Here at Candid Magazine we were super psyched to be covering BFI Flare again this year. Now its 32nd edition, the festival highlights the cream of the crop of this year's forthcoming LGBTQ+ releases. Events included screenings of features, documentaries, shorts as well as industry events and discussion panels. Here are some of our picks of things we've seen over the past week.
My Days of Mercy
Ellen Page continues her string of films focusing in on everyday characters finding themselves in extreme situations. My Days Of Mercy refrains from indulging in any coming-out-of-the-closet trope but instead concerns itself with the heaviest of topics: the death penalty, specifically the one facing Lucy's (Page) dad for the killing of her mum. As far from the closet and as extreme as you can get! In an effort to lift the unbearable weight of pending gloom, Lucy and her siblings join demos outside penetentiaries, up and down the country where executions are taking place.
It is there she meets Mercy (Kate Mara), a girl from the other side of the picket fence, who's family grievances are in full support of capital punishment. The relationship between the two brings relief to the inevitable doom, as it endearingly blossoms at a refreshingly slow pace, overcoming opposing familial, social and political differences, to form a genuine coupling. Successfully avoids oversentimentally, but not completely devoid of clichés.
An intimate and aesthetically pleasing documentary; shot over a year in the life of Scott, who was attacked and tragically left paralysed. Intimate scenes reveal Scott's fluctuating psychological state in coping with his new set of circumstances, all blended in with montages of moving images that create a gradation of moods, from lightness and beauty to the emotionally raw and troubling. Scott, is a likeable and charming fellow and his closeness and familiarity with the director comes across well, but is sometimes distracting.
I found myself seeking for more crucial and gritty aspects of Scott's attack which perhaps were a little glossed over in an effort to give a more positive outlook. It is in moments when Scott questions his current state of affairs or seeks some sort of reckoning with his attacker; that prove most interesting.
A hypnotic and not a classical gay film, in the obvious sense but more with its continual brushings with homeoeroticsm; if the abundance of exposed male flesh and the touchy feely between the four male friends is anything to go by. Hassane is feeling disenchanted with life, judged as directionless by his parents, he skives off from a day of job hunting to join his friends for a spot of swimming and sunbathing on the rocky shores of Beriut.
The waters prove deadly as Hassane hits his head on the sea bed's rocks and unexpectedly drowns. His friends are then having to go through the ordeal of bringing Hassane's dead body back to his parents and endure the subsequent mourning rituals that follow, involving them in undressing, cleaning and wrapping his body.
Matters to drag on a bit as we watch events progress in real time, nevertheless I applaud director's Mazen Khaled bold move for not just pushing the boundaries of what constitutes LGTBQ+ cinema but also daring to highlight the homosocial context within these religious rituals.
Uncle David 2
Uncle David 2 is a morbid, if truly fascinating mixture of loose narrative, social commentary and improv. We follow David, played by queer drag artist David Hoyle and his beautiful bleach blonde androgynous side-kick Michelle/ Michael (Archie Redford) as they embark on a peculiar holiday in a bleak and dreary trailer park in some remote British seaside town. Fuelled by wine, intellectual savviness and his unique avant garde drag, David eloquently spews one insightful stream of thought after the next with frequent interruptions by the attention seeking Michael.
Things appears quasi improvisational as well as fly-in-the-wall documenting, until a rapid twist in the film's trajectory sees the two kill, with great ease, an emotionally disturbed homeless girl who they invited in plied her with food and drink. Uncle David 2 is thoroughly captivating stuff, attributed to its weirdness, subversion, humour but mainly David's performance as a wacky yet articulate philosopher.
A forbidden love story turns into sinister thriller in this gay indie flick. Set in a Trump-ian Arkansas smalltown, Baptist priest Eli (David Rhysdahl) is pre-occupied with re-branding and opening up his local church from its puritanical roots, whilst harbouring a closeted homosexual desire. Enter Zachary Booth's homeless drifter Daniel, whose good looks shine through his dirty hoodie, as he shows up one Sunday at the church's potluck for a bite to eat.
The presence of Daniel stirs all sorts of emotions within Eli, unable to contain himself despite an expecting wife and of of course his vocation with its entrenched homophobic Christian values. The film switches three quaters in, as the affair is revealed to all and secondary characters turn villanious, reaching to an implausible cacophonous finale.
The love story between Eli and Daniel is where the film's merits lie and perhaps it needed more screen time to convince us of its evolution. An overall interesting if flawed watch; well shot with strong plot ideas, showing great promise for the film's writer (Samuel Brett Williams) and director (Jenniffer Gerber).