Head of the Class short film program

24 08 2012

I’ll do my best to be somewhat brief in the reviews of these short films.

Only Fags Listen to Pop Music

Synopsis: a hand-drawn film about the repercussions of a teen listening to Britney Spears in high school.

Super awesome things: this film was made to be screened for Out in Schools.  Cute, accessible, relateable == not to mention a clear and easy theme.  I like the storyboard quality and look of the film.  Very cool.

Not so awesome things: You know what?  It’s too mean to really criticize this film when it doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is.

Grade: A


Synopsis: a longer short film about a young, gay, African-American boy full of hope just before the 2008 Presidential Election.

Super awesome things: it’s always cool to watch films with people of colour.  Jamie is exactly what this generation is or at least show be: he’s ever so hopeful (that Obama will win and so certain that Prop 8 won’t pass in a liberal state like California); he’s aware of his feelings but doesn’t ever say the word gay, nor does he seem to want/need to.  At the other end of the spectrum, his family, particularly his parents, are more conservative, and this contrast really sets them apart.  It genuinely feels like when they’re glad Prop 8 has passed, they’re wrong.

The best scene is the morning after the election.  Jamie sits down at the breakfast table, happy that his country is heading in a new direction with a new leader.  His father is also happy, as Prop 8 passed.  The camera closes on Jamie’s blank stare as he digests what that means to him.  But even more powerful is his (straight) sister’s reaction: she cries.  Right beside Jamie, she bawls, and one can’t help she’s not only crying for her brother, but for all gay people who are denied, possibly forever, the right to marry the one they love.

Not so awesome things: shortly put, it’s too long.  Add to the fact that the film tries to tackle a bunch of issues like politics, family dynamics, being in the closet, gay bashing, and even a premature romance, and as hard as the film tries, it doesn’t quite balance things out.  Perhaps the biggest thing afflicting this ambitious film is the ending, which I will have to spoil.

Shortly put, why??????  There are enough films where gay people are beaten, killed, or kill themselves, and if anything the ending of Change suggests that there is actually little hope and change in the foreseeable future.  The bashers outnumber the accepting, and we know, based on how liberal youth are today, that this is just not the case.  amie is finally brave enough to be physically close to the token out-white boy and he gets a punch in the face from his friends?  Really?

Grade: C+

The Queen

Synopsis: a gay, Korean-American, working in his mother’s tailor shop, daydreams (or rather, nightdreams) about being the prom queen to a hunky classmate.

Super awesome things: shot on film, this movie looks great.  It’s a simple, straight-forward story with a cheeky ’80s soundtrack.  I’ve seen this film twice already, and I still enjoy it.

Not so awesome things: I always thought it was too weird that he puts on the dress but now I understand that he does it to imagine being with the cute white boy.  I would’ve liked a bit more interaction with the two boys but otherwise, I like this.

Grade: A-


Synopsis: while walking down the street one day, a young woman finds herself being stared at by everyone, and realizes someone has been handing out flyers that out her as a lesbian.

Super awesome things: interesting premise with a fairly good sense of “What the hell is going on here?” tension and thrill before the twist at the end.

Not so awesome things: predictable and lacking a strong point.

Grade: B-

I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone

Synopsis: the arrival and integration of a new classmate changes the friendship between a girl and her blind guy friend.

Super awesome things: how can anyone with a heart not love this movie?

I first saw this film a year ago online, and loved it so much that I sent the writer/director, Daniel Ribeiro, an email telling him to send a DVD screener to the festival so that others on the programming committee could see it and love it as much as I did.  He did, and everyone did!  Everyone who saw this film loved it, and said it was so cute.  And it was because of me.  You’re welcome, #festies.

Great acting, a simple story that doesn’t deal with homophobia or a difficult coming out — this film just feels natural in its progression and its execution.  There are moments of tension, like when Leonardo confesses to bestie Giovana, that he is gay, while clearly being unable to realize that she has a crush on him.  I just can’t get enough of this wonderful, wonderful film.

Not so awesome things:  some of the subtitling is slightly off.  That’s my only complaint.  Really.  Also, when will they finally finish the full-length feature film already?!

Grade: A++


29 07 2012

By the way, stalk me on August 24th!


Blabbity blah

22 10 2011

I finally watched The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan tonight and it was really eye-opening and a very well-made documentary.  I’m glad I got the chance to see it despite missing it at the Queer Film Fest.  Will post a review of it and the other films I have yet to review sometime.

I’ve already complained about school but I’ll do it again briefly here.  Next term, I will not take so many courses, or at least such intensive ones.  Must try and have a life outside of classes to write, play music, and make films.

Lastly, research essays will be the death of me.  Curses.

Cure(d) is finally done!

