Over the years I have been fortunate to watch some outstanding LGBTQ films, both feature as well as short, produced globally. In India as well, we have made some progress in the last few years – I recently watched some pathbreaking short films from India, as well as a couple of feature films. But these are the exception rather than the rule. Most encouragingly, the phenomenal popularity of web series is being fully utilized by Indian LGBTQ artists and allies to deliver a message of hope to members of the community.
At the time of writing this article, our country has been under lockdown for 11 days, and there are at least 10 more days to go before we may be allowed out of our homes. So I thought of compiling a list of six heart-warming short films – those which carry a message of hope – from around the world. A few caveats are worth mentioning:
a) I am not a certified film critic or reviewer. I love watching films and writing, so it is a good use of both my talents
b) The reviews are entirely my perspective. Others may differ with what I have written, which they are welcome to do
c) I have mainly watched gay short films so the list includes only such films, and
d) No short film from India has been included on the assumption that these would have already been seen my most people
I write from the heart, and these reviews are based on my feelings after watching these films. In fact, I have watched some of these films multiple times and enjoyed them each time. So here goes – five heart-warming short gay films to keep you busy during self-quarantine. Links have been provided at the end of every review. There are other great short films which have not been considered: this is by no means an exhaustive list. If you want more suggestions, I will be happy to compile another list!
1. Crush (2000) [26 minutes]
This is an adorable film with a 12-year-old girl, Tina, and a 16-year-old boy, Robbie, in the lead. It takes a while for the storyline to develop (the short film is actually in two parts), but Ema Tuennerman (who plays Tina) as the precocious girl who discovers that her new-found friend is gay, more than makes up for it. Despite having a crush on him, she thinks of a bizarre plan to help him find someone. Her desperate attempts to get Robbie and Tim together are outright silly, but that is the beauty of the film. Imagine for a moment the fact that a 12-year-old can even comprehend what it means to be gay, let alone helping two people find love. And her facial expressions are to die for!
This short film was made 20 years ago so it doesn’t feature mobile phones, dating apps, hookups or more recent facets of LGBTQ culture. It provides pure, innocent and unadulterated entertainment which may be considered old-fashioned by younger viewers. For me, this is an utterly sweet coming out film which ends on a happy note.
Memorable dialog: When Tina tells Tim – “Robbie’s a great piano player, like Elton John if you know what I mean.” I laugh my head off every time I see this particular scene.
Links [Unfortunately, part 2 was not available on YouTube so an alternative link has been provided]
2. Ronny & I (2013) [20 minutes]
It is Valentine’s Day. Two best friends decide to go on a weekend road trip to the seaside. One of them has broken up with his girlfriend because he has “feelings for someone else.” And who might that be?
This is not a run-of-the mill short film. For one, it has been shot on an iPhone or a handheld camera. The screen is shaky; for a few minutes, it even feels amateurish. Two, the film plays out by way of conversations and boisterous antics between the two friends. It doesn’t seem that they are acting at all. This gives it a natural, raw appeal. And if you want to know what ‘erotic’ means, wait for the last eight minutes of this 20-minute short. Saying anything more will be giving away spoilers. This is a film I have watched over and over again. See this utterly beautiful film for yourself to know why.
Memorable dialog: “Then you say no. You’ve just been denying yourself an experience of what you want, and you just live in this fantasy world of oh no, I could have had that, should have had that, but then when it’s actually given to you, you’re preventing yourself from getting it.”
(There is more than one memorable dialog in this film, but I selected this one because I personally identified with it. I had to replay this scene multiple times to get all the words, but the last 4-5 words were particularly difficult to comprehend so they are my best guess.)
3. Heavy Weight (2016) [13 minutes]
This superb short film packs raw, unfiltered emotion in its runtime of 13 minutes. Right from the opening scene (and its disturbing background music), it becomes quite clear that this is not going to be a sugar-coated love story. It has been shot entirely inside a boxing club. The story unfolds through the actors’ eyes, their hesitant emotions and the underlying tension between them. It raises important questions about the definitions of masculinity and how some people are forced to suppress their emotions to conform to what society deems masculine. The last scene of the film will make you wish it never ended!
There is just one problem with this film: In some places, the dialogs are quite difficult to understand due to the typical British dialect (it appears to be cockney but I am no expert and could be wrong). Subtitles were not available so I had to rely on auto-translate which was not the best!
Memorable dialog: “Excuse me……………… Huh. You know it’s a grand shame that your legs don’t run as fast as your mouth.”
4. In Einem Moment (In a Moment, 2018) [17 minutes]
I watched this film very recently (during the quarantine period, in fact), and it moved me deeply. The film narrates the story about two schoolboys: Leon, who is openly gay, and Max, who is not sure about his sexual orientation. Their friendship is devoid of turbulence till such time as Leon falls on Max nearly kisses him, which worsens the emotional conflict Max is experiencing. The finale is a school concert at which Max is singing. It is bound to move many people to tears.
This beautiful film is a mix of everything – great music, good acting, homophobia, supportive friends and even more supportive parents. The reaction of Max’s father at the end is worth watching.
Memorable dialog: “You never know how people react, but it’s good to let it all out. Everything will turn out good.”
5. Mi Amigo Jaime (My Friend Jaime, 2013) [7 minutes]
This is a really short story about two boys, Dani and Jaime (pronounced Haimé), who are close friends. Dani feels something more for Jaime which unexpectedly comes to the fore one day. The story has an almost predictable plot but it has a very sweet touch to it, primarily due to Dani’s innocence and the feelings that he harbors for his best friend.
Memorable dialog: “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.”
6. Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho (I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone, 2010) [18 minutes]
This sensitive and delightful short film from Brazil was subsequently converted into a full-length feature film. It deals with the story of 15-year-old Leo, who is blind, his friend Giovana, and Gabriel, a new student who joins Leo’s class. Like all teenage stories, this one has ups & downs in the three protagonists’ relationship with each other, and it brings to the fore Giovana’s jealousy when Leo starts getting closer to Gabriel.
The film’s high point is its sensitive treatment of Leo’s blindness – at no point is there any melodrama or sympathy. The film is like a beautiful song which soothes the senses; it makes you believe in the power of love. There are some poignant moments in the film, such as the one where Leo feels and smells Gabriel’s sweatshirt, and Gabriel sees him doing so. Achingly beautiful.
Memorable dialog: Gabriel asks Leo, “Have you always been like that?” Leo’s response is, “What do you mean? Dark haired? Or blind?” A potentially pitiable situation is turned into a humorous one with this response.