Eileen Leahy checks out short film at the GAZE International LGBT Film Festival.
Interestingly, in light of my review of Tru Love, a no-budget short, Me First (Leanne Byrne, 2014), covers very similar territory in a narrative that deals with an older woman starting a relationship with her daughter’s friend. This film is set in Dublin and made by a Filmbase masters student and her friends in their spare time. Although this short does not have the stunning visuals and professional finish of Tru Love, I felt that it presented a more convincing story.
This points to the main problem of the Irish Shorts Programme at GAZE, which is the lack of finance for Irish queer film. With the exception of Anna Rodgers’ beautifully shot I Am (2014) all of the films were no-budget student films, made with borrowed equipment and favours from friends. Therefore it was all the more remarkable that so many of the shorts were watchable.
Standing out for me was the documentary Coming Out of the West, (Cian Tracey, 2014), which created a poignant and intimate portrayal of two young men from a small rural community in the West of Ireland. This short perfectly captured a contemporary sense of being queer in Ireland, where the idea of staying on the family farm is no longer incompatible with homosexuality. At the same time the film showed that the bright lights and many “options” of London remain a mecca for young Irish queers who can find rural life isolating and limiting. Indeed there was a strong regional flavour to the Irish Shorts Programme, with other offerings such as Becoming Kiki (John Corcoran, 2014) and The Usual (Ruth McNally, 2014) broadening out the focus on Dublin as the centre of LGBT culture. Just hearing regional accents and rural turns-of-phrase in a queer context is refreshing in itself, and The Usual uses the idea of stereotypes, not just of hetero-vs-homo sexual norms but also of rural masculinity, to comic effect.
Another strong theme running through this programme was that of Transgender identity, with the aforementioned I Am, a collaborative film about the transgender experience, complemented by the short documentary, Who Am I To Feel So Free, from IADT student Dylan Hennessey that presented an interesting look at female-to-male transitions, but was unfortunately too long and repetitive with some audio issues.
The Women’s Shorts Programme, which screened just before the Irish shorts, offered a telling contrast that pointed up the lack of support or funding for home-grown talent. The two American shorts, The First Date (Janella Lacson, 2012) and What’s Your Sign? (Leanna ‘Alex’ Slow, 2013) were made through Outset, Outfest’s young filmmaking project where professional filmmakers work with young people to tell their stories through film. Canadian short Stop Calling Me Honey Bunny (Gabrielle Zilkha, 2013) was also made through a filmmaking project, the Queer Video Mentorship Project by Inside Out and Charles Street Video of Toronto. London-based, Spanish filmmaker, Virginia Fuentes, travelled to Cuba to make the short documentary, Mamis: A Family Portrait (2013), with support from development media funding. The other two shorts in this programme, both from France, were professionally made. Bouddhi Bouddha (2013) is by French writer, actress and producer Sophie Galibert and Social Butterfly (2013) is from American director and film professor Lauren Wolkstein.
That kind of support and funding for queer film is sorely lacking in Ireland and unfortunately it showed onscreen, where the poor production values could not possibly do justice to the original and creative approaches to storytelling available from our emerging talents.