How much of ourselves do we show to others? And how much do we keep locked away? No matter how much of our personality sits above the water and how much is submerged, our desires often float to the top—the need for connection, belonging and understanding central to the human experience. However, for many LGBTQ+ people, the relationship between hiding and seeking is impacted by social oppression. Many spend their most formative years hiding who they are from others, forcing their emotions and desires down. No matter the age you choose to break free and come out, the ghosts of those years spent hiding often still lurk in the shadows.
The Male Gaze: Hide and Seek explores the complicated relationship between belonging, freedom and desire, from the powerful bonds of friendship in our early teens to the random sexual encounters we seek in an online world. Each short explores hidden emotions, long-held desires, and our global need for companionship, place and purpose. The result is another assured, insightful celebration of the power of short films as NQV Media once again brings a wealth of voices, artistry and storytelling to the screen in a blaze of pride.
Directed by Leandro Goddinho and Paulo Menezes, Lolo opens the collection. Lolo is 11 years old and confident in his emerging sexuality. But Lolo’s new boyfriend refuses to go public due to Lolo being ‘too gay,’ and Lolo’s confidence is knocked. Luckily his friends Elena and Toby are on hand to help. The result is a sublime short film that unpicks the fears we dwell on as we emerge from the cocoon of childhood; its message of optimism, strength and friendship shines with sincerity and joy.
The Den, directed by Lorenzo Caproni, is a dark and brooding exploration of hidden desire. Caproni explores the secrets kept locked away by those who choose to live one life and dabble in another. Christian, a married man with a child, is enjoying a beach break when a young man from his past appears, but does Christian view their meeting as an opportunity or threat? The Den quickly spirals into the darkest reaches of power and secrecy, its final scene leaving us with far more questions than it answers as themes of abuse, power and control take hold.
Stanley, directed by Paulo Roberto, explores desire in closed rural communities, its themes of risk and sex, wrapped in the power of a random connection, dance and experimentation. Next up is If Only You Were Mine, directed by David Benedek. We all hope the relationships we build provide security, love and freedom. But, in reality, relationships are often complicated, with one partner longing for a deeper connection while the other longs for freedom. These conflicts often lead people to hide from the partner they long to love. These feelings are never more pronounced than within our first tentative relationships. Here the interface between sex, desire and love is often confused and wrapped in self-doubt. Benedek’s short film finds a powerful voice, layering its assured narrative with themes of confusion, hidden emotions and vulnerability.
Finally, No Strings, directed by Eoin Maher, explores the world of online communication and offline loneliness. Bryn has recently moved from Holyhead to London; however, his move has resulted in disappointment and disconnect on the streets of the capital, so he has turned to online hookups. On inviting over Sean, the opportunity for a much-needed connection comes into view, but will Bryn allow Sean into his world? Maher’s delicate and insightful short film explores the loneliness of a city full of random connections while unpicking the influence of gay dating apps in our modern dating world.
THE MALE GAZE: DESIRE IN THE DARK