Slipping under the cinematic radar in a summer full of children’s popcorn films, is a melancholic Brazilian gem. Exploring both the internal and social isolation present in Brazil’s LGBTQ community. The recipient of last years best picture at the 2018 Berlinale Film Festival. Hard Paint has finally gained a limited UK cinema release through Curzon. Providing us with a fascinating exploration of gay identity and belonging in a country of political and social extremes. Directors Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon taking us on a journey of self discovery, isolation and online sex. While playing with the challenges of online and offline identity in a city where secret rendezvous can also lead to homophobic assault and fear of expression.
Pedro (Shico Menegat) is a lonely gay young man, his life turbulently thrown off course after assaulting a boy who bullied him in college. Unemployed and judged by the community surrounding him, Pedro earns money through erotic online performances. Where he covers his body in fluorescent paint, while dancing in front of his webcam for the pleasure of a hidden community. Pedro’s character encapsulating a mix of online bravery, erotism and colour with offline anxiety, isolation and fear. His alter ego of ‘Neon Boy’ providing a vent of self expression in claustrophobic city of judgement and limited opportunities. While he awaits trial for the college assault, knowing his sexuality and experience of homophobic abuse will not help him evade prison.
However, when Pedro discovers that another online amateur is using his trade mark neon paint. While equally stealing his hard earn paying viewers, he decides to arrange a meeting with the mystery man. Only to find Leo (Bruno Fernandes) a local dance student striving for future success outside of Porto Alegre. While using the online world to build the money to leave for another country. Unlike Pedro, Leo is just as confident in his sexual orientation offline. His life surrounded by close friends as he strives to escape Porta Alegre for a new life.
As the two become equated, they decide to perform online together in a blaze of neon paint and erotic dancing. A decision that leads too much deeper feelings developing for both young men. As their relationship moves beyond the webcam, in a journey of self expression, confidence and support. Ultimately leading to internal and external change for both young men.
Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon deliver an unapologetically erotic film. Combining grainy webcam footage, with the vivid reality of inner city life. While Porto Alegre’s buildings act as cage for both young men, with the online world the only feasible exit in a claustrophobic community of secrets. The neon paint of their online personas a rebellious symbol of the internal desire to express their emotions, identity and sexuality. While equally searching for the emergency escape; Leo through dance and Pedro through self acceptance and esteem.
There are no easy answers inherent in the journey both young men take, and for Pedro this is further highlighted by the oncoming trial and repercussions he may face. For some, Hard Paint may lack the answers they feel they deserve at its conclusion. However, as portrait of the internal and external turmoil of self identity and escape, Hard Paint delivers a fascinating and hypnotic exploration of sexuality, desire and belonging.