YouTube is a trove of hard-to-find GTMs, both features and shorts. The quality is often not very good, though, and I mean that both in terms of value and pixel density.
Still, there are some gems.
I like this GTS from Sweden (it’s called Reel there on IMDb) more than I like most of the gay adolescent love stories I end up watching, mostly because it isn’t focused on gay identity politics or coming out. These two young skaterboys love each other, they’re able and willing to express it physically, and that’s all that matters. They may or may not end up as gay or bisexual adults, and that doesn’t matter, either. What matters are the feelings conjured between them on the day before one of them is supposed to leave, for what feels like forever.
Although the look of the film, particularly its soft, muted color palette, fit the narrative well, director Jens Choong makes a couple of odd formal choices. For instance, I’m not sure a 13-minute short needs flashbacks, hammering home how much the boys enjoyed their day together. I’m not sure why the sound cut out, or way down, during a scene in which the boys are chased out of an abandoned warehouse by cops.
The film opens with a flash-forward — one of the boys leans in to kiss his sleeping friend; he almost gets there, and the shot cuts to the present, and that effectively sets up some expectations and suspense, some of them related to genre. I’m interested in whether anyone who watches this film felt like the kiss was going to be rejected later on, as I did. Guess I’m a cynic.
Reel (Viktor and Robert)
Directed by Jens Choong
13 min, Sweden, 2013
Almost identical in its narrative setup, but different in style, Bill Taylor’s Silver Road features solid acting from its two leads, even if the film’s big dramatic turn didn’t quite seem plausible. Further, the titular metaphor wasn’t exploited even close to its full expressive potential.
Still, the two leads share a genuine rapport, and the ostensibly straight guy in this male/male couple reacts to his friend’s declaration of love with compassion, and more than a little love of his own.
Directed by Bill Taylor
USA, 13 min, 2006
Annnnnd, here’s another short with almost exactly the same premise as the previous two: two high-school best friends getting ready to go away to separate colleges. One’s gay, the other derogatorily uses the word gay in inappropriate contexts. Shot in unfashionable black and white by Cate Smierciak, I appreciated the dialogue more than anything else (written by producer/director Erik Gernand), particularly when Josh comes out to his friend, whom he just might be in romantic love with, not by declaring that love, but by making sure his friend understands the personal damage done when Alex uses words like queer, gay, and faggoty in the wrong context. It’s a forceful scene, and this particular friendship’s dynamics play out convincingly within it.
“It really bothers me,” says Josh. Alex gives an easy apology, but Josh isn’t buying it.
“Do you understand?”
“No, I don’t think you do.”
“Do…you understand?” With that pause and inflection, Josh makes clear what he’s trying to say.
“Yes.” Alex says, and we can believe along with Josh that he does.
The short ends on a bittersweet note, with some classic camerawork and cutting, as Josh makes peace with who he was with Alex, and who he’ll be without him. Some good work by Joe Sinopoli as Chicago-lad Josh, and the film’s final, selectively focused shot is perfect.
Directed by Erik Gerand
USA, 9 min, 2009
And finally, here’s a gay short that doesn’t follow the narrative pattern of the first three, to its credit, although it does feature unrequited love. Agua is a burst of stylistic freshness from Mexico, at least in the context of most of the shorts I surveyed for this post. The plotline is a bit pat, but the film looks great, with quite a few comic cuts, and a goofy, cute-as-hell lead.
Click here to download it for free on Vimeo.
Directed by Ricardo Esparragoza
Mexico, 12 min, 2014
Postscript: It doesn’t take a particularly observant person to notice that the first three shorts above, and in fact all the similar shorts I found on YouTube, feature white actors only. Depressing, but confirmable.
I’d make the case for “Agua” also having an all-white cast. Remember, Latino is not a race. Sure, they’re Mexican actors, but they’re WHITE Mexican actors. Just saying. Mexican cinema has a troubled history with colorism: most of our ‘movie stars’ are painfully white, while most of the audience isn’t.
PS. “Non-love song” is my favorite short film of all time. FACT. I re-watch it at least twice a year. And it’s available on Vimeo in a much better quality than YouTube.