Read our thoughts on the other Boys On Film releases by clicking here.
Boys On Film, the series of DVDs showcasing the best in LGBT short films, returns with Youth In Trouble, featuring eight shorts ranging from 11 to 29 minutes long. They come from countries as diverse as Brazil, Germany, Canada, Britain, Australia and Spain, but are brought together by the theme of young people facing emotional and/or physical peril. It’s another great selection, with only a couple of bum notes amongst the crop – and even they’re not too bad.
Here’s what we thought of the Youth In Trouble shorts:
Deep End (11 mins)
Director: Bretten Hannam
Deep End follows youngster Dane, who doesn’t react very well when his older brother reveals that he’s gay. Dane is furious and would have preferred it if his sibling had kept his secret, but when some of his friends ask him to side with them on some homophobic abuse they’re planning, Dane has to decide whether to defend his brother or not. Deep End is short, sweet and although perhaps a tad too simplistic at times, it’s involving and there are a few moments that are genuinely touching. It’s a film dealing with fears that many will have had about coming out – such as family rejection – and has a good message in the end.
6 out of 10
Family Affair (11 mins)
Director: Caru Alves de Souza
One of the sexier of the shorts – even if there’s no sex or nudity – Family Affair achieves its aim by creating a sense of sexual tension that has to break. Young Rossi wants to fit in with his older brother’s group of friends, but as often happens, they just tolerate this interloper. However Rossi’s brother warns one of his friends to leave the kid alone, and it’s only when the others leave that we discover why. Although it’s only 11 minutes long, Family Affair does a great job of making you feel that something is brewing in the hot Brazilian air, but you never know quite what’s going to happen next. Something has to snap though, and when it does it almost comes as a relief. It’s a great little film that will bring back your thoughts and fantasies about your older brother’s hot friends (assuming you have a brother and his friends were hot, of course).
8 out of 10
Together (22 mins)
Director: James Cook
One of the issues with LGBT cinema is that filmmakers often feel the need to make the plot about the characters’ sexuality, presumably so that viewers don’t sit there asking, ‘But why are they gay?’. It’s a daft question, as why shouldn’t they be? That’s something that director James Cook has embraced with Together, creating a film about a gay couple, whose relationship is integral to what’s going on, but the short could potentially have been changed to be about straight people without altering things too much. It’s also a relatively rare gay-themed horror-thriller. David and Mark decide to move in together, even though David is slightly worried about his partner’s flaky past. They arrive back at their flat one night to discover the key is already in the front door, but nothing seems to be amiss inside. When Mark goes missing a few days later, David initially assumes he’s once more wandered off, but the truth is a lot more dangerous and potentially deadly. While it starts out slow, Together builds up the tension for a successful and rather creepy second half, where you’ll be hoping David works out what’s going on. It’s also nice that it feels as much a true exploration of a relationship as it is a horror short.
7 out of 10
Easy Money (15 mins)
Director: Carlos Montero
One of the slickest shorts on the disc follows Jaime (Spanish heartthrob Mario Casas), a young, inexperienced rent boy who heads to an apartment to meet a client. At first Jaime thinks his john wants to get involved in some kind of kinky role play, although he isn’t sure what sort as the man starts talking to him about a job silencing his wife. Then another Jaime shows up, who seems to be a hitman. With the rent boy having heard the whole criminal plan, he suddenly becomes a liability and finds himself in a very extremely dangerous situation. Easy Money could easily have seemed a little silly, but it cleverly makes its lead not a streetwise hustler but a young lad who doesn’t really know what he’s doing. His eagerness to please is endearing and also explains why he doesn’t make a run for it early on – as he’s not experience enough to realise he’s way out his depth. Things get incredibly tense and verge on the nasty, before things take a major twist towards the end. Some may feel the denouement takes things a little too far – however did the client expect it to work? – but it’s quite effective. Easy Money is sexy, taut and even perhaps a little perverse.
8 out of 10
The Wilding (16 mins)
Director: Grant Scicluna
This excellent Aussie short won the Iris Prize, which is the world’s biggest award for LGBT short films, given in Cardiff each year. We caught it at Iris, and if you’d like Adrian Naik’s full thoughts on the film, you can read them here.
