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Can't Live Without You (NCGLFF 2016)

~Saturday~ Bob and I attended the second night of the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (NCGLFF), where starting at 11:00 p.m. and running until just short of 12:30 a.m., we watched a collection of short films given the name "Can't Live Without You," presumably by the festival's screening committee.

On the NCGLFF website, this collection was advertised as, "Here's a collection of 7 amazing shorts that the NCGLFF committee just could not live without..." the veracity of which seems plausible on first glance. Until you get to the 6th film and there's not another.

The collection description also designated two of the films (Away With Me and Parting) as UK films and the other four (Dads, Occupy Me, The Next Stop, and Guidance) as U.S. films, for what that's worth.

Here are the synopses of the films and my thoughts about them:

DADS


Synopsis: Scott finds his morning interrupted by an unexpected visit from his father. When Scott's friend-with-benefits Doug also shows up, all three men find themselves in a quietly awkward world of ambiguity and things unsaid.

Thoughts: This was probably my least favorite of the six. It took forever for any of the characters to start speaking, which drives me crazy. It was very slow moving, and it left me with a lot of questions:
  • Did the dad already know his son was gay?
  • What was the picture of Doug doing on the wall, and why did his dad take it down?
  • How did it end up on the floor?
  • Why didn't Doug stop by to see Scott in the laundry room on his way out?
  • Was the dad gay?
The synopsis intimated (to me, at least) that all 3 of them would end up in the same room at the same time, which didn't happen. The synopsis also said that all 3 men find themselves in a "world of ambiguity and things unsaid." I didn't take that to mean the audience would, too. Maybe, in retrospect it was a brilliant film. Just kidding.



OCCUPY ME


Synopsis: Two men whose flirtatious word-spar about sexual positions turns unwittingly into a debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both taking sides against the other.

Thoughts: This film was an intellectual and philosophical inquiry into the implications of "topping" and "bottoming" in the parlance of gay male sex. I'm not so sure the conversation turned into a debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beyond one of them being Arab and the other being Jewish and them using the term "occupying me" as a metaphor for the top being "in" the bottom.

The debate, as I remember it, was initially around what "Yes?" means as a single-word question just before "occupation," which evolved into a discussion about the power dynamics (i.e., taking power and giving up power) associated with being the top vs. the bottom during gay male sex.

This was one of my favorites of the six films, and it didn't help that the guys in it were totally my type.



THE NEXT STOP


Synopsis: A forty-something Brooklyn man rebounds from a long-term relationship by hooking up with a 23 year-old rugby player.

Thoughts: This was one of two films, the other being Guidance, that dealt with the trappings of being with a closeted partner. It was interesting enough, but nothing compelling. It had an ambiguous ending, which I'm not crazy about, although I'll take that—any day—over a "Hollywood happy ending."



GUIDANCE


Synopsis: Charles, a high school psychologist at a parochial school, struggles to keep his personal and professional lives separate and intact.

Thoughts: This film was also one of my favorites, as it wasn't "all gay, all the time," which is kind of ironic and a result of this film festival being in its 21st year, I suppose. In the early years I loved that most of the storylines were gay, gay, gay.

My change in preference probably also has to do with the abundance of gay characters in movies and on TV these days. In the early years of the festival, it was about the only place to see movies where, in the end (double-entendre totally intended), the guy gets the guy."

One of the things I liked about this one was the diversity in the characters' genders and sexuality and their problems.



AWAY WITH ME


Synopsis: A spontaneous holiday romance in Nice turns sour when there is a clash of intentions and expectations between the two men.

Thoughts: This storyline was a little weak in that it was hard to believe someone would go away, to what seemed like a fairly far destination, with someone whose last name they didn't even know. There was also a fair amount of ambiguity in this one, which as I've already stated, doesn't work well for me.

The best thing about this film was that I didn't remember that it mentioned Nice in the synopsis, and when they first showed them on the balcony of where they were staying, I thought, "That looks like the Promenade des Anglais," and then when they showed the beach scene, I thought, "Yep, all rocks, no sand, just like Nice." Many, many years ago, I spent 6 glorious weeks in Nice on an IBM business trip and my ($600-a-night) hotel was on the Promenade des Anglais facing the Riviera.



PARTING


Synopsis: After a lifetime together, time has stopped for an elderly couple as they prepare to say goodbye.

Thoughts: This was a nicely done film that touched on a number of themes such as life-long gay relationships, "in sickness and in health," caregiving, death with dignity, and having some say in your own mortality.

Have you seen this collection of movies? If so, what did you think of them? See what what other movies I've seen since 2003.

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