Quick Queer Cinema

Do you prefer brief, impactful stories rather than grand, complex ones? Are you determinedly scrolling through YouTube in search of good content? Are you struggling to find decent LGBTQ representation on OTT platforms? We’ve compiled a quick list of queer short films you can stream on YouTube.

Short films are an efficacious medium for filmmakers to present their worldview with a smaller budget and compact storylines. To young filmmakers, they are an opportunity to learn and develop their style. It gives them creative freedom, which is often compromised in commercial films. Consequently, these films have eccentric storylines and peculiar themes that remain unexplored by mainstream cinema. If we look at short films through a queer lens, an array of LGBTQ+ voices from around the world are waiting to be discovered.

Seeing stories where people are confused, curious or confident about their sexuality makes a huge difference to people who are struggling with the same. From the set of viewers who cannot afford to watch films in big cinema halls, to a group of viewers who scroll through YouTube all day – these films have an insurmountable reach through a democratized platform like Youtube.

‘Sisak’ (‘A Sob’) directed by Faraz Ansari

Dedicated to the unsung queer love stories, this is a silent film about two men who lock eyes in the Mumbai local. We don’t know their names, but we can gauge what kind of professions they come from based on the way they dress. One dressed in a cotton kurta-churidar, wearing Kolhapuri chappals and carrying a jhola on his shoulder embodies the “struggling artist” personality. The other hops on the train in a rush and is wearing a suit and tie carrying a laptop bag, and comes across as someone who is doing a typical corporate job.

On the second day, we find them catching the same train, seated in the same seat, at a safe distance from each other but convenient enough to steal a few glances. The title ‘Sisak’ – which in the context of the film would translate to ‘silent sobs’ – is significant to the film. When one has a disheartened expression on his face, he tries hard to hide his sobs but eventually tears up. Upon seeing this, the other protagonist is filled with empathy and tears up himself. We don’t know where this disheartened feeling emanates from but perhaps it is the result of  the harsh realities of city life, or perhaps from the sorrow of not being able to confront their own identity. They communicate tenderness and desire through their stolen glances. Somehow, even without words, they seem to connect in a very human manner. The silence of the film echoes louder than anything words could convey.

‘Eu não Quero Voltar Sozinho’ (‘I don’t want to go back alone’) by Daniel Ribeiro

A coming of age story of a blind teenager named Leo, this is a ‘feel good’ film in the truest sense of the term. Leo and his best friend, Giovanna, become friends with a new classmate, Gabriel. Leo and Gabriel are assigned a project together, which makes them hang out with each other more often. Spending time with Gabriel makes Leo question his sexuality; he asks Giovanna if people think he is handsome and what Gabriel looks like.

The film is brimming with the freshness of first love and the warmth of new friendships. While in mainstream films disabled characters are highly under-represented, this is a film that doesn’t make it a complete tragedy. The Brazilian director later made it a full-length feature film with minor plot changes. In contrast to the conventional short film, it is slightly more complex in its portrayal of disability, sexuality and the naïveté of first love.

‘Marco’ directed by Saleem Haddad

Omar is a Lebanese immigrant living in London. He calls a sex-worker named Marco for a one night stand. Marco claims he is from Barcelona but clearly mispronounces the word; Omar notices this and his accent, and questions him in Arabic. In reality, Marco is a Syrian refugee named Ahemad, doing odd jobs in London. He has to live under the garb of a false identity, to be able to survive life in a big city and to support his parents. He doesn’t pity or regret the past; he only hopes for a better future for his family.

Alienated in their own ways, the two connect through their mother tongue: Arabic. As soon as he starts talking in Arabic, we see a more vulnerable side of him. The smaller nuances of language that they don’t need to explain to each other make them feel safe in each other’s presence. Layered with nostalgia, the film explores the idea of reminiscing a lost home through and with another person. The film’s brevity poses a myriad of questions to viewers, leaving a lot of room for contemplation.

‘Pronoms’ (‘Pronouns’) directed by Elora Bertrand

Created by Elora Bertrand who is a non-binary, French cinema student, this is a short film that explores the journey of coming to terms with your sexuality. The cast members who play trans characters are also trans in reality, which makes the film very authentic in its approach. As they suggest in the description, this film is by queer people and for queer people.

When Alice meets Sora, who identifies as genderfluid, she realises that there is more to gender than the binaries she has known all her life. Through ‘Coming Out’ YouTube videos, she discovers a label which best suits her. He changes his name to Victor and leaves his transphobic boyfriend who doesn’t see the real him. Personally, I feel the Youtuber ‘Coming Out’ videos have played a significant role in amplifying LGBTQ+ voices, and in showing teenagers that they are not alone, even though they may feel that way. Seeing someone their age being unapologetically themselves not only lessens their fears, but also gives them a lot of hope. The film succinctly captures this experience of navigating your sexuality with the support of other people’s experiences.

‘Coming Out’ by Breanne Williamson

Frurstrated with her personal experiences, the lesbian Youtuber Breanne Williamsom explores the recurrent process of coming out of the closet through this short film. The film portrays the many instances where people set ‘straight’ as default. When strangers assume her sexuality with such conviction, it gets harder to come out and easier to just go with it. The presumptuous mentality of people makes most situations very uncomfortable for her. The film conveys how frequently heterosexuality is imposed on queer people, and the resulting awkwardness of it all. The act of coming out seems to be as exhausting as Sisyphus taking the boulder up the hill, over and over again. The film also expertly points out the need for straight people to become active allies.

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When I am not chasing sunsets, you will find me wrapped up in books and discovering new films on letterbox.
Dhyanvi Katharani

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