The tenth instalment of one of cinema’s most celebrated short film series Boys on Film X is set to be an explosive cinematic exploration of LGBT themes and lifestyles.
Leading up the last months anticipated release, we at Renowned For Sound spoke with some of the directors involved in the release to discuss their films.
In today’s interview we chat to Till Kleinert about his short, Boys Village.
Florence Hinton-Collyer: How would you pitch your short?
Till Kleinert: A young boy, Kevin, who apparently lives all by himself in a derelict, abandoned boys’ summer camp, tries to make himself noticed to a teenager who regularly visits the premises with his friends. Yet the gap between the two appears all but unbridgeable – for several reasons. It is a film that is much more driven by atmosphere than by plot. Solitude and longing are very prominent themes throughout the film, as are childhood and its inevitable end. Slight traces of horror and the supernatural are to be found, as well.
TK: Beyond the very basic hope for them to enjoy and engage with what the film has to offer, I really wouldn’t want to narrow their experience by stating my own expectations up front. But I am always very curious to hear their interpretations and feelings after they have seen it!
FHC: Why did you choose to depict this particular narrative?
TK: I have always been fascinated with abandoned places. Whenever I discover one, I start to wonder about its secret life – what kind of stories might be haunting these walls, what kind of occupants might still be dwelling within them? They become like a fetish, metaphysically linked to past events, time periods, people, yet also signifying their imminent, ultimate perish. It is actually a very morbid spleen, come to think of it.
So when Cardiff-based photographer Jon Pountney introduced me to St. Athans Boys Village, which is an actual former summer camp built for coalminers’ sons in the 1920 at the South Welsh seaside, naturally, my creative engine started to roll. Particularly striking to me was the contrast between the former use of the premises as a safe, healthy environment for kids, and its current state, a skeletal, overgrown ensemble of buildings littered with hazards and smeared with graffitied obscenities. The development of the narrative with its thematic focus on the contrast between childhood and adolescence emerged very natural from that.
FHC: How does Boys Village challenge boundaries?
TK: I don’t know if ‘challenge’ is the appropriate word, as the film, like its protagonist, to me seems far too gentle in nature to openly challenge. I think ‘permeate’ is a word I like more. Like Kevin, the film seeks to poke little holes into the perceived boundaries between past and present, childhood and adolescence, ‘queer’ and normative behaviour; and perhaps through these holes some sort of contact can be made, some sort of understanding can pass.
To give an example: the film got an unexpectedly strong response when it played at the Beijing International Student Film Festival in 2011. The Chinese students attending the screening seemed curiously receptive of its themes. Kevin’s solitude and his small gestures of rebellion resonated very strongly with them – as did his presumed, but implicit homosexuality. Many students told me after the screening how they identified with Kevin, and for some of them that served as a way to acknowledge their own ‘queerness’ without having to resort to a vocabulary that to them might still be laden with prejudice and taboo. It was great to experience such an immediate permeation of cultural boundaries.
FHC: How do the purgatorial undertones impact upon the film?
TK: Being a kid of a certain age can certainly feel like being stuck in limbo. All the fun seems to be elsewhere, and you’re too young to join in, invisible to your surroundings – but you’re also getting too old to find satisfaction in the games you used to play. Summer holidays in particular used to feel endless to me as a child, with all my friends gone elsewhere. So Kevin’s being stuck in the Village could be seen as an extreme incarnation of that particular feeling.
FHC: What’s next for Till Kleinert?
TK: Coming up next is as feature film I wrote and directed called Der Samurai, a taut, nightmarish thriller due to be released next year. I’m very excited about it. It’s a totally different beast – if Boys Village could be likened to a ghostly whisper, Der Samurai will be more like a resounding, delirious roar.