Dan Phillips reviews the latest installment of the Boys On Film short film collection.
Peccadillo Pictures presents its fifteenth installment in its Boys on Film series, this time subtitled Time & Tied. Following on from their previous title Worlds Collide, the collection of nine films looks to explore different time periods even including two different times colliding in the time traveling Closets. Since the first Boys on Film collection in 2009, Peccadillo have continued to bring together an eclectic mix of short films from emerging filmmakers exploring gay issues and even after fifteen releases the quality remains higher than ever.
The first in the series is Closets, starring Waterloo Road’s Tommy Knight and, from Russell T. Davies’ Cucumber, Ceallach Spellman as closeted teenagers who find refuge in a time travelling wardrobe… It’s not the subtlest of symbolism but go with it. Henry and Tom are from different times, one where being gay is shadowed by Section 28 and AIDS and one where equality is thriving. It is an interesting device through which to explore how much society has moved on but how much still needs to change, however despite a brilliant turn, as always, from Coronation Street’s Julie Hesmondhalgh it never hits the mark. Writer/director Lloyd Eyre-Morgan more often than not falls into campaign video rather than short film and the script is usually too on the nose, lacking any kind of subtlety to really embrace the genre. That said, it is important that teenagers are taught about the history of homosexuality and Britain, I just think that this example fails to chose which side of education it wants to be on. However following Closet is an incredibly witty script from Karl Eccleston and Brian Fairbairn writing entirely in Polari, a slang dialogue used in early to mid 20th Century British sub gay culture. Often overlapping with cockney rhyming slang, the script has a whimsical, Lewis Carol-esque lilt, which immediately grabs its audience, and the wonderfully subtle performances create a powerful and very funny film.
Since the first Boys on Film collection in 2009, Peccadillo have continued to bring together an eclectic mix of short films from emerging filmmakers exploring gay issues and even after fifteen releases the quality remains higher than ever.
One short, which, in premise, really excited me, was G O’Clock from first time writer/director Mitchell Marion. The topic of ‘chemsex’ parties has been covered quite a lot recently, through the 2015 documentary, Chemsex, and the London production of The Chemsex Monologues as well as being covered in the news and so a short film exploring the subject should be quite timely. Following a paramedic on a night in at a chemical fuelled orgy, we see how nights like these can dangerously get out of control but sadly, this one never quite manages to rack up any tension and despite a potentially powerful climax, Marion doesn’t quite get it dramatic enough to shock.
The following films all explore time and conflict in unique ways, whether commenting on the American/Middle-East conflict or the gay ‘meat market’ stereotype through a night in a gay sauna full of zombies or the confusing period of coming out to yourself, but one of the stand out pieces is Trouser Bar by Kristen Bjorn. Set in a London gentlemen’s outfitters in 1976, and taking inspiration from the emotions aroused by a fetishistic love of corduroy, leather and tight trousers, two men enter Sir John’s Trouser Bar where they go on a weird and wonderful adventure. Capturing the seventies’ wondrous colour palette, Trouser Bar almost has the feel of a trippy Michel Gondry music video. With no dialogue it feels like a tongue in cheek soft-core porn pastiche of the seventies’ fetishisation of clothing, specifically trousers. But Perhaps the strongest piece showing best promise in a director is Nightstand from Charlie Parham. With executive producer Stephan Fry and credited support from Ian McKellen it is no surprise that the calibre of filmmaker is incredibly high. Following a barman over the course of three nights after picking up a married man in a Soho gay bar the piece moves from humour and tenderness to tension and loneliness in masterful strokes. Soho is a hot topic at the moment, and Fry and McKellen are fighting against the gentrification of the once gay centre of the UK. Nick Morris’ elegant cinematography captures the magic of the district with the expertise of a seasoned pro.
The Boys on Film series continues to be an important playground where not only can emerging talent develop their craft but also important issues of sexuality, self-acceptance and homophobia can be explored and presented in short, dynamic and exciting pieces of cinema.
Click here for information on how to watch Boys on Film 15: Time & Tied.
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