Jamie McHale, editor of the Queer Sphere takes a look at the latest entry in the Boys On Film series. 

Now in its sixth incarnation, the Boys on Film series is a DVD collection of short films showcasing up and coming gay film makers. This time the shorts take their inspiration from the Pacific Rim: Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Korea and Singapore. From the touching Drowning to the farcical Ajumma! Are You Krazy???, and via a bizarre animated panda along the way, the collection caters for all tastes but it has to be said that some of the films hit the mark more than others.

Drowning

Boys on Film 6 starts very strongly (perhaps peaks early) with Drowning, an Australian offering. A young man coming to terms with the recent suicide of his brother, Mik is struggling to find his place in the world following recent developments in his life. His parents can’t afford to send him to university, he works a dead end job and has found himself vying for the attentions of his best friend Dan, competing against his new girlfriend. Filled with tension, feelings of longing and unrequited affection, Drowning takes you on a journey trembling on a knife-edge with danger being reinforced by almost every aspect of the film. The almost clinical soundtrack and cold hue, the sharp minimalist edges of the house the trio find themselves in and the close-ups of wet feet on wooden floors almost making you want to look away for fear of them slipping over. The building tension is released in a climax of confession and confrontation ultimately leading to a touching display of friendship, caring and love.

Franswa Sharl

Based on a true story, Franswa Sharl tells the tale of Greg Logan, the first born son to an overly competitive father and doting mother. It’s impossible to watch this film without a big grin on your face; recounting the family’s last holiday to Fiji, Greg narrates the story of how he ended up taking part in a Miss Fiji competition. This short encapsulates the fun and joy of family holiday nostalgia being interspersed with home video footage, but also manages to tell the story of a father coming to terms with his son not being the alpha male he wanted.

Tanjong Rhu

A Singaporean short about a gay man lured into a honey trap sting by the police who is subsequently arrested The film straddles several timelines, incorporating flashbacks and police interview footage, this style is ambitious for its 19 minutes running time and as a result it was quite hard to follow whilst maintaining any level of engagement.

Teddy

Perhaps something of a precursor to the upcoming Mel Gibson film The Beaver, Teddy is 15 minutes of your life you’ll never get back. The plot centres around a Londoner trying to rekindle his relationship with an ex in New Zealand. The core of their relationship was seemingly the eponymous teddy bear which is heavy-handedly used as a metaphor for their erstwhile relationship throughout the film with the stuffed panda receiving more screen time then either of the actors. Recurring extreme close-ups of a stuffed panda somehow don’t carry the poignancy I think they’re intended to. Teddy manages to make you laugh when you’re meant to cry and cry when you’re meant laugh. If you like emotional crossed wires and metaphors as subtly conveyed as with a sledgehammer, this is definitely the film for you.

Love, 100°C

A South-Korean short introduces us to hearing-impaired boy Min-So, bullied at school and mocked by his brother, things really aren’t going well for him. That is until he meets and impulsively has sex with a worker at the local bath-house. Following this, Min-so finally starts to stand tall and confronts his brother, he seems like a changed man, that is until he goes back to the bath house to reconnect with his lover and finds him being gay bashed by a patron. Rather than helping the source of his new found confidence he watches then runs away in fear. Perhaps a study of cowardice, Love, 100°C is an interesting watch even if it’s quite hard to sympathise with the cowardly protagonist even though you’re clearly meant to.

My Last Ten Hours With You

An intimate portrayal of a couple’s last ten hours together as one is emigrating and leaving the other behind. An evening punctuated with sex, fighting and friends ensues with little to no reason or explanation given for any of the above.

Ron The Zookeeper

A seven-minute stop motion clay animation, Ron The Zookeeper highlights the plight of the Panda in the strangest way imaginable. The main reason Pandas are becoming extinct is their lack of interest in copulation, an over-zealous zoo-keeper (literally) takes matters into his own hands by plying a disinterested Panda with Viagra and then erm, how to put it, lending a helping a hand. Occasionally funny, always weird, Ron The Zookeeper is worth seeing for originality alone.

Ajumma! Are You Krazy???

Undoubtedly the turkey of the bunch, Ajumma! Are You Krazy??? Follows three ‘Ajummas’ (middle aged Hawaiian women) in their pursuit of the object of their affection; Korean soap star Michael Park. We follow the women from one farcical and stalkerish near-encounter to the next with little causality or interest in between. There was one cinematographically interesting scene where two people who have only ever spoke via online forums meet for the first time and in a Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World style, their online profiles appear on the screen, overlaying a freeze-frame of an extreme close-up of their faces. However, this fun bit of film-making was too little too late and no way enough to compensate for the terrible acting and dull plot.

Short films are a genre I’ve never particularly explored mostly from lack of exposure but equally I’ve never gone and sought it out. I suppose I feel about it much the same way I do about short stories; they just aren’t long enough! To become truly absorbed and empathise with the characters I need more than the 5-20 minutes short films tend to run for. This is an opinion I largely stick to after Boys on Film 6, that isn’t saying I didn’t enjoy this collection of shorts but I simply couldn’t reach the level of engagement as I do with feature length films. However, if you’re looking to an introduction to queer cinema from around the world you’d be hard pushed to find a smorgasbord of shorts as varied and (mostly) entertaining as this.

There is also a lesbian version of the series called Here Come The Girls.

Jamie McHale, editor of The Queer Sphere – a gay blog focussing on film, politics and literature. He can be found on Twitter HERE.