Always one of the most popular Outfest film programs, Boy Shorts often features some of the best submissions of the year. With each film having won a major award or two, the selections here live up to this reputation and then some. More than ever, we are offered glimpses into other cultures and other ways of looking at LGBTQ+ issues through a variety of lenses. I was struck by the directorial assurance, unfussy style, and a crop of fascinating new voices in Queer Cinema.
A Syrian migrant construction crew working in Beirut arrives on the job one morning to discover yet another opening to operate the dangerous crane atop a skyscraper. Among them, a handsome but lethargic man volunteers for the job, allowing him the privacy to fantasize about a more fabulous life. Director Dania Bdeir brings us an emotional, jaw-droppingly shot film about the power of our fantasies. What starts as a quiet, lonely tale explodes into something unexpected, guaranteed to evoke vertigo memories from Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk. Bring an appetite for visual splendor and perhaps a Dramamine or two.
Past Lives ★★1/2
This minute-long short by Maksym Varenyk is a visualized poem about the beauty of a gay relationship as seen in the rearview mirror. Short and sweet and lovingly shot, there’s just not enough there to count it as anything more than nice.
F^cK ‘Em Right B@ck ★★★★
Sammy (Emmanuel ‘Ddm’ Williams), an aspiring Baltimore gay rap artist with delusions of grandeur which includes an upcoming tour of Delaware (!) faces off against a Boss From Hell at his day job, who can’t abide his constant missed days. After a night of CBD and weed intake, Sammy and his BFF Yolanda (Kara Young), scheme to help him pass an inevitable work drug test. A home pregnancy kit hilariously brings them the results they seek. With great pops of color and a campy, over-the-top tone, Harris Doran’s short manages to have great chemistry between his leads, a joyous relationship worth celebrating. Bonus points for my favorite line of the year as Sammy sits on a toilet screaming, “The only thing left to come out of my ass is my ass!”
Gus, a gay man in his twenties (Sam DiGiovanni, who also wrote the screenplay), reunites with two of his childhood friends for a weekend camping trip on Catalina Island. With the dynamics of their relationships having shifted and new attractions blooming, this unforced, gorgeous short by Tyler Rabinowitz says so much with quiet glances, a gentle rebuffing of advances, and a well-placed arm around a shoulder, that dialogue seems superfluous. You believe the connection between Gus and his pals Will and Brian (Ronald Peet and Ben Holtzmuller respectively). This look at how enduring friendships can feel as much, if not more, fulfilling than romantic ones, hits that sweet spot to give us a glimpse into an unexpected definition of happiness.
Step aside Black Mirror pilot! Meet the queer version in the “Oh so wrong” category. News producer Wayne (Drew Droege) gets sent a salacious, career-ruining video of a Senator participating in a gay orgy with a goat as an added special guest. When he brings it to his anchor, Jack (Cheyenne Jackson), it sparks a debate in his dressing room about whether or not to air it. Sam McConnell directs from a razor-sharp script by Nicolas Citton to hysterical, nihilistic results. With a cast completely understanding the tone and deftly executing the mile-a-minute dialogue, a special mention must be made for Angelica Ross, who nails every single one of her outrageous lines. With a great matter-of-factness, eating a Dorito has the same impact on her as saying “Cake fart fetishism” (you read that correctly), which Droege hilariously repeats. Jackson plays out of control crazy so well while Johnny Sibilly gives his makeup artist Craig just the right amount of self-seriousness to act as an assured counterpart to the sheer insanity of his scene partners. I think we can all agree that The Morning Show unintentionally went off the rails in Season 2. How about green-lighting Brutal—which at least knows how to do bonkers to perfection—for a series instead?
A Fox In The Night ★★★★
Writer-director Keeran Anwar Blessie stars as Lewis, who arrives at a South London apartment to buy drugs from a dealer named Daniel (Korey Ryan). A potentially tense situation turns unexpectedly tender when the two strike up a sweet chemistry. I loved this short’s quiet assurance, subverting expectations under circumstances not typically depicted in LGBTQ+ cinema, at least not with this kind of unhurried, confident pace and refreshing lack of camp.
Foreign Uncle ★★★★
Sining (Li Li), a closeted gay man, brings his American boyfriend Patrick (Patrick Boyd) home to China to meet his family and faces harsh consequences when he inadvertently comes out to them. A relationship struck up between Sining’s young nephew and Patrick, however, offers some hope for the future. This autobiographical short by writer-director Sining Xiang finds a refreshing way into what could easily have been an all-too-familiar story. Similar in tone to Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, with its bustling family activity at the heart of the story, Foreign Uncle vividly presents the tug of war between traditional family interactions and ideas new and uncomfortable to them. Xiang has a gentle hand, making for an extremely likable, warm film.
By Glenn Gaylord, Senior Film Critic
Boy Shorts screened in person at the 40th Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival on
Saturday, July 16th and is available to stream online until 8am PT on Tuesday July 19th 2022.
The 40th anniversary Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival runs in person and online until Sunday, July 24th 2022. For the full lineup and to purchase tickets head to OutfestLA.org