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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

BOYS ON FILM 18: HEROES - Short Film Collection

Coming soon is Peccadillo’s eighteenth collection of gay short films, this time entitled Boys On Film 18: Heroes. With ten pieces of filmmaking collected from around the world, each of the uplifting and powerful tales recounts the lives of everyday heroes with no special powers except striving for their own identities, fighting for the right to be themselves.

The collection kicks off with DANIEL, a British short film about a Hungarian student who escorts to fund his studies. At a dinner with his friends, his closest friend introduces them to her new boyfriend, who will challenge Daniel with an unexpected confrontation. With some snappy editing that cuts back and forth between the dinner and various sexual encounters with clients, this is an interesting look at how an ordinary life can live alongside a controversial job. Bookended with shots of him changing the sheets on his bed, it’s interesting to see how much meaning has been acquired to the same task by the end of the piece in comparison with its beginning.

Next is Dutch film, BUDDY. Revolving around a HIV testing appointment, the piece follows a man who has asked his ex-partner to support him through the process. Thinking that this might be a reconciliation for them, it becomes clear quickly that the ex’s agenda is completely different from his. The film captures perfectly the rollercoaster of emotions that surround STI check-ups and against that backdrop, the pair’s feelings toward each other are magnified tenfold. This is a great little film that made me want to know much more about how these two found themselves in this situation together.

Egyptian animated documentary HALF A LIFE follows the personal account of a young gay activist living in Cairo. As he becomes politicised following witnessing a brutal gay-bashing, he speaks of his involvement with the revolution against the Mubarak regime. Though the country is oppressive toward his sexuality, he speaks about how he does not want to leave and live elsewhere, striving for change instead of fleeing. An inspiring piece that has been perfectly visualised by the combination of animation and real-life footage, this is a short that is well worth your time.

Swedish UNDRESS ME is a striking piece about a date between Micke and Mikaela. When Micke realises that has date is a trans woman, a whole tide of conflicting emotions spew forth, at times aggressive and at times curious. For the most part, this a difficult piece to watch as he treats Mikaela like a sexual lab specimen; unable to understand his attraction to her and unwilling to accept her the way she is. He questions her, explores her and at times humiliates her too. This extended duologue adeptly depicts the anatomical obsession with trans people, in which Mikaela is a curiosity to Micke, not a person.

British THE COLOUR OF HIS HAIR is a docudrama that combines vintage footage and interviews with acted material featuring God’s Own Country’s Josh O’Connor about the climate for gay men in the late 50s and early 60s. Depicting a couple who are being blackmailed with the threat of publicly exposing their relationship, they grapple with the dilemma of whether to go to the police. Based on a screenplay written but never actualised in the early 60s, the dreamlike quality of this retrospective makes it seem like this climate was so much longer ago than just fifty years ago.

SILLY GIRL is a British short about a trans man who has a conversation with his younger self at a moment of self-discovery and reflection. A simple concept that could have done with being fleshed out a little further, this is an intriguing realisation on film of a fantasy situation we would all like to be able to have one day.

Danish AN EVENING shows Frederick on the day that he and his best friend have started to explore sexually together. While his friend is completely at ease with this new level to their friendship, Frederick is not, struggling to understand his feelings and what they might mean for his life. A tender snapshot of a difficult stage in every LGBT person’s life, this is a tenderly drawn moment captured lovingly on film.

The British short documentary AIDS: DOCTORS AND NURSES TELL THEIR STORIES is a highly emotional piece in which doctors and nurses who were on the forefront of AIDS treatment in the 80s and 90s speak out about their experiences first-hand. A beautiful and moving portrait of the people who broke all the rules to give these young men the real help they needed to live to the ends of their short lives with dignity, fun and happiness, this is a worthy companion piece to some of the best AIDS documentaries out there. I shed multiple tears, especially as they recount the encounters with the patients they remember most and whose stories have lived with them ever since. A beautiful piece of filmmaking.

German IT’S CONSUMING ME is a short montage piece about a man who reflects on his partner… or at least what seems to be his partner. A slickly produced and snappily edited piece about obsession, this is a perfectly formed piece of filmmaking that manages to tell a brilliant story and shock the viewer all in the space of three minutes. This is surely the work of a director on the rise.

The collection concludes with MOTHER KNOWS BEST, a Swedish short that won the 2017 Iris Prize and sees a mother give her teenage son some advice in the car on the way home from meeting his boyfriend for the first time. What ensues is an argument in which revelations abound and their relationship is altered forever. With snappy dialogue and a camera that never fully reveals his mother’s face, this is a restrained piece of filmmaking that depicts the damage that an overbearing mother can have on young LGBT people.

Overall, Boys On Film 18: Heroes is a diverse collection that includes moving and relatable stories from around the world. At its best, this collection is a proper tear-jerker, with HALF A LIFE, UNDRESS ME and AIDS: DOCTORS AND NURSES TELL THEIR STORIES the absolute strongest of the bunch. But a special mention has to be given for IT’S CONSUMING ME, which is a brilliant extra-short piece for the YouTube generation.

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