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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

GIRLS ON FILM 2: BEFORE DAWN - Short Film Collection

In 2014, the first Girls On Film collection was released by Peccadillo Pictures. The sister to its popular and long-running series Boys On Film, this second collection sees releases from the UK, US, Iceland and Algeria, to name but a few, with each loosely based around the theme, 'Before Dawn'.

The collection kicks off with American animated short HAPPY AND GAY, a black and white pastiche of early Disney, with two same-sex Minnie/Mickey Mouse-esque couples who come up against homophobia from the police, the church and their community. A delightful parody of the quirks of early animation, this is a cute and innocent glance at homophobia seen through the eyes of a child.

French short NO MATTER WHO follows a group of girls on a hiking excursion. But with one realising and trying to explore her sexuality, the social balance is upended when she lashes out once there is a threat of her exposure. A dark snapshot of how girls can turn on one another, this is a claustrophobic piece about the delicacy of social harmony and how it can be ruined by shame.

B. is a German animated film, which follows a doll named only 'B' (presumably after Barbie). B is everything she is meant to be: attractive, athletic, 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 takes very astute animation to characterise B, but both she and the animated world around her are complimented by a meticulous attention to detail that are almost Wed Anderson-esque in their kitsch minutiae.

British short SILLY GIRL sees an encounter between a trans man and his younger self, a teenage girl, at what is seemingly a nodal point in his past. The conversation is a realisation of the old psychotherapy adage "what would you say to your younger self?" Exploring gender, regret and hindsight, this is a strikingly effective yet simple concept, which is masterfully brought to the screen.

The British CRYSTAL CLEAR describes a woman's erotic fantasies as she's out on a date, talking about what she wants to do, while a montage of luminescent body parts engaged in sexual activity are shown in extreme - albeit distorted - closeup. A sensual and vivid portrait, this avant-garde and erotica in equal part.

British film DAWN OF THE DEAF sees director Rob Savage depict a group of deaf people who find themselves immune to a fatal sonic boom that has killed the rest of the population. Depicting various strands of story, this could easily have been a full feature film, but is nicely ambiguous in its current form, leaving the audience wanting a LOT more. A lesbian couple's story is one of these storylines, but theirs is not the most engaging of the group.

Icelandic PLAYING WITH BALLS depicts a middle-aged woman who attempts to break her boredom by seducing a much younger woman. But despite her success, her pleasure is short-lived as she realises she has gone against her values for no real valid reason. A film that relies on charged looks, it is laden with subtext, depicting a richly diverse slice of Icelandic LGBT culture.

The Canadian/Brazilian collaboration ENJOY THE DRAMA gives a voiceover account of a woman who revisits the past, discovering that through this she can move on in the present. Narrated over a montage of images that sometimes juxtapose with the voiceover, this is a tender rendition of a brief but intimate moment in a woman's life.

Australian short PLUNGE shows a relationship between two women tested while on a romantic trip to a remote lake in the forest. Without any words spoken between the pair, it relies entirely on the subtlety of the editing to show us the quick turnaround in their relationship. A solid snapshot of this relationship's nodal point.

US film ACTRESSES follows the relationship between two young actresses who struggle in a relationship together because of one's insecurity both in herself and in comparing herself to the other's acting ability. With her partner more successful and famous than her, she struggles to find her own voice as she feels she is living in her shadow; but this doubt is the seed that can only destroy their relationship. An accurate portrayal of envy, this is a moving and relatable film played out by two intense leads.

The collection concludes with an Algerian piece, BATTALION TO MY BEAT. Mariam, a young girl in a refugee camp, fancies herself a Joan Of Arc type figure, determined to lead the army into victory over their Moroccan enemy. With the people around her amused by her fixation, they allow her to depart from traditional gender roles and become a mascot for the army in the camp. Anchored by a gutsy central performance, this is an intriguing glimpse of gender politics in an otherwise closed community.

This instalment of Girls On Film features eleven strong pieces of independent short-filmmaking from around the world. While many come from English language countries, the breadth of the films’ origins is as diverse as their content. And with two animated films in the mix too, the collection is a slice of internationalism focusing on the universality of homosexuality in a variety of styles. While BATTALION TO MY BEAT is probably the strongest piece of filmmaking, it’s hard to dislike B., or NO MATTER WHO. With the quality of the content as high as with Boys On Film, this collection is definitely worth exploring, if only to discover some of the brightest new voices in LGBT cinema.

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