I love watching films, feature length, experimental ones as well as short films. The latter in particular excites me as I love to see how other filmmakers have managed to cram all their own exciting ideas into a product that has a limited running time. I find that a great challenge to do myself, so seeing others do the same and taking on the battle is fantastic.
With the scriptwriting module, I’ve been very invested in returning to view as many as possible, as well as catch up on watching LGBTQ shorts especially to discover what new fresh ways have been released to tell tales from those in the community. With this in mind, I turned to a DVD series of films, a collection of shorts from around the globe usually associated with a different theme for each release – and which come from Pecca Pics entitled Boys on Film. In this instance it was with the subtitle – Cruel Britannia, which specialised in short films coming from the UK – all very different and with equally different sets of characters, some nice, some not so much.
The short I came across and which I had an absolute delight watching in particular was entitled ‘What You Looking At’ which was released in 2012, and is ten minutes long. Synopsis wise, it is very simple, two people get in a lift, it breaks down and the two are forced to communicate until they are released. Sounds pretty simple, but what is different is that one passenger is a young Muslim woman and the other is a drag queen. For society, they are seen as complete opposing opposites!
However, by the end, the two have chatted, argued, bonded, laughed as well as shared costumes, and it is quite simply beautiful! I love films where the emphasis is on strangers, and how we can have a profound impact on each other. It’s essentially what a lot of my films are about, including Willem. The theme itself is nothing new, and filmmakers have toyed with it for years (Lost In Translation is probably the modern, most masterful take on this theme), but the circumstances can be different, the settings can be different, the genders can be different (or the same), and yet most of these films, still have the ability to leave you on a high, even when the ending isn’t as happy as it could be at times. The fact emotions, words, as well as physical contact has been made, means that the outcome still has the power to overwhelm us an an audience. And What You Looking At succeeds immensely at this.
Initially the characters are coy with one another, societal stipulations have made that happen. They are aware of how they are supposed to feel about each other’s lifestyle choices, but as they are forced to talk because they are stuck together in a situation out of their control, humanity begins to seep in uncontrollably and the two passengers discuss their lives, admit to truths and feelings they never have done, while developing a mutual respect for each other in the process. And despite parting ways at the end and being interrupted by those who find the situation unacceptable and troubling, the feelings and ideals they both experienced have nevertheless changed them radically and for the better.
And it reminds me of how Willem plays out. With a lot of similarities.