Roundup of queer shorts at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival

Lamin Leroy Gibba in "Black Fruit," which is part of this year's Tribeca Film Festival
Lamin Leroy Gibba in “Black Fruit,” which is part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival
Tribeca Film Festival

Several worthwhile LGBTQ shorts and episodic programs screened at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Here is a rundown of some of the highlights.

In the shorts program “It’s Complicated,” the standout entry is the romantic drama, “Some Kind of Paradise,” one of the best shorts, queer or otherwise, at the fest. Tyler (John Brodsky) is an Arkansas bartender who meets Raphael (Gabriel Leyva), an actor in town for a shoot. Tyler is initially wary of this charismatic stranger, but viewers will feel the sexual tension as they exchange glances, or dance together. When Raphael asks Tyler to help him run lines, the real seduction begins. But Tyler is grappling with the inchoate feelings of a gay man who can’t seem to get out of his own way. Director/cowriter Nicholas Finegan deftly shoots Tyler in closeup and in spaces, like his trailer, that echo his loneliness and desire. However, it is Brodsky’s superb performance that shows Tyler risking his heart to the possibility of something more than a hookup. As “Some Kind of Paradise” builds to its emotional conclusion, viewers will melt.

“¡Beso de Lengua!” (tongue kiss) is a playful short that depicts the relationship that develops between Moisés (Dante Ureta) and Itzcóatl (Francisco Jácome-García) who initially meet in a hospital under very bloody circumstances. When the guys go out on a date in a cafeteria, their attraction increases, but things get messier when they compete in an unusual game involving their tongues. Writer/director José Luis Zorrero, who shot on film, displays a nifty visual style, with upside-down shots, closeups on eyes, mouths, and other body parts, as well as split screens to keep things fresh and exciting. “¡Beso de Lengua!” is not for everyone, but this messy film has a cheeky sense of humor.

“Original Skin” is a stylish short about Bea (Sorcha Groundsell), who, it is revealed, can swap bodies during sex — as she does when she meets Lexi (Olive Grey) at a nightclub. The impact of this transformation creates the film’s drama as Kira (Madeleine Worrall) insists Bea cannot keep Lexi’s body. “Original Skin” makes salient points about race and sexuality, which is why it is so captivating.

The glossy romantic drama, “My Best Friend” has the single Clara (Marie Zabukovec) spending the night with her bestie, Léa (Lana Boy), who is in an open relationship. They drink, dance, paint, and share a jacuzzi, but things get complicated when Léa asks Clara “Are you horny?” when they share a bed. How that transpires possibly impacts their friendship and lingers after the credit roll. Writer/director Elina Street has crafted a simple, well-acted short that could be the basis for a longer feature.

“Lost Bois” is an intimate 4-minute snapshot of Samp, Gian, and Moose, three trans bois in New York City who talk candidly about their thoughts and emotions. They discuss taking T, doing drugs, and being alone as a series of photographs showcasing moments in their lives overlap real-time scenes of them hanging out. Hopefully, director Devyn Galindo will expand this portrait into feature length.

“Lost Bois” is an intimate four-minute snapshot of Samp, Gian, and Moose, three trans bois in New York City who talk candidly about their thoughts and emotions.
“Lost Bois” is an intimate four-minute snapshot of Samp, Gian, and Moose, three trans bois in New York City who talk candidly about their thoughts and emotions.Tribeca Film Festival

“Kasbi,” also in the program, was not available for preview.

Other queer films screened in as part of other shorts programs.

“Out of the Dark: Cal Calamia” is an inspiring and hopeful biographical portrait of the trans man Cal Calamia, who grew up as a young girl and felt “that every about me was wrong.” Through photos, videos, and a poignant voiceover, Cal recounts his story, which involves depression and anxiety, and how running proved to be lifesaving for him. This short heartfelt doc emphasizes that trans people can thrive — especially when they are able to be themselves.

“Ripe!” is a fantastic short about Sophie (Raina Landolfi), who finds herself attracted to Gloria (Rita Roca) after she breaks Gloria’s arm in a soccer game. Written and directed by Tusk, the film has a dynamic visual style as it creates the sexual tension between the two leads. As various lies and jealousies impact their possible romance, both Sophie and Gloria must live their truth if they want to be together. Landolfi is perfect as the awkward, questioning Sophie, and Roca is irresistible as her love interest.

“Fire Fucking Fire,” has Ally (co-director Rachel Paulson) super excited that Meg (Calico Cooper) the lead singer of Fire Fucking Fire, just spent the night with her. However, this dream scenario turns into a comic nightmare the next day when Meg initiates an epic party in Ally’s home. Can Ally heed her bestie Jess’ (Campri Campeau) YOLO advice and party like a rock star? “Fire Fucking Fire” reveals the amusing answer.

End of the Party” is a slick, almost entirely wordless 5-minute short about Lucy (Eloise Payet), a high schooler intrigued by Reina, (Annie Marie Elliot), a goth girl. When Reina invites Lucy to a “freaks” party, romance seems possible. This short feels like a music video — Gracie Abrams’ “I Miss You, I’m Sorry” plays on the soundtrack — but it also feels like a tease.

¡salsa! dances to its own beat as Margarita (Saray Nohemi) finds herself attracted to Liana (Isabelle Troup), a deaf woman she meets while out dancing. Their relationship develops more on touch than talk as Margarita teaches Liana how to dance salsa. Writer/director Antonina Kerguelen Roman’s sweet romance plays with sound and Margarita’s seduces both Liana and viewers with her sweaty moves.

In addition, two queer programs were part of the Indie Episodic (NOW) program at the festival.

“Black Fruit” is a compelling drama about Lalo (cowriter Lamin Leroy Gibba), a Black gay 20-something guy who is about to meet his white boyfriend Tobias’ (Nick Romeo Reimann) parents for the first time. The dinner is awkward, with talk of racism, and while Tobias’ mother, Maren (Judith Engel), tries to ameliorate the tense situation she created, things only get more discomfiting when Lalo starts asking Maren probing questions. Of course, the dinner causes trouble between Lalo and Tobias as well, and their relationship may reach the breaking point. Meanwhile, Lalo’s friend, Karla (Melodie Simina), is experiencing microaggressions at her workplace, where she has recently been promoted. “Black Fruit,” which is the first of eight episodes in its first season, ends with Lalo and Karla meeting and helping Hildegard (Herma Koehn), an older woman, by carrying her shopping bags only to have the act of kindness develop into yet another uncomfortable situation. Hopefully, this provocative show will get distribution in the United States.

Juice” is a very funny and clever comedy about Jamma (writer/creator Mawaan Rizwan) who is promoted at work where he is put in charge of a yogurt for men campaign. Jamma shares his initial enthusiasm with his boyfriend Guy (Russell Tovey), who is pleased, and his parents, who seem disinterested. When Jamma asks his brother Isaac (Nabhaan Rizwan) to be a taste tester for the campaign, Isaac charms everyone — much to Jamma’s annoyance. But Jamma’s anxiety really skyrockets after Guy tells Jamma that he loves him. “Juice” features magical realism as Jamma bites into Guy’s arm as if it were cake, or a mattress becomes a portal to a party. Rizwan’s manic energy is infectious — watch him do a series of silly walks — and Tovey is appealing as Jamma’s patient, suffering boyfriend.

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