BFI London Film Festival 2020 presents Cicada, arriving on digital from 21st January 2022.
There are approximately 3,000 species of Cicada, their lives spent underground before emerging into the light to mate and briefly fly free. In their debut feature, director’s Matt Fifer and Kieran Mulcare reflect the life cycle of this delicate yet complex insect through the darkness of emotional repression and the freedom of partnership and recovery. But here, the emergence into the light is told through the journey and rebirth of two men.
I have often spoken about the emotions men hold onto tightly in past reviews—the fear of appearing weak, leading to a padlocked vault of anguish. This often leads to a double life where an individual’s public persona hides their private sorrow, leading to self-harm, reliance on alcohol or drugs, homelessness, and even suicide. Often, the families and friends of those affected never know the pain the individual carried until it’s too late.
However, this veil of emotional secrecy in men has begun to lift slowly in recent years, with men’s mental health finally receiving the attention it deserves. This has enabled many men to step out of the shadows and unlock their emotional prisons. And it’s here where Cicada finds a powerful and essential voice. Its themes, speaking to mental health issues present in the gay community and broader themes of masculinity, belonging and companionship.
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During the summer of 2012, the Sandusky trials dominated the American media; a man accused and convicted of multiple sexual crimes against children. Against this backdrop, we meet Ben (Matt Fifer), a young man addicted to sex with both male and female partners. But Ben’s sex life only offers a brief respite and escape from his inner-self. The quick and fleeting hormonal release of sex, soon replaced by an ongoing fear and anxiety. Ben’s outward confidence and humour are a mere mask for a much deeper pain he keeps locked away, one he cannot vocalise due to the abuse he suffered as a child.
But as Ben continues his mission to find new sexual partners, a young man catches his eye at a local book kiosk. Ben quickly engages in small talk and his usual flirtatious routine, but something about Sam (Sheldon D. Brown)is different, leading them to a drinks date. However, what starts with drinks soon leads to a more profound sense of intimacy and belonging for Ben and Sam. Here their relationship quickly blossoms into something far more profound as they find comfort in each other’s arms. But when Sam shares a traumatic experience from the past, Ben too finds a new voice.
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Cicada carries a raw and compelling honesty throughout as both men’s pasts find a new sense of peace through companionship. Here Ben and Sam discover their inner resolve through their shared love as two souls combine into one on a path of healing. The power of this journey is only further enhanced by Fifer and Mulcare’s delicate and truthful exploration of race and intersectionality in gay relationships. Here, discussions on family acceptance, racism and the pressures of competing equality characteristics in defining the individual are handled with the utmost care and thought. While at the same time never hiding from the long-term horror of childhood abuse. It’s here where the performances of Fifer and Brown are full of tenderness, compassion and love. Their stunning on-screen relationship, both authentic and compelling.
Cicada carries a raw and compelling honesty throughout as both men’s pasts find a new sense of peace through companionship. Here Ben and Sam discover their inner resolve through their shared love as two souls combine into one on a path of healing.