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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 5.Apr.19

bfi flare33rd BFI Flare shorts...
London LGBTQ+ Film Festival at BFI Southbank • 21-31.Mar.19

Reviews by Rich Cline | Page 2 of 4

Rubber Dolphin dir-scr Ori Aharon
with Chen Chefetz, Omri Laron
18/Israel 28m

Rubber Dolphin

Rubber Dolphin This Israeli short film has a striking sense of intimacy about it, following an extended encounter between two men that shifts through various layers of connection. It's extremely well shot and acted, which makes it feel so honest that it's almost voyeuristic. It opens as two men (Chefetz and Laron) enter a flat and awkwardly try to make smalltalk over a drink. This moves to a kiss, and then to the bedroom, where they discuss using a condom (this is where the meaning of the title comes in). What follows is a series of conversations and reactions as they spend time together in bed. The film is playful and often funny, and also rather sexy too. And filmmaker Aharon finds depth in their discussion of sexual history, limitations and the desire to find that perfect balance of lust and romance. The actors nicely underplay the roles, bringing these men to life in ways that reveal angles that are complimentary, but there are also issues that raise red flags. And it's fascinating to see them deal with these things. The camerawork is a little too close-up, filling the screen with faces, which eliminates any real sense of vulnerability. But where the encounter goes is pointed and clever.

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Mankind dir-scr Layke Anderson
with Ricky Nixon, Alexis Gregory
19/UK 13m


Mankind There's a swirling visual artistry to this British short that makes it watchable, simply because it looks so good. But the kaleidoscopic approach kind of papers over a plot that never quite gains traction, because the sci-fi premise kind of removes any proper emotional connection the audience might feel. It centres on Evan (Gregory) who is furious that his partner Will (Nixon) has signed up to join a Mars colonisation mission. The core of the film is their strained argumentative confrontation about this, intercut with richly shot and coloured clips of them meeting in a sweaty nightclub and spending time together as a loved-up couple. All of this is beautifully assembled by filmmaker Anderson, although it's difficult to get a sense of these men as a couple, when it's clear that they have never spoken about this rather enormous issue before. And the uneven performances distance them further, as Gregory wears his feelings all over his face while Nixon skilfully remains understated. But it's the randomness of the whole Mars thing that leaves the audience wondering what it's supposed to think.

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Framing Agnes dir Chase Joynt
with Zackary Drucker, Angelica Ross, Silas Howard, Max Wolf Valerio, Chase Joynt
18/Canada 19m

Framing Agnes  

Framing Agnes An experimental mix of documentary and performance art, this is set out as layers of film within a film. At the centre is an interview in 1958 made with a trans woman called Agnes as part of a UCLA Medical Center study into "sexual problems". Drucker is playing her in this re-enactment of the taped conversations in order to share the story. And three more trans actors (Ross, Howard and Valerio) also join in to tell their stories through the prism of historical archive materials. These case studies are very personal, and darkly involving as they explore issues that feel eerily resonant so many decades later. Intriguingly, Agnes' story was considered outrageous at the time (the other cases were locked away and only released in 2017), but begins to feel almost quaint in the context of high-profile cases like Christine Jorgensen, who had gender reassignment surgery in 1951. Filmmaker Joynt, who appears as a filmmaker on-screen, assembles this with layers of interlocking reality, mixing colour with black and white to shift perspectives. It's clever and complex, and full of fascinating detail.

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Meet Me Under the Clock dir Lauren Hortie, Sonya Reynolds
17/Canada 14m

Meet Me Under the Clock  

Meet Me Under the Clock Using shadow puppets and cutouts, this short has a distinctive visual style as it describes the scene in 1970s Toronto as a secret celebration of Halloween helped the underground LGBTQ community find each other and escape the abuse of the general public. At the centre is the St Charles Tavern, which was the centre of queer culture and both a magnet for and a sanctuary from homophobic violence. And at the annual drag party, the LGBTQ participants felt like they could band together and fight against the hatred thrown at them, all while putting on a fabulous show. The film is witty and very clever, a terrific depiction of various angles on masculinity with lots of camp touches. So it's a little frustrating that the voiceover narration is so blandly informative, recounting events over the years as if reading from a Wikipedia page rather than remembering anecdotes first-hand. But even if it's rather aloof, it's an important historical document of a time when prejudice and violence were accepted as normal. And people got on with their lives regardless.