8 08 2011

My latest short film, Cure(d), was finished a while back but there were some slight synching problems with the video and audio so I had to fix it quickly for the upcoming world premiere of it at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

Now, I don’t consider myself to be a professional editor by any means, but I have worked with Final Cut many times and I know my way around the program.  That being said, it can take friggin’ forever to render clips sometimes, and it doesn’t help that staring wide-eyed at the screen to make sure words are matching with the actors’ lips can make you go crazy too (“Looks like it’s synched… wait… yes… wait, maybe not… Fuck.”).  At the same time though, I’m glad I got to edit this film, as I can very particular about what I want which I think can be difficult to work with.

Anyhoo, it’s done.  Thank god.  I had exporting problems, which is, I think, one of the worst problems one can encounter while editing because 1. it takes about 30 – 40 minutes on average for it to export and 2. you can only tell if something’s wrong after it’s done and you play back the file.  Otherwise, you’re stuck waiting for a long time, believing what you’re exporting is going to be fabulous, only to find out there’s no audio on your film (which happened).  Argh.  I may have to go back to Langara and export the damn file again because it doesn’t seem to be playing back on my computer, despite the fact that I was able to burn it on the Mac once the export was done (and the DVD worked fine too).

Good thing I had my book there with me to read (Dan Savage’s The Kid, which I recommend).  In the meantime, Cure(d) will be screening on Saturday August 20th at 9:30pm at the Granville 7 Theatres.  You can buy tickets to the Coast is Queer Program that my short film is in at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival website here:  http://www.queerfilmfestival.ca/viewfilm.php?fid=653

Hope to see you there!  Since I don’t really have a website (does anyone want to help design a website for me?), I’ll be posting updates about the film and anything related on either here or my myspace film page: http://www.myspace.com/aaronchanfilm

That’s all.  And here’s a still from the film, as a sneak peek.

from Cure(d)

So now that the challenge is over…

10 05 2011

combined with the fact that I have 10 minutes to type something moderately substantial before midnight, I don’t have much to say anymore.  Should I try to find another challenge to regularly post material about or should I continue to post my own stuff?  According to my dashboard, I get around 15 – 20 views a day, which I find absolutely incredible since I didn’t think anyone would be the slightest bit interested in what I have to comment on.  But it’s fantastic nonetheless!

I will say that I was emailing my friend about having another short film in the Queer Film Festival here in Vancouver and he remarked that I was “making a name for myself” but I really don’t feel the same.  I feel like yes, I do have some short films to show for, and yes, they have been getting into festivals and all that.  But what is their impact?  What has it lead to?  Stay so far hasn’t gotten me much in terms of talks with producers or film people and On the Bus, although I wrote it, most people wanted to talk to the director, not me.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, if I continue to make films that despite getting into festivals but don’t lead to anything bigger, what am I going to do?  It’s all fun to make a film but I don’t want to keep making zero budget films forever with meh sound (very much meh in Stay).  Success is different for every person but what if my films don’t allow me to reach my own goal of success?

There’s no way to know that until I make a film and send it out, but at the same time, I can’t make an awesome super duper film on zero budget (well, I could try but it would be hard).  What to do? Suggestions?

STAY movie poster

24 04 2011

I did the best I could with my next-to-nothing knowledge of photoshop.  Thoughts?

Stay poster


Strella + the end of the film fest!

22 08 2010

Well, it’s finally over: the end of the 22nd Vancouver Queer Film Festival.  It’s been 12 days of some very good films, more very bad films, and lots of meeting new people.  It seems every year I get more and more involved, talking with more people (something I’m not that great at doing) and enjoying myself more.

Congrats to Cal Garigan on winning the Gerry Brunet award.  I totally knew he would win.

And with that, here’s the last review for this year’s Queer Film Fest.


Synopsis: A modern queer re-telling of the Oedipus Rex tale set in Athens, where apparently everyone smokes and does drugs.

Super awesome things: A modern queer re-telling of the Oedipus Rex story!  There’s something different.  And it’s not just between a man and his father — it’s between a transexual and his father.  Oooh!  Room for lots of conflict here.  As well, Yannis Kokiasmenos gives a particularly good performance as the doomed father.

Not so super awesome things: The amateur-quality of the film as well as the hand-held camera movement really detract from the movie.  In fact, the shaky camera took me out of the story and made me pay attention more to the camera work than the plot, which is always a shame.  The first two thirds of the movie stick to the classical tale but once the reveal is over, the characters and plot lack direction, and then everyone just does stuff for a while.  Though I much prefer the hopeful ending to the original suicide-galor, when Strella walks on the sidewalk, away from her father and it’s slowly fading to black, I kept thinking, “And… cut!”  But then we get this extra scene where everyone’s happy and they seem to have made it work.  I have mixed feelings about this — I like it because if it were to cut with Strella walking away, it might be too ambiguous for people (do they ever talk/see each other again?) and this end scene answers that.  As well, it shows the characters as one a very unique family, which is cool.  On the other hand, do we really need it?  Would it have been more of a powerful ending if it had ended with Strella’s back as it faded out?

Good for watching: for those who argue incest does not equal insanity.

Overall: Apparently this was made without any funding from the government, which is really impressive for a feature.  Go indie filmmaking!

