Boys on Film returns with ten new short films that explore visions of Jesus, making friends in nightclub bathrooms, post apocalyptic relationships and falling for the school bully. Boys on Film 13: Trick or Treat is a celebrated, and award winning, series of shot films that showcases talent from around the world.
Straight off the bat we have mum coming out to her son in Surprise, directed by Leslie Bumgarner. After meeting Jack’s (Austin Fryburger) teacher Alice at a parent teacher meeting, Jack’s mum (Tess Harper) realises she is attracted to women and begins to spend more time with Alice. When his mum tries to explain their new relationship, Jack misses the point, but when it does finally click he tells her he was expelled for calling Alice a name. The best bit is, Alice is on her way over for dinner.
Surprise explores the complicated nature of new relationships and coming out later in life. When Jack’s mum says she has something to tell him, he immediately assumes she and his dad are getting back together. Coming out can be a difficult process to begin with, but coming out to your children is just a little more daunting.
Surprise is nine minutes of awkward conversations, excuses, secrets and coming out with the truth. Fryburger’s delivery of the punch line is what makes this short what it is. Both Harper and Fryburger help make awkward ooze from their conversation that leaves you laughing and cringing at their situation.
The second film, Boygame, two friends practice on one another to gain the experience in preparation for having sex with girls. The Swedish short, directed by Anna Nolskog, takes a surprisingly blunt approach to the experience these two boys share. When Nicolas (Joakim Lang) offers to ‘blow’ John (Charlie Gustafsson), so that when he get blown by a girl, he knows what to expect and can last longer, you aren’t really sure if this is going to be one of those sweet moments where the two young boys realise they are actually in love.
Boygame keeps you guessing until the very end, when you aren’t quite sure if the longing stare is a stare of lust, love, or accomplishment. The short is genuinely awkward, but in a good way. It was honestly hard to process how open the two friends are with one another, and how willing they were to experiment to help each other out. John uttered the words “no homo” once, and I actually believed him when he said it. Lang and Gustafsson portray a friendship that knows no bounds and could quite possibly end up being more sometime in the future when they ‘practice’ a little more.
Caged, directed by Lazlo and Dylan Tonk, is the third film from Boys on Film 13: Trick or Treat. Following friends David (Joël Mellenberg) and Niels (Josha Stradowski) as they work out at the local park and bully another local gay teen Tim (Leendert de Ridder). But when Niels is caught kissing Tim, all hell breaks loose.
Caged explores how peer pressure can force people to keep secrets and how homophobia is not always about hatred, but sometimes misunderstanding. When Niels stands up to his homophobic friends, you feel liberated, like he has just achieved something for everyone. In saying that, the homophobic slurs that the group of friends use to describe and degrade Tim and Niels feels forced and even a little unbelievable. With David, this is understandable, he feels betrayed by Niels’ lie, but the others just don’t have the same strength in their delivery.
VIS-à-VIS is the fourth film in Boys on Film 13: Trick or Treat, directed by Dan Connolly. Richard (David Harrison), or Ricky, and Martin (Dan Connolly) have applied for a domestic partnership visa so Martin can stay in Australia. Donned with strange moustaches and over the top voices, Ricky and Martin (the joke was made) try to convince a government official, Lara (Belinda Misecski), of their true and undivided love. And it might have worked if Ricky hadn’t researched how to be gay on Wikipedia.
The couple is doomed from the second they open the door. With hilarious delivery, Harrison and Connolly act out a flamboyant and completely unrealistic relationship with Lara trying to figure out what is going on. Their ruse is ruined Ricky’s over zealous ex girlfriend who is incredibly jealous of his new love interest… who is not Martin.
VIS-à-VIS is a comedic break in the middle of the intense Boys on Film 13: Trick or Treat, it is filled with good intentions and heartbreak. Even in the middle the traumatic time, Martin manages to leave you with a smile and warm your heart a little as he desperately tries to stay in the country in order to win back his love.
The fifth film, Followers, directed by Tim Marshall, sees a highly religious elderly lady, Lynn (Valmai James) find the image of Jesus in the swimming shorts on a young African man, Rulendo (Mark Oliver). This slightly strange short film sees the old woman try to befriend him in hope of forming a friendship and freeing herself of loneliness.