Set in an Aussie Youth Detention centre, Malcolm and Tye have a loving relationship but it only exists in the confines of their cell. Outside they must exist in a violent dog-eat-dog world, where showing affection, the wrong loyalty or just seeming like a target can easily result in violence or abuse. Malcolm gets offered the possibility of parole, but in order to leave he will have to abandon the one he loves to the mercies of an exceedingly dangerous situation. The Wilding’s greatest strength is its commitment to feeling true. Although a youth detention centre is an alien environment to most people, the short ensures its inhabitants feel absolutely real and that in a very short space of time it builds an entire, complex world for them to inhabit. You quickly come to feel for Malcolm and Tye, as they’re thrust into a situation where the right thing to do may not be the ‘right’ thing to do.
10 out of 10
Colonial Gods (29 mins)
Director: Dee Rees
This film didn’t win the Iris Prize, but it wouldn’t exist without it. Dee Rees picked up the first Iris gong for Pariah (which she’s since expanded into a feature film), and part of her award was funding and support to create another short – and Colonial Gods was the result. It’s the least explicitly gay of the collection, mainly focussing on issues of immigration, poverty, underclasses and the oppression of the establishment. Abdi is a young Somalian man who’s new to Britain and finds himself in Wales’ Tiger Bay. He’s been told to find Izi, a Nigerian man who’s been in the UK a lot longer. At first Izi doesn’t want anything to do with Abdi, but eventually agrees to allow him to stay. A complex friendship develops between the men, with Izi explaining how those living on the estates are treated as dregs, with the rich wanting to move them around every time they decide that the place they’ve shoved the poor is suddenly primed for gentrification. However as Abdi tries to uncover his friend’s secrets, things take a dangerous turn. The short’s title is an indication that this isn’t just about Tiger Bay, but the history of colonialism and whether its effects still exist today. Unfortunately Colonial Gods takes things a little too far, to the point that it’s so in thrall to its poor, disenfranchised immigrants that it almost dips into noble savage territory, which I’m sure isn’t what Rees hoped. Some may respond to its social justice aims and attempts to take on a complex and little explored subject, but other will find it ultimately rather over-simplistic.
6 out of 10
This Is Not A Cowboy Movie (12 mins)
Director: Benjamin Parent
This Is Not A Cowboy Movie takes on a neat idea – teenagers sorting out their thoughts about Brokeback Mountain. Set in a school lavatory, a teen boy talks to his friend about having watched Ang Lee’s movie. Initially it’s about how his mate will never believe what it’s about, but it soon becomes clear that he wants to talk about it because he was moved by the film and is trying to process what this means to him. In the girls’ toilet, another pair of teens have seen the movie, but it’s a bit more personal for one as she has a gay father. Her friend isn’t exactly sensitive about this and manages to majorly upset her. The short is surprisingly funny, full of the sort of sideways responses to Brokeback you can imagine a teen having. It uses the gay-western to explore the brave new world teens live in, where different sexualities surround them but they’re often left to negotiate that by themselves. It’s kind of nice that it acknowledges that gay issues also having meaning to straight youth nowadays.
8 out of 10
Prora (23 mins)
Director: Stephane Riethauser
Boys On Film 9 saves one of its best for last. Prora is named after a place on Germany’s Rungen Island, which was developed as a tourist resort by the Nazis. Numerous massive blocks were built, but it never opened, so they were left to decay for decades (some have since been renovated, but others are still slowly deteriorating). That’s the setting for the film, which follows young friends Jan and Matthieu. While Matthieu is loud and keen to talk about the women he’d like to sleep with, Jan is quieter. When they venture inside Prora’s labyrinthine buildings, Jan makes a move that reveals his true feelings. What ensues puts their friendship at risk. Tom Gramenz and Swen Gippa do a great job as the young men, portraying complex characters who you quickly get involved with, even though there’s relatively little dialogue. By the end, the endless corridors of Prora become an allegory for the confusion of teen emotions, as two people try to work out who they are and what it means. It’s a great little film, with great conclusion.
9 out of 10
Overall Verdict: Another great selection of shorts from the Boys On Film series, which cover a range of genres and subjects. Alternately entertaining, thought provoking and moving, it’s yet more proof that there’s a lot of good work going on in the world of gay short films.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac