This review is brought to you in partnership with our friends at NQV Media
NQV Media is world-renowned for bringing us some of the best LGBTQ+ short films from around the globe in curated collections. And with their brand new release, The Male Gaze: Strikers and Defenders, the sports field take centre stage. With four superb short film’s exploring coming of age, desire and toxic masculinity. Each short story delving deep into experiences that may start in the locker room, but expand far beyond its doors.
The beauty of the short film lies within its ability to encapsulate complex social themes in snapshot journeys. And within Strikers and Defenders, coming of age sits centre stage in each story on offer. The collection both exploring the toxic masculinity surrounding the sports field and the importance of finding a voice. With each unique film wrapped in broader social themes of friendship, abuse, confusion and confidence. While at the same time, highlighting the inherent complexity of young male identity, peer pressure and image.
Opening the collection is Islands (Inseln) by Ron Jäger, a delightful and heartfelt exploration of hidden desire and bullying. Theo is a quiet and reclusive teenage boy who loves drawing. His emerging sexuality complicated by his love for classmate Linus, with whom he shares a secret and complicated relationship. However, Linus also has a girlfriend and a group of friends who bully Theo in the school changing rooms. And as the ongoing bullying takes it toll, with Theo losing hope in life and love, an unlikely confidant appears. The stern but equally isolated P.E teacher Mr Kruger. A man who seems to understand Theo’s predicament far more than the young man could have ever expected.
Following the display of communication and empathy in ‘Islands’, we embark on a darker journey with Laurent Lunetta’s Play it Like a Man (Un été viril). As two fifteen-year-old friends ‘Loris’ and ‘Thomas’ find a stream of voyeuristic photos on the phone of their football coach. With each picture focussing on the football club locker room and showers. However, even more, disturbing is the focus on young Loris. Ultimately leading both boys to take justice into their own hands by breaking into the coaches house; ransacking his property while daubing the walls with ‘pédé’. However, did Loris already know about the sexual desire of his coach? And are his actions tied to an abusive relationship that has long held a grip on his life? There are no easy answers provided, with an ending that leaves the viewer to decide.
In the third film Colours, toxic masculinity and peer pressure take centre stage on the all-weather pitches of inner-city England. With British writer/director Peter Lee Scott exploring the homophobia and control that comes from dominant leaders in dangerous peer group structures. As teenage mates, Adam and Tom face the ultimate choice in their ongoing friendship. Following Tom’s sexuality being outed by the oppressive and dominant football captain Mike. His control over the team grounded in both toxic beliefs and behaviour. But does anyone have what it takes to challenge Mike, as events begin to spiral out of control?
Finally, brotherly love and protection find a voice within Camille Melvil and Fabien Cavacas’ Through the Fields (Passer Les Champs). A beautiful journey into the boundaries of protection as local football coach Lucas tries to navigate the needs of his gay younger brother Théo. His brother’s sexuality still hidden from their parents as Théo builds his confidence. However, when Théo expresses his desire to embark on his first sexual experience, Lucas shields him from a member of the football club; ignoring the dangers of Théo going online for sex. Ultimately, leading both brothers into a night of revelations and decisions that only further build their bonds of love.
The Male Gaze: Strikers and Defenders continue NQV’s drive to bring us some of the best LGBTQ+ short films from around the world. And with more collections on the way, we can’t wait to see where NQV takes us next.