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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

BOYS ON FILM 16: POSSESSION - Short Film Collection

For the last sixteen years, Boys On Film has been releasing collections of LGBT short films. This year sees the release of Boys On Film 16: Possession, which has gathered together ten short films from around the world, all based around the same theme… albeit sometimes loosely. The collection starts off with the three minute Golden, a German montage vignette that follows a literal “golden boy”, who stands out from his peers because his skin is permanently gold. But as he gets older, he begins to be self-conscious about his difference, before realising that there are others like him out there too. Short but snappy, this is a sweet fable set to a moving soundtrack. Next up is the British Jamie, which follows a young man as he escapes from his family for a walk-in-the-park quasi-date/hookup hastily arranged online, only to be surprised by the connection he makes with his date. However, the sound has been removed and replaced wholly with street noise… Is it meant to comment on the universality of finding love in the strangest places? Maybe. But after a few minutes, it feels gimmicky and more frustrating than profound. B. is a German animated film, which follows a doll named only ‘B’ (presumably in lieu of the name ‘Barbie’, though this isn’t stated explicitly). B is everything she is meant to be; athletic, attractive, well-off, in a relationship; but as she looks at her laddish boyfriend, she cannot help but feel distaste for him. Realising that she is, in fact, attracted to girls it is only a matter of time before the pressure begins to mount and she struggles to keep this concealed, with eventual disastrous consequences. With no words spoken by the dolls, it relies on very astute stop-animation to characterise B, but both she and the animated world around her are complemented by a meticulous attention to detail that makes this almost Anderson-esque with its kitsch minutiae. German/Canadian PYOTR495 is a thriller set in Moscow, following Pyotr, a young gay man who meets a man for a hookup, only to meet a man who attacks and imprisons him instead. However, Pyotr is not as defenceless as he may seem, as the film transforms into something far more supernatural. A merciless revenge thriller, this is an amusing curio about a grim ongoing reality. Scottish comedy When A Man Loves A Woman depicts a gay man’s panic when his mother announces she is coming to visit. Still in the closet, he purges his house of any gay paraphernalia, while recruiting his reluctant lesbian best friend to pose as his girlfriend. A silly romp, it’s certainly funny watching a somewhat camp gay man transform himself and “de-gay” his home… which apparently means dropping biscuit crumbs on the floor and cleaning faeces from the bedside table. Standard. Belgian Follow Me is a short film about obsession, with a young student infatuated with his art teacher. Following him around, the teacher begins to notice and becomes upset that his girlfriend might too. Unfortunately, this piece suffers from both its characters being somewhat unlikeable, so it becomes difficult to know whose or which side to position yourself with. British film Chance depicts the chance encounter between two men on a park bench. One is overweight and depressed, while the other is an asylum seeker from an oppressive regime who speaks no English. The pair’s burgeoning relationship makes them both flourish, finding themselves when they both thought they were lost. A beautiful story about new beginnings, this is probably the collection’s most moving and poignant. Next up is Sign, an American piece about a man who introduces himself to his subway crush, finding out that he is deaf. By his learning sign language and becoming part of deaf society, they begin a relationship together, which is documented through a long and extensive montage, scored with a sweeping classical score, making the film reminiscent of silent cinema. Though the fourth wordless film in the collection, it makes the best use of silence, having the viewer rely on the expressiveness of sign language to understand, which you quickly do. Touching and affecting, this is a strong and stirring piece. In the British Away With Me, two men meet for sex, but on a whim after, they decide to go on holiday together. Enjoying being spontaneous and impulsive, the two make the most of their time in Nice, eating in restaurants and sunning themselves on the beach, but it’s only a matter of time before events begin to turn sour. Initially just irritation, their dislike turns to something much darker as they begin to regret their decision to go away together. Unfortunately, this is the only film in the selection that suffers for its short runtime. This could easily be made into a feature-film, but as a ten minute piece it lacks the depth and mounting tension that this piece would really need. Finally, the collection concludes with Swedish film We Could Be Parents, which initially appears to be just a monologue to camera, before slowly revealing unusual elements both inside and outside the frame. The monologue itself is an stimulating take on gay parenting, but the film’s real strength is when it starts using its single-take format to play tricks on the viewer. This is based around a tremendously simple idea, but is very effectively executed and the impact of its last minute is a fantastically cinematic way to round off this collection. This instalment of Boys On Film consists mostly of very strong pieces of independent cinema. Though it would be nice to stray beyond the confines of Europe and the US, the films presented give a multi-cultural and multi-national look at issues/situations befalling LGBT People from around the world. Sign and Chance are the film’s strongest offerings, but the standard is high throughout the full two hours’ runtime of the ten pieces. If you haven’t explored the Boys On Film collections yet, then you are yet to discover some of the most engaging and cinematic LGBT short films of the last two decades.

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