And we’re off, London Film Festival opens on October 2nd and I’ve been lucky enough to have early access to a selection of films. Here are three reviews, starting with a short film.
Rehearsal (Courtney Thérond, USA, 8 minutes)
This is a short about filmmaking: a director and cinematographer (both male) are rehearsing a sex scene with their two actors in an apartment. The atmosphere is relaxed: the two actors seem to know each other from before and this should be fairly quick. “So first you start kissing, move towards the bed…”, everything is technical and you just have to get on with it, play it cool but take the work seriously. A strange line is crossed however when the female actor is asked to take off her top for lighting purposes and so that the cinematographer can precisely watch the movement. She has not worn a bra that day, “oh that’s fine”. While the filmmakers keep asking her if she’s ok with this, we are already so far into the action that saying no would just spoil the whole day. If it was supposed to be so relaxed, why is she still out of breath at the end of the scene when she’s back in her car, steadying herself? While men can leave a room by shaking hands, women still hug, it’s often an impulse. Unwanted physical contact inevitably happens. This short film matter-of-factly shows how crucial it is to warn the woman the day before “you’ll probably be asked to take your top off tomorrow”.
Walking with Shadows (Aoife O’Kelly, UK-Nigeria)
Ozzy Agu plays Adrian, a man who has been hiding his sexual identity his whole life, is married to a woman and has a child. One day, his wife Ada receives a phone call telling her that her husband has had sex with men in the past. Rumours start spreading around town, Adrian’s brothers have varying reactions (one of them thinking a priest will solve the problem) and his wife will not speak to him anymore. This is someone who, while being sexually attracted to men, deeply loves his wife and son, and we feel how hard it is for him to be apart from them for days on end. Moreover, reconnecting with his past is not just something he can do by clicking his fingers. There is fear of coming out completely – more to himself than to others. Indeed, when faced with his distressed mother, he realises he’d rather be alone than surrounded by people who shut his true self out. I very much enjoyed the quiet journey Adrian goes through, as well as the fun and colourful costume design (for the women mostly) and the female friendship between Ada (Zainab Balogun) and her friend Nikki (Ade Laoye).
Two of Us (Filippo Meneghetti, France)
This is also a film about coming out, but from the perspective of two retired women. Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) is widowed, has adult children and has never been able to tell them that she has been in a relationship with her neighbour Nina (German actress Barbara Sukowa) for years. After a heart attack no longer allows her to speak, Nina is unable to approach Madeleine as she did before. Her behaviour becomes extreme at times, through lies and break-ins, but these are signs of desperation due to a forced separation and ultimately, Nina is the only one who knows what Madeleine needs. This film highlights that we don’t always know what’s best for our family, even though protocol gives us the power to make decisions and reminds us of the deep difficulty some people will always have to reveal who they really love.