The world has changed for the better, in at least one respect, thanks to youtube. In the past decade, young gay people in many places have been given access to stories about being gay. Stories they can watch in the privacy of their bedrooms. Told by people who are young and gay themselves. Stories that can change lives.
That sounds impressive. Well, to many gay teenagers, it is impressive. That is a very good thing. An impressionable audience now has positive messages being proudly put forth into our collective consciousness. On small screens. For many gay teens, or even older gay people who feel alienated in small towns, these videos on youtube can provide inspiration. A lifeline to other gay people.
I remember the first guy I wrote to on youtube. I’d never seen a vlog before, and was fascinated by this young gay man who lived way up in Canada. He was talking into the camera about his love life, his job, his apartment, his cat. Mundane, sure, but just knowing there was this guy living far away, sharing some of the same thoughts I’d had, was comforting.
I was surprised when he responded to my message. It hadn’t occurred to me that he would be interested in talking to me, but he was. We became pen-pals, and over the years have shared a kind of “Dear Diary…” confidence. I’ve told him things I’d never told anyone, probably because of the physical distance between us. It felt safe to open up to a friend I hadn’t met, who was doing the same with me.
Now, there are even more ways for gay people to be inspired. Vlogs may no longer be the trend on youtube, but there are plenty of young film makers sharing their vision, telling their stories. A wide range of gay themed shorts can be found with a simple search, from zero budget amateur videos to critically acclaimed professional productions that have won awards in film festivals.
I’ve spent the past few months watching many of these. Some are forgettable, but I’ve been impressed by more than a few of the artists whose work I’ve seen.
Here are my favorites so far:
Faut Pas Penser
This French film feels a bit like a public service announcement in parts, especially when the father character is speaking, but the interaction between the two young men is touching. I chose to list this film first because it contains a scene that perfectly illustrates my whole point.
When the two boys confess their feelings for each other, it is done with a sweetness that would have been hard to imagine ten or twenty years ago. There is no wringing of hands. No wondering why this terrible burden has been placed on their shoulders. No sense of shame or sin or fear.
In one simple exchange, they take this tiny film into a realm that no major Hollywood director or writer has been able to reach. While the rest of the industry is still insistent on punishing their gay characters, portraying being gay as a painful, difficult thing, and gay life as being fraught with hardship and struggle, these two French boys show how easy and undramatic it can be.
Which is exactly the message we need from this point forward. One day, not far from now, young gay people will wonder why it was ever necessary to announce that they are gay. We are not there yet, and I completely understand how important it is to have role models who are openly gay, but eventually we will come to the realization that it doesn’t matter at all if little Bobby likes boys, or little June prefers Janet. Those lucky children will take their cues from us, and see nothing wrong with who they are.
This film gets a lot right. Even though the two characters look extremely young, and the common theme of gay boy seducing/molesting straight boy is present, it is well done from start to finish.
You can tell in the first thirty seconds if a movie is going to be good or not. One tip I’ve learned is that if the opening scene depicts two characters sitting around talking, you may as well stop watching. It’s probably the least imaginative way to start a film, and chances are there won’t be much improvement in the scenes that follow.
This movie opens with some fairly beautiful photography. The unusual location (an abandoned complex left behind by the Nazis) is established as a character in the story, and the director makes good use of a drone, with helicopter type shots you might expect in a movie with a much bigger budget.
When the main character makes his romantic move, it is entirely believable, as is the following scene, in which the two boys deal with what just happened. The last five minutes contain no dialogue. The shared moments between the boys are subtle, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the ending.
Pure magic. Another variation on the gay boy seducing/molesting straight boy theme, but with more appropriately aged characters.
The seriously cute geeky kid has a crush on the popular rich boy, and summons the courage to take advantage of every opening he is given on an evening spent together in the pool. It’s a slow tease, with highly playful dialogue, giving the cute geek a chance to impress the popular boy with his pluck.
Both actors were perfectly cast, and it’s a delight to watch them in their wet dance.
Love Without Limits
Ah, full grown men. So many of the gay shorts out there are focused on teenaged boys, it’s a relief when the characters have stubble on their faces. ( I realize that none of the films I’m including are about female to female attraction, sorry for the masculine bias.)
This stylish movie is set in an underground dance club. One of the things that’s notable is how successfully the director handles the shots of people dancing and partying. Many other films try to pull that off, with embarrassing results. Here, the world created for these characters is dark and gritty and completely convincing.
The sexual tension between the two men builds quickly. There is an erotic scene in which one guy stands behind the other and whispers in his ear, telling him he knows what he is feeling. He knows. It’s thrilling foreplay, and no doubt their passion will be physical and primal when it is unleashed.
Sweet Jesus in heaven. Talk about seduction. I dare any straight man to watch this and not get aroused. What an insanely sexy movie, with two equally sexy men, and one super hot premise.
A full grown bad boy breaks into a wealthy home and is caught by the handsome owner, who turns the tables on him. To give you a taste of the action, here’s a bit of dialogue, coming after the owner finds the intruder trying on one of his shirts:
“Take it off.” A tense whisper.
“Put it on the bed.”
“And the jeans.”
Highly charged pause.
“I’m not wearing your…”
“Do it.” A growled command.
Yep. With the muscular stud standing naked in front of him, he takes matters…. well… into his own hand.
Now here’s a story you don’t expect. An Israeli family are on vacation at the shore, where the wife befriends a handsome gay man. Also on vacation, with his boyfriend. Something about the presence of the two gay men is bothering her husband.
There are clever twists and turns in the plot, which I won’t ruin for you beforehand, and a lovely performance from the actress playing the wife. The director is good at building suspense, but doesn’t spell out everything for you, which is refreshing.
Here, I’ve saved the finest for last. A work of art from a Portuguese filmmaker. Truly, art. Visually rich, emotionally powerful. It’s my favorite type of story telling. Atmospheric. Not much happens in terms of plot, but the details of each lingering moment pull you in to the world of the characters.
The premise is simple. A truck is parked on a country road. Three red balloons are tied to the door. Two men are saying goodbye. The younger man is setting off to live his life, the older man is staying behind.
That’s all, but there is so much to love. The three red balloons drift in the breeze, forming a heart. Breaking apart. Forming a heart. Breaking apart. In the rear view mirror, we watch a memory of the two men, naked in the back of the truck. In between hot and heavy kisses, they share bites of an apple. Forbidden fruit.
The ending is perfect, as is everything about this film.
So, there is my list of recommended gay short films. I hope this has been helpful, and that you follow the links, and maybe write to some of the filmmakers. Then put together your own list, or add to mine.