Metro Weekly

Shorts: So Long, Farewell…

Reel Affirmations 2016

Saturday, Oct. 15
3 p.m.
GALA’s Tivoli Theatre

Things don’t end particularly well in any of the seven short films in this mixed program — which is also decidedly a mixed bag — as lesbians and gay men from around the world fall out of love or struggle with rejection from their lovers or others in their homophobic milieu. Dear John (or Jane): It doesn’t always get better.

It certainly doesn’t get much worse than Betrayed (star), Sandra Matrecitos’ drama, full of stilted dialogue and strained delivery. A U.S. war veteran is deserted while in the desert, her heart almost stopping as a result. Calling a suicide hotline and joining a support group doesn’t resolve her plight, and it certainly doesn’t help a viewer’s, betrayed by too little feeling for such a misbegotten saga.

Another maudlin, overdramatized tale, A Woman’s Gaze (starstar) initially seems to be a story of a lesbian and her relationship with a disapproving mother, whose melodramatic acting threatens to turn the drama into a comedy. Jianying Chen’s film is chiefly focused on love with a budding pop star, who’s too deep in the closet to show much more than a pouty look and sing a weak title tune for the show’s hero. A similar note is struck in Obligation (starstarstar), Rhiannon Collins’ wan look at two Hasidic girls secretly in love since childhood, neither of whom is strong enough to buck tradition and resist their families’ arranged heterosexual marriages for them.

In Made of Sugar (starstarstar), Kevin Rios repeatedly pans over moody black-and-white shots of a handsome, hairy, bearded boy, a third generation Cuban American. Based on his own biography, Rios’ film offers glimpses of a gay party boy’s life in New York, contrasted with old family portraits and the “everything’s fine” voicemails exchanged with his worried yet equally preoccupied mother. Cedric Desenfants’ Burning Soul (starstar) is based on a true story of two men who were banished from a God-fearing, shipwrecked colony centuries ago in the Far East. Amid lingering cinematic pans of its two barely clad heroes, we watch as they’re (figuratively) tortured at every turn. Desenfants paints with a broad brush, and the film suffers as a result.

Another international film with some finely composed cinematic flourishes, Left to Their Senses (starstarstarstar) is aided by two able lead actors. Cecilia Guichart’s drama benefits from her assured direction as it explores the complications a marriage proposal can arouse in an otherwise seemingly uncomplicated relationship.

Although far from hearing wedding bells, Evan (Brad Wergley) is nonetheless thrown for a loop when his lover Daniel breaks up with him in Rebounding (starstarstarstarstar). Wergley’s film is far and away the best of the bunch, with several amusing asides and even more unexpected twists and turns. We may not see Evan truly rebound, but, more so than with any other character we meet in this program, we have little doubt he will.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.

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