionated and outspoken Elsie. Their characters clash initially, mostly due to Elsie’s strong personality and old-fashioned views, but Jermaine’s big heart wins her over, and we are soon touched by their friendship too. When Jermaine is suddenly replaced, Elsie is determined to find out the truth about her friend.
Ben Allen’s BLOOD OUT OF A STONE offers a perfect romcom set-up – the romantic Michael sets Dan a series of challenges before their first date in order to form a more immediate connection – but also tells a quietly introspective and timid story. Through the challenges Dan finds himself out of his comfort zone and uneasy, yet can’t help taking a liking to Michael’s honesty and charm. The wistful and sensitive atmosphere aids in bringing director Ben Allen’s real dating experiences to life.
“It’s a comment on how this new age of apparent choice can leave a lot of people feeling stranded – this applies to everyone, not just gay people. It’s also talking about tribalism within the gay community. How certain types of people might feel that they can’t be with someone else who is a different type.”
With DUSK, written and directed by transgender filmmaker and actor Jake Graf, we arrive at what feels like the stand out of the collection.
As an older transgender man Chris Winters looks back on his lifetime, he considers the choices he has made and the what could have beensif he was born into a different body. The pressures and views of society in the mid to late 1900s paired with the alternate reality in Chris’ head almost give the film a dystopian or science-fiction like atmosphere, but the pressure of feeling like you don’t fit in couldn’t be more real. Although DUSK explores elements of the transgender experience, the film will connect with lots of audiences.
Jake Graf was inspired to make the film after a trans man emailed him about his experience of societal pressure and of not being comfortable with his identity until his 70s.
It was compelling to see how these short films would feel threaded together. As a filmmaker myself they were motivating to watch, and I was moved more than I had anticipated by some of them. It was inspiring to see how these directors and filmmakers brought their own experiences to life. I am curious and excited to work my way back and catch some of BOYS ON FILM’s previous collections.