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Tomorrow Island dir Gwenn Joyaux
scr Ana Falcon
with Daryna Butryk, Mira Gaydarova, Vitali Vassiljev, Oleg Jashinin, Juri Lemeshenko, Jegor Sevastjanov, Mariana Nunes, Denis Emelin
18/Estonia 16m

Tomorrow Island  

Tomorrow Island A short period drama set in an icy wilderness, this film is far too experimental to properly connect with audiences. Key elements of the narrative are lost in the confusing approach, which means that the emotional centre of the story never comes to life. That said, it looks great, shot in a remarkably isolated sea of white. The drama takes place in 1947 at the start of the Cold War on a tiny island in the Bering Straight, as only a sheet of ice separates the US and the USSR. Soviet telegraph operator Sveta (Butryk) is told that the border is being closed, so she's terrified that her American girlfriend Ila (Gaydarova) will be trapped on the Russian side. What follows is a desperate escape attempt that turns violent. But the story is told with so little context that it's difficult to understand who the people are, what they're trying to do and why. Without some sense of background or characterisation, the central relationship feels icier than the landscape. Which leaves the emotions feeling pushy and more than a little indulgent.

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This Year, Here dir Alison Taylor, Sabine LeBel
17/Canada 6m

This Year, Here  

This Year, Here There's a nice sense of personal memory flowing through this experimental short, although it begins to feel somewhat pretentious as it progresses through a rather long-feeling six minutes. An expression-free voiceover is contemplating relationships connected to a house on a lake, specifically Auntie Peg and "her very, very good friend" Beth, who were together for 45 years. The idea is that these memories have accumulated in this house in the same way that items (and dust) have gathered there over the years. So the filmmakers include a lovely collection of images, including a colourful collection of snapshots intercut with the beautiful scenery around the lake. But since all of this is just fragments, never recounted with a sense of momentum, and there's no real connection between the narrator and the material, it's a fascinating museum exhibit. But it's too indulgent to tap into wider themes.

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Wicked Women dir Anna Brownfield
narr Jasper Laybutt
18/Australia 6m

Wicked Women

Wicked Women This colourfully assembled experimental documentary recounts events from 1984 Sydney, when Wicked Women magazine appeared on the lesbian scene. What follows is a flurry of imagery that mixes pages from the magazine with animation sequences and lots of hilarious old photos. The visuals are lively, constantly moving and a terrific reminder of the way people communicated and created a sense of community in the years before social media came along. The magazine has a nicely handmade quality to it that extends to the way this film is put together. But the story itself is recounted in a way that's more than a little dry, raising some odd questions (was this lesbian magazine edited by a trans man?). There are several very intriguing details along the way, but there's also the sense that a more informative film could be made about this magazine, as well as countless other weekly LGBTQ titles that helped build subcultures over the decades before they vanished into history too.

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Pirate Boys dir-scr Pol Merchan
with Del LaGrace Volcano, Eric Llaveria, Henri Steeg, Ruvel Kovalevsky, Pol Merchan, Mercedes Povedano, Mat S, Miss Tobi, Ben
18/Germany 13m

Pirate Boys

Pirate Boys A blurry concoction of images and words, it's almost impossible to make any sense out of this experimental film, even if its ideas are intriguing. It seems to be an exploration of the crossing lines of masculinity and femininity, playing with ideas of sadomasochism and sensation as it looks at the story of a group of trans punk boys. Basically, the film is a conversation with photographer Volcano about a relationship with novelist Kathy Acker. The cast is a remarkable collection of people who identify as gender-noncomforming who are exploring Acker's fiction in creative ways, based in a genderqueer squat in Berlin. The result is a film that's kaleidoscopic in its imagery, shifting between narrative and poetry. And it's almost overpoweringly pretentious, difficult to tap into unless you're a true believer in Acker's queer pastiche style.

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