‘Boys Briefs 5’: The ambiguously gay shorts collection

Out on DVD

It’s hypocritical of me to find fault with the six short films in “Boys Briefs 5: Schoolboys,” because I’m always complaining about movies being formulaic and predictable and my main complaint with most of these is that they aren’t formulaic and predictable.

But I can’t take all the blame. Everything from the title to the trailer is designed to instill certain expectations in the viewer, most of which aren’t met. I can imagine stumbling on most of these shorts individually in festivals — maybe not even queer festivals — and being greatly impressed. Indeed they’ve all played festivals and most have won prizes.

Say for whatever reason — more likely anthropological research than pedophiliac lust — you pop in this DVD expecting to see stories of gay schoolboys — perhaps coming out, falling in love or having schoolboy crushes. Maybe you’re hoping to see males younger than you should be looking at, probably engaged in activities you’ll feel guilty for watching.

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Instead you’ll find three of the six shorts involve young adults. Perhaps they’re of college age but there’s no indication they go to school. A fourth film concerns a ten-year-old boy but his (post-college) older brother is half of the only out gay couple in the entire collection. The other two briefs are about school bullies and the, at best, ambiguously gay relationships that develop between them and their victims.

In sequence, Soman Chainani’s “Kali Ma” is about an Indian-American boy, Santosh (Manish Dayal), whose campily traditional mother (Kamini Khanna) intercedes for him with Aryan bully Peter (Brendan Bradley). It’s too broad to take seriously, yet it’s not funny. If anything it proves vigilante justice doesn’t solve anything…except in the movies.

From Norway, Magnus Mork’s “Flatmates” is about two friends who live together. Björn is gay, Hampus straight. They’re comfortable, even physical together, until Björn crosses a line when Hampus is passed out drunk (yeah, because that’s so attractive).

Jeff Warden’s “Secrets” tries to cram so much into a brief narrative that we don’t learn enough about the characters to make them interesting. We’re plunged into a party game where randomly chosen couples from among three men (sorry, “boys”) and two women are sent off to a bathroom together for an unspecified amount of time. When Mike (Bryan Endress-Fox) doesn’t ravage Megan during their time together she spreads the rumor that he’s gay. This seems especially interesting to his friend Tony (Casey Graf), but the story goes off on tangents about people who like to be choked while having sex — or instead of having sex.

David Snyder’s “yeah no definitely” also takes place at a party but introduces its protagonists, Cam (Vincent Piazza) and Kiff (Alan Barnes Netherton), on the way there. Cam may be jonesing for Kiff but Kiff is after Nadia at the party while Cam’s ex, Diane, is there with her new guy, Jason. Even if Cam and Kiff end up together there’s no indication they’ll ever be more than friends.

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Daniel Ribeiro’s “You, Me & Him” comes from Brazil. When their parents are killed, Danilo (Daniel Tavares) is left to take care of his ten-year-old brother, Lucas (Eduardo Melo), when he’d been about to move in with his boyfriend Marcos (Diego Torraco). This sets up a competition between Marcos and Lucas for Danilo’s time and affection. Things seem to improve and may still work out but the story doesn’t end the way you want it to. The original title, “Café com Leite,” makes no sense. There’s a running thing about Lucas drinking milk (leite) but no one ever mentions coffee.

Lisa Marie Gamlem’s “Bennys Gym” is like a gay Norwegian version of “Welcome to the Dollhouse.” Benny (Kim Erik Tena Eriksen) and his friends (the Jets?) torture Alfred (Atdhe Belegu) at school but Benny befriends him in private, which makes the public humiliation even harder to take. You may also be reminded of “Son of Rambow.”

Hosting the collection is Oscar Peralta, 19, who is adorable but should take lessons in elocution and diction before attempting this sort of thing again. Or maybe the point is that he makes you want to put something in his mouth to shut him up.

Four of the directors are introduced in extras running four to eight minutes.
Most of these shorts are well made but if you want to see stories about gay schoolboys, get the late-‘90s classic features “Beautiful Thing,” “Edge of Seventeen” and “Get Real,” or the earlier Danish films “Friends Forever” and “You Are Not Alone.”

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