With crisp narratives and organic characters, short films often leave the kind of impact on us that makes us reflect long after the credits roll. When it comes to queer cinema, one often looks for a plot that goes beyond the ‘coming out’ narrative and centers around its queer characters instead of putting them in the periphery. GagaOOLala is an LGBTQIA+ streaming service that has a whole host of such award-winning flicks in its list of offerings, and these five WLW shorts are sure to leave you wanting more:
The Two Companions: Directed by Nilimesh Kar, this modern queer adaptation of O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of The Magi’ has been recognised at the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival (2018) and the Chennai International Queer Film festival (2017). It has also won awards for Best Film and Best Cinematography at Dream World Film Festival in Vellore (2017). While the iconic short story has been adapted for the screen many times over the years, ‘The Two Companions’ definitely stands out for being at once a soulful rendition of pathos in the narrative and a political statement about demonetisation. The fact that the story is set in Bengal makes it even more lyrical, for the beautiful language makes the love between our two protagonists – Antara and Ananya – even more poetic. 18 minutes long, the film does not waste a single shot to cater to the ‘idea of India’ and instead stays authentic to the voice, dreams, and journey of our characters. Aishi Roy and Priyanka Bhattacharjee are well cast and do a phenomenal job. Do watch out for the one emotional sequence in which they look at each other as Bengali brides. That shot itself makes the entire film worth it.
Marguerite: Directed and written by Marianne Farley, this nostalgic film is a 2019 Oscar Awards Best Live Action Short Film nominee. Beatrice Picard plays the titular Marguerite, an aging woman who now needs help for basic tasks like bathing and changing. Sandrine Bisson is cast as her kind-hearted nurse, Rachel. We meet our characters on what is a regular day for them – they have clearly been through this routine multiple times. However, their interactions are far from mechanical for they have clearly developed a friendship and genuinely care for each other. When Rachel gets a random call and tells Marguerite that it was her girlfriend on the other side, the older woman is taken through a walk down memory lane that makes her embrace her feelings from decades ago. The film more than deserves the awards that it has won at more then twenty LGBTQ+ film festivals. This should definitely be your next watch if you are looking for something heartwarming and reflective.
U for Usha: ‘U for Usha’ is the kind of story that firmly grounds itself in the belief that love makes us want to be a better person. Directed by Rohan Parashuram Kanawade, it conveys this message through our protagonist, Usha. Played wonderfully by Kiran Khoje, Usha is a warm woman with an infectious smile who is bound in her role as a labourer in the field and a mother in the home. The monotony of Usha’s life is broken when she feels herself becoming attracted to the village teacher played by Arpita Ghogardare. This affection becomes the catalyst in her life that inspires her to learn how to read and write. This beautiful narrative has won many accolades including the 2019 Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival Audience Choice Award, the 2019 Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival Best Short Film Jury Award, and the 2019 Munich Queer Film Festival Queer Mixtape Audience Award. With heart-touching Marathi dialogue and brilliant acting, this film is definitely worth a watch.
The Letter: Amongst other recognition, this film is the winner of the Dramatic Short Audience Award at the Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival 2015, and the Best Short Film Award at the Mexico International Film Festival 2014. This short employs my favourite romance trope of all time – meeting a past lover once again. When weaved into a queer narrative, this trope usually gives us a ‘we did not realize our feelings/did not have the privilege to explore them’ past, and in this film that is done beautifully through the story of Lupe and Rosalía. ‘The letter’ in question is one that was written to bid a childhood friend farewell, but is now presenting itself as the opportunity to say hello to a possible lover. Dealing with questions of identity, emotions, and second chances, this is a dramatic romance that leaves you wanting more. Directed by Angeles Cruz, the film may be in Spanish but the acting and storyline definitely transcend all language barriers. There is a universality of the queer experience in this narrative – a ‘coming home’ in more ways than one.
Eva menos Candela: This one is another Spanish short, and comes to us all the way from Colombia. At just eighteen minutes of length, ‘Eva menos Candela’ manages to take us through the high and low beats of a relationship. Directed by Ruth Caudeli, the film explores the relationship between the titular characters outside of the male gaze. What we get, therefore, are some genuine moments of tenderness and female longing. It asks questions about closure and intimacy after a break-up, and gives us amazing performances by Alejandra Lara and Silvia Varón. Do not go into this one seeking high stakes, because it actually uses common relationship issues to pay attention to the deep emotions behind them. With relatable and realistic characters, this film is sure to feel familiar. At just eighteen minutes long, it is sure to have at least one moment that resonates with you or reminds you of a long-forgotten love.