After the second film in this series of shorts we were mentally trying out our most scathing adjectives. By holding on til the end we’d had a reminder of how the highs and lows of cinema can sit right next to each other.
Cosmetically the title Strikers & Defenders is a play on the fact there is a soccer scene in every movie. The films are really more about the people who hurt us and defend us, or those who hurt us while thinking they are defending, so thumbs up to the clever clogs who came up with the eloquent title.
It starts with Islands (Inseln) by Ron Jäger. The furtive and complicated relationship between Theo and Linus is set within the cauldron of the boys locker room and Theo bears the physical brunt of peer bullying. With an overall message of #It GetsBetter delivered by the team’s oddball coach the movie falls short due to its wooden acting and is a reminder that a believable fight scene requires balletic camera work and brilliant editing. At the end you will be wishing for a film that shows it gets better rather than just saying it.
‘Play it Like a Man’ by Laurent Lunetta made us furious. The directorial skill and deft performances are used to tell a dark revenge tale that suggests much more long term criminality than it shows. At its heart is a non consensual abuse of power over a minor by someone in a position of authority. A coach is taking naked photos of school boy Loris (Simon Boutin) in a locker room. An ambiguous suggestion that the boy had some kind of affinity with his abuser made us ready to break the screen in disgust. Was the director trying to add a veneer of cinematic eroticism to abuse? Or, on reflection, was it a study of the pernicious power of grooming and the effects of Stockholm syndrome? The ambiguity raised a hearty “F*ck you” in us that can’t take away from the director’s skill in rousing it.
The third film, Colours, is as visceral as a soccer match and has the audience booing and cheering in turns. Peter Lee Scott writes and directs a brilliant illustration of the toxic hierarchies that grow around bullies when people try to fit in to avoid becoming the victim themselves. The leeringly evil team bully Mike (fantastically punchable George Somner) will have you bellowing for his comeuppance as he beats down Tom (Makir Ahmed) the team member he discovers is gay. Meanwhile Tom’s straight best friend Adam (Harry Jarvis) is caught in between them trying to reconcile his own homophobic disappointment in his friend and his desire to protect Tom from the bloody consequences of being caught kissing a boy. Adam is afraid to put his own body in the way of the punches, and ends up letting Tom down and still getting beaten up by the sadistic Mike. We hate giving away spoilers but we want to let you know it turns out gay boys can pack as good a punch as they do luggage for Ibiza.
Finally Camille Melvil and Fabien Cavacas ‘Through the Fields’ brings alive the complexity of protective brotherly love. Theo (Pierre Prieur) is young and inexperienced but out to his older brother Lucas. Lucas (Maxime Taffanel) tries to be supportive but balks at the suggestion Theo might end up dating his perfectly acceptable teammate. Lucas’ protectiveness drives Theo away from the opportunity of finding first love amongst his peers that so many young gay people crave towards the predatory environment of online hookups. It’s a mistake they both pay for. The sensitivity with which the brothers are played had us wanting to hug both of them at the end of it.
Review by Andrew Hebden
Queerguru Contributing Editor ANDREW HEBDEN is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.
Labels: 2020, compliation, shorts