Thursday, April 9, 2020

SEEING IS BELIEVING: the latest compilation of short gay films from NQV is exemplary

On the basis of the first two collections I've seen from New Queer Visions -- The Israeli Boys and now SEEING IS BELIEVING -- this new distribution company that began as a film festival in 2014, then after five years morphed into a distribution company now called NQV Media, is bringing together some of the most interesting, versatile and high-quality GLBT short films I've seen.

What's especially noticeable is how different in style, theme and techniques is each of the six films in this newest collection. Yet each pulls you in and holds you both intellectually and emotionally. Not to mention how diverse the interesting locations here are.

The first of these films, ADULT, introduces you to a mother and son in two different time frames, as mom discovers something about her grown son's occupation, even as she remembers him and herself in former times. From Australia, in English and Greek with English subtitles, this eleven minute-movie, directed by Jamieson Pearce, subtle and smart, with not much dialog at all, makes quite a mark in very little time.

Belgium is the location of HELLO, STRANGER, during which a male drag performer with a young son must decide if the boy can see again his mother, who had abandoned the pair earlier and is now suddenly back in the picture. As directed by Anthony Schatteman with color and pizzazz, this 20-minute movie genuinely earns its smiles, emotion and surprises via fine performances and solid writing/direction.

All the shorts here are lovely, but my favorite and something I'd have to recommend to just about everyone -- gay, straight or otherwise -- is the third of of the six: LITTLE POTATO.  Directed by Wes Hurley and Nathan M. Miller, this is a kind of family-history faux documentary, based on life, in which a young man and his mother explain their lives, first in Russia and then in America. Their story is a keeper indeed (I can easily see a full-length narrative film arising out of this 14-minute short) and so full of surprise, delight and out-and-out patriotism -- as well as being just about perfectly filmed and told -- that it makes this entire project a must-see.

Mexico is the setting for JUAN GABRIEL IS DEAD, in Spanish and mostly black-and-white cinematography (which suddenly turn to color during a finale in which this change seems to reflect a change in our main characters' perceptions, as well), a first-love story told with a great deal of charm and vitality. Filmmaker Tavo Ruiz draws lovely performances from his two leads, both of whom are attractive and attuned to the subtleties of male bonding and sexual attraction. This may be the most playful and simultaneously artistic of the six films.

The Tunisian closet and its uses are in full bloom in LE CONVIVE, an Arabic language, 20-minute movie in which one of our three leading character's sexuality seems to be very nearly an open secret -- though what the secret actually is turns out to be a good deal more interesting that we've imagined. Taking place the weekend of a huge wedding to which family and, it seems, an entire town has been invited, filmmaker Hakim Mastour builds suspense handily, even as character -- of the bride, groom, and his "best man" -- is revealed. This one's entertaining, colorful and nicely subversive.

The final film, CONTESTANT #4 from the Philippines via Jared Joven and Kaj Palanca, is definitely the quietest of the six movies included here, and it is also perhaps the sweetest and most subtle. Little happens except the further bonding of two males: a much older man and a younger one, barely even of age as yet, for whom the older is clearly a kind of mentor and much-needed friend. Archival film plays a large part in this graceful, generous 19-minute movie, as does dance and the Asian tendency toward restraint, all of which makes for a first-rate close to this six-part endeavor.

From NQV Media and running a total of 95 minutes, Seeing Is Believing was released digitally this past Monday, April 6, and is available worldwide now via Amazon and Vimeo (this second link will be arriving soon).

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