When Rulendo catches Lynn staring at his crotch, he ends their friendship because he is uncomfortable. Failing to understand boundaries, Lynn stalks Rulendo and follows him into a park where he has an encounter with another man. Lynn’s desperation for friendship is clear, and seeing Jesus’ image just sends her a little crazy. Followers tries hard to be kooky, but it lacks somehow. I feel like it’s sitting in between weird and eccentric, in a strange indescribable place that isn’t as funny as it could be.
Kissing Drew explores the fantasy of the young teen James (Eden Ocean Sanders). Directed by Philip. J Connell, the short film is a ridiculous look at what its like to have a crush on someone completely ludicrous. Drew (Ben Hargreaves) is the cool kid, with a sort-of-girlfriend and James is quiet and interested in video games. Drew bullies James, calling him gay and makes his school life almost unbearable but James can’t help but fantasies about him.
Kissing Drew is incredibly adorable in that we all understand James’ feelings. Drew is always goading him about being gay, making fun of him in front of everyone and trying hard to isolate him from his peers, but James can’t help it. The fantasies are highlighted by a slight angelic lighting, Drew sweeping him off his feet and a nineties style romance song. Both the young actors give incredible performance, both in the fantasies and in the less fun real life moments. While Drew is a pretty bad person, there is nothing about Kissing Drew that doesn’t make you smile.
A Last Farewell, the seventh short film in Boys on Film 13: Trick or Treat directed by Casper Andreas, explores life after the death of a loved one. Erik (Tomas Von Brömssen) is an aging author who is mourning the loss of his life long partner Leif (Iwar Wiklander). Their daughter, Malin (Liv Mjönes), assisted Leif in committing suicide so he would not have to suffer from a long-term illness. Erik blames her for his loss, and refuses to forgive her for helping take him away. Engulfed by sadness, Erik has visions of his dead partner who urges him to rekindle and save his relationship with their daughter before its too late.
A Last Farewell is a beautiful reminder of lifelong love and loss, and the importance of family in difficult times. There is a special kind of importance for films like this, giving proof that love is a universal thing, not confined or restricted between men and women, children and parents. Van Brömssen’s performance is brilliantly compelling as a grumpy old man who misses his love that was wrenched away from him.
Middle Man is a four minute masterpiece of awkward conversations and misconceptions. Directed by Charlie Francis, Middle Man is the story of a man trying to convince his hearing impaired boyfriend Paul (Tommy Jay Brennan) that he misunderstood a situation. Except, there is a middleman. Using a company called Type To Talk, Nathan (John Cooke) communicates through a call center who types his pleas out though the message service. Everything gets a little awkward for the middleman when he has to type out something very personal.
While Middle Man is a story about a lover quarrel, its Davie (Joe Cassidy), the middleman, who really steals the show. You can hear his discomfort in his voice, and with an inspection occurring at his work that day he really can’t afford to have a conversation of this nature.
Remission is the ninth film in Boys on Film 13: Trick or Treat, and falls short of the nine other films. The film follows two men (Teddy Nicholas and Cai Brigden) and a mute character (Antony De Liseo), described as a boy but doesn’t actually look any younger than the other characters. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the three men are travelling north for safety to wait out the non-descript virus.
The film tries to be a serious exploration of humanity in a post apocalyptic world, but it fails. The only redeeming quality of Remission is the beautiful cinematography. There area stunning long shots of open country with amazing lighting and interestingly complied shots of derelict houses.
The final film from Boys on Film 13: Trick or Treat is Mirror, starring Jody Latham (Shameless) as Luke and Liam Boyle (Skins) as Joe. The two meet in the bathroom of a gay nightclub in Manchester. Both, at first, are unwilling to admit they are gay, but as the drugs they take kick in and they get to know each other, they open up about their lives.
Making friends in a bathroom is a universal experience that draws you right into Mirror. The slurring, strange questions and lying about their intentions is engrossing and makes you remember the times you’ve had incoherent conversations with random people in toilets. With limited action, Mirror is a little slow as you are watching to two drunken men talk for eleven minutes, but Boyle and Latham give comical performances that help carry it along.