The Gaze Film Festival has shown a collection of short films, Men’s Shorts, and these are reviewed here by Jan Schneider
Men’s Shorts are one of many gems in this year’s GAZE festival program. With picks from Belgium, Greece, the Czech Republic, Canada, the UK and Israel, and among them winners from various film festivals, it’s a superb collection of international shorts. If reading subtitles doesn’t bother you, then these 90 minutes are well spent.
First up is Amy Coop’s A Little Bit Country (UK), a family farce that shows us how misconceptions about the young ones can still leave us in shock when the truth is revealed. But this one is different than you might think.
Dylan watches a rock concert on the telly, while his parents are getting ready for a night out. Once they’re gone, Dylan abandons this rock music and runs upstairs to take his secret box out of the closet. The box is covered in stacks of dirty magazines, but this is only a disguise. He digs deeper into the box, where he finds what he’s really looking for – country music. Denim jacket, CD’s and a cowboy hat. Just as the young fan is putting on his leather boots, his mother opens the door and is in shock at finding out her son’s secret.
“We can’t have that sorta thing in the house”, argues the father, sharply portrayed by Tim McInnerny. They make him pack everything up, and take it outside the house. “It’s just not acceptable”, cries the mother. Just as the parents accidently press play on the last remaining CD, some country tunes change their moods. They dance, Dylan smiles, the end.
A very humourous and in your face metaphorical take on a typical ‘My-parents-found-out-that-I’m-gay-story’ that earns its short film classification, with a running time of just under 5 minutes. But then my love for country music didn’t last much longer either. Poignant and entertaining.
In the next film, we are facing the more serious issue of HIV, and how it affects new relationships. Writer and director Maxim Cirlan succeeds in capturing a beautiful vulnerability in both male characters, as they discuss the question “What would you do if you’d found out your boyfriend was positive?” In only one scene, this layered conversation shifts the knowledge of viewers and characters alike, as only in the last minute do you know who is really suffering from HIV. The mood of this film is perfect. Serene, warm air that comes in through open windows, and quiet dialogues that leave pauses to breathe, embrace the relationship between the two men and comforts everyone involved. With sometimes too obvious references to Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia, Now You Know (Czech Republic, Greece) is nevertheless an artistically and thematically mesmerizing film. Exposing and thought-provoking.
A man lies naked in the forest, vulnerable and exhausted. Only for a few seconds, until we switch to an apartment, and the conversation between two young French men. Unfortunately, this is the moment where I realize that my seven years of school French didn’t teach me anything, as the subtitles in this film don’t seem to be present, and one can only guess at their topic of conversation. Thankfully, the brochure explains that Human Warmth (Belgium) is exploring the complexity of the ending of human relationships, and the intensity of this scene sets the mood. The dialogue ends with an embrace between the two men, that takes us back into the forest. Now both men are on the ground. Bare and pure. Beginning to explore their bodies, we see close-ups of hands touching skin, fingers clinging to hair and tongues fabricating goose bumps. It is foreplay aimed at the senses, and with elevated sounds, the intensity is thrilling. Only it’s the afterplay. It’s theatrical, animalistic and as both seem to get wilder and rougher, the coldness of the surrounding nature comes more into focus. Cut. Back in the apartment, the embrace that we forgot about, and one man leaving. A masterpiece by Christopher Pedran that didn’t need any subtitles, because it was about physical and emotional sensation, and that beautiful connection between you and someone else, that no one will understand but you. Heartbreaking and absorbing.
When I read the synopsis of Anthony Schatteman’s Kiss Me Softly (Belgium) I wasn’t really impressed at first. Another coming out story, prepped with the usual elements and stereotypes. Jaspers gets bullied by his classmates, they call him a faggot. He is different, more quiet, a painter. He comes out, a struggle, nobody is happy, the end. However, this film is far more developed in a very bold and funny way. Jasper’s father is a cheesy pop singer, who performs in nursing homes, and only thinks of his own career. When he finds out about his son’s priorities, he’s less than impressed. With the support of his (boy)friend Mathias, Jasper crashes his dad’s album launch, and kisses Mathias in front of everyone. In the end, I guess people are always coming out, so coming out films will be around for a while. This film however makes the only statement a coming out film should have these days, it’s not that big of a deal anymore. Cute storytelling.
Happy by Canadian artist Daniel McIntyre is the odd one out from this selection of shorts. It is a very artistically crafted collage of audio and visual excerpts, that roughly follow the different interpretations of happiness, but it doesn’t have any narrative or characters as such. A beautiful collection of words, images, music and memories that portray the deep and personal meaning of happiness for everyone individually. Is it a kiss, friendship, religion or family that makes us happy? Many images appear and disappear and are reminding us of the instability of their existence. Yet timeless and simple McIntyre is able to capture all of its beauty. Sometimes it is hard to follow all audios and visuals as many overlap continuously, but absorbing the film’s entity seemed like a much smarter decision. More installation than film.
The last film of this screening is Little Man (Israel, UK) by Eldar Rapaport, that was produced by the Iris Prize, the world’s largest LGBT film festival in Cardiff. The film is based on Etgar Keret’s short story ‘Your Man, Little Man’ and follows 30-something gay man Elliot, who seems to be unable to build a real relationship. “One man goes, another one cums, so to speak” is what his newly separated brother Ryan tells him. But then one night after yet another unsuccessful hookup, Elliot gets distracted by noises of his neighbour upstairs, and his discovery comes close to a nightmare. A wall full of photographs of Elliot’s ex’s and a little man, insisting on doing him a favor by reminding him how incapable he is of keeping the right man. Infuriated by this, Elliot kills the little man. This very surreal thriller becomes very uncomfortable with its fast pace, but is nonetheless exciting, with believable characters and the melancholic yet embracing soundtrack of Franz Schubert’s ‘Fantasy in F Minor,’ amongst other pieces. Odd but compelling.
The GAZE Film Festival continues until August 5. For more information, visit gaze.ie.