2015 sees the collaboration of the British Council and the BFI to produce ‘5Films4Freedom’: a global, digital human rights film event intended to spread the message across the world that love is a basic human right. This means that five unique short films, taken from this year’s BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival, are available to watch for free all around the globe on BFI Player for the duration of the festival – from the 19th until the 29th March.
In particular, today, Wednesday 25th March has been marked out as a special day whereupon people across the world are urged to unite and watch at least one of the films together, and then discuss, share and spread the word as widely as possible on social media using the hashtag #5Films4Freedom.
In a world where there are still huge battles to be fought against prejudice shown towards members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, this is an exciting and groundbreaking event. Many of the talented, emerging filmmakers, directors and actors involved in the production of the five shorts are themselves homosexual or transgender, and each piece has a distinct flavour and energy that marks it out as having its own ‘voice’ – although they are all unified in their message to promote human equality and the freedom to love whomever you wish.
Watch all five of the 5Films4Freedom by CLICKING HERE
Directed by Søren Green, this Danish short depicts two young boys, Frederik (Jacob Ottensten) and Mathias (Ulrik Windfeldt-Schmidt), hanging out after school and surfing the internet together, as listless teenagers do when at the age of being too gawky and self conscious to express themselves to each other. Clearly brewing beneath their casual companionship however, is Mathias’ angst-filled attraction to Frederik. Over the film’s nine minutes of calm focus, we follow his intimate gaze onto his friend’s neck, the hairs on his arm, the curls across his forehead; the silence between them speaking volumes of pained adoration. Seeming distracted by constant texts from a female friend, Frederik doesn’t appear to reciprocate the feelings. It’s only after Mathias has fled to relieve himself from the torture, and the truth about why Frederik is texting the girl becomes clear, that the unexpectedly heart warming twist is revealed.
Sensitively filmed and refreshingly simple, this brief capture of innocence and first gay love is intensely touching.
Trevor and Amir (played by Clifford Hume and Amir Abbas respectively) are two middle-aged men from very different backgrounds and cultures who become acquainted by chance, at a point in their lives where they feel isolated and cut off from the world. In this gentle short by Jake Graf, a gradual relationship develops when Trevor, whose only motivation to get out of bed each day is to take flowers to his wife’s memorial bench, is rescued by passing-by Amir from a bunch of jeering louts. Tentatively recovering from the ordeal together, the two men get to know each other bit by bit during daily walks through the park, using miming and hand gestures to communicate in the absence of a shared language. Unexpectedly, the two men find kindred spirits in each other and fall in love, and the story concludes in a cheeringly inspirational happy-ever-after ending.
Inoffensive and warming, the idealism serves as a simple message of hope, and it is an encouragement to anyone for whom life has reached its blackest depths to explore a long lost passion that may feel undeserved.
In this chirpy, ambitious US short by Nisha Ganatra, the idea of wistful longing and admiration of someone from afar is taken to a whole new level. In a futuristic reality, humans can conduct a self-invented life via the use of complex technology, and play out their fantasies by wearing special goggles that take them to a make-believe consciousness. In a new-age academic system, where boys and girls are schooled separately until aged eighteen, we meet Frankie (Renée Felice Smith), petite and doe-eyed, seemingly outcast by her mane-swishing, precociously sexual peers. She nurses a secret, and immerses herself obsessively in her private virtual world, ignoring the scornful speculation of the others. Meanwhile, her apparent polar opposite – the glamorous, popular and perfect Libby (Alexa PenaVega) – becomes absorbed in a virtual romance with a mysterious ‘boy’. Eventually it becomes clear that Frankie’s virtual presence is not as it first seems, and as we realise the two girls’ cyber realities are overlapped, it sweetly unfolds who the object of her desire really is. It only clicks for Libby once back in the real world, at the point of eye contact with her true ‘lover’.
It’s a light-hearted and smart comment on the world of social media, exploring the extent to which people can become so engrossed in the sub-reality of cyberspace that they lose sight of the power of human contact in the flesh. And moreover, proving that strength of feeling between two people will always win through, regardless of gender and appearance.
Fender Bender is a bicycle workshop collective like no other: based in Detroit, it is run entirely by members of the queer, trans and women’s community. In this short documentary, French director Nora Mandray takes us behind the scenes and examines how engaging with bicycles has, enthuses one member, ‘completely shaped my identity and gave me a sense of confidence’. As we watch her skilfully manipulate tools with blackened fingers, you can almost smell the oil in the air, and the lovingly-tended vehicles become objects of art. The young mechanic continues passionately that it is important to her that the collective creates a space to allow people to identify with who they really are. We jump back and forth from the inner workings of the shop, where people are expertly concentrated on their tasks (though not without humour; no prizes for guessing what the joke saddle mounted on the wall entitled ‘Thruster’ is meant to be), and scenes showing them riding through the cityscape of Detroit, delighting in the fresh air and each other’s company.
It’s a pleasant short film that both invites us into the down-to-earth sanctuary of bicycle craft and infects us with the upbeat camaraderie of the members of the collective.
Arguably the best of the bunch, Simon Anderson’s Morning is Broken is a simply stunning piece of filmmaking. Succinct in its storytelling and with deft cinematography that draws beauty from every blade of grass, it evokes the bittersweetness of self-identification in youth. Set in the twilight hours between the night before and a new day, we follow a tentative encounter between Nick (Nigel Allen) and Sam (Matthew Tennyson), two young men thrown uncomfortably together at the latter’s older brother’s wedding. Sipping their drinks long after the festivities have dwindled away, they converse with rivetingly acute realism, Sam’s timid, contained energy contrasting absorbingly and effectively with Nick’s boyish forwardness. As they warm to one another, Nick suggests they take a drive, and then a boat ride, and as the sun rises higher over the lavish West Country landscape, the film takes on a timeless quality with the men still in their wedding attire: walking through fields in waistcoats and rolled up shirtsleeves, they could be plucked from any era; the undercurrent of unspoken feelings and silent flood of questions as vivid now as it would be in any day and age between two people exploring their sexuality. When the dynamic between the characters reaches a peak and things progress beyond Sam’s comfort zone, it is with all-too-familiar sadness that the spell is abruptly shattered, and after an anguished struggle, the film draws to a poignant closure.
Elegantly crafted and deeply moving, this portrait of a young man’s frightened self-loathing and his turmoil of homosexual denial will strike an achingly honest chord with audiences worldwide.
The BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival continues until Sunday 29th March. Tickets are still available from www.bfi.org.uk/flare
You can follow Saskia Bartlett on Twitter @saskia_bartlett