Grade:  B

With all the meh films I’ve seen this year, it’s definitely made me realize that maybe I’m not as bad a writer as I think I am.  The only issue is getting people together and making it for pretty much no money.  Anyhoo, I will definitely be back next year with a film (or more?), ready to take over the world.  Muahahaha!

A special shout-out to Amber Dawn — with all my thanking her, it seems like I’m eternally grateful or something — for organizing and including me in the festival and events.  She is one of the most awesome women I know, and it’s not just because she has an incredibly sexy speaking voice.  🙂

Well, farewell, and I’ll be seeing you all next year!


20 08 2010

Undertow (Contracorriente)

Synopsis: It’s the end of Brokeback Mountain meets Ghost (as Xtra West accurately put it).  A married and soon-to-be father fisherman in a Peruvian town deals with the loss of his lover who comes back as a ghost (and not the creepy, scary kind).

Super awesome things: The fantasy aspect of Undertow is what grabbed and hooked me first.  When Santiago, Miguel’s lover, appears at his house and tells him, “I was in the ocean… the undercurrent got me…” I think it’s safe to say everyone’s attention to the film jumped up significantly.  It’s such a twist in plot — because during the first 20 minutes of the film, it seems to be about Miguel’s secret affair with Santiago and how he’ll deal with his loss when Santiago moves away — but it becomes much, much more than that.  Sure, Santiago dies, but he doesn’t really die: he only is visible to Miguel, and only when Miguel thinks of him or calls out for him.  Miguel believes the only way to get his spirit at rest is to perform a traditional Peruvian funeral, complete with releasing the body into the ocean.  The conflict here develops naturally — the more time he spends with Santiago, the more they fall in love (again), and the harder it is for him to let Santiago go, especially when he does come across his body.  Also in conflict is their whole secret affair, and when rumours start to fly that the mysterious painter (Santiago) has artwork of naked Miguel in his house, Miguel’s life is shattered.  Complete with heart-wrenching performances, particularly from Cristian Mercado who plays Miguel, as well as excellent supporting performances from Tatiana Astengo, Miguel’s wife, and Manolo Cardona as the fisherman’s ghostly lover.

There is stunning cinematography of beaches, waves, and the ocean (of course).  But perhaps most interesting, at least to me, was the fantastic use of music in the film.  I’ve read from various places that the best film music is when you don’t notice, and in Undertow, I barely noticed.  It’s very subtle and has the perfect combination of coming in the right parts and of course fitting exactly with what’s happening on-screen. And the ending, though very sad, was the right ending and fit perfectly.

Not so super awesome things: Though not entirely needed, the film doesn’t explain why Miguel is the only one who can see Santiago, nor if any other spirits are also trapped on the island.  I also really wanted to see if Santiago would show up on the photos they took together!  Gah.  That’s just me being picky though because I don’t have much criticism for this film.  I guess I would’ve liked to really be shown just how much Miguel loves Santiago, even though he tells Tiago that he’s a “man” and that he’s macho, so of course he can’t be gay.  We do get him crying, which is nice but… well, I guess that fits in with his character.  I just debated with myself and lost.  Never mind.

Good for watching: if you want to believe that not all ghosts are evil and scary but super hot and you can have sex with them and no one will see.

Overall:  Very well done, and most likely the best and my favourite film out of this year’s Queer Film Festival.  I really hope writer/director Javier Fuentes-León goes far with this, and judging its good reception at Sundance, I think he just might.

Grade: A

Children of God

15 08 2010

*I tried not to put too many spoilers but I can’t help it… so be warned!  SPOILERS!*

Synopsis:  Johnny, a young, white man living amongst the mainly black population in the Bahamas is failing his art class.  He journeys to Nassau to paint something with feeling in it.  On his trip, he meets Romeo, a handsome black Bahamian who is closeted yet extremely flirtatious with Johnny.  Meanwhile, Lena Mackey, a mother and a wife to an angry, secretive husband, believes gays are taking over the country and fights to reclaim the land for the heteros.  Upon the first half hour, I thought to myself, “This seems vaguely familiar…”  And then I realized Children of God is based on a short film called Float, made a few years ago by Kareem Mortimer, the same guy who wrote and directed God.  Aha!

Super awesome things: The cinematography and scenary of the Bahamas is beautiful, and I wish there had only been more to show the real splendor of the place.  But the real standout of the film is Johnny Ferro, who plays the shy, odd, introverted, resistent, and brave Johnny.  Ferro’s portrayal of Johnny is quite possibly one of the best — if not, the best — acting I’ve seen in any gay-themed movie.  He is so subtle and nuanced in his acting that the character is completely believable and for me, was real.  I felt like I knew Johnny, which I rarely feel when watching movies, let alone gay-themed ones.  A look at his imdb page with only 3 credits suggests to me people aren’t paying enough attention to this gifted actor (not to mention completely adorable).  Huge amounts of kudos to Mortimer for finding this utterly remarkable actor.

Not so super awesome things: *spoilers!*
Is everyone in the Bahamas closeted?  That’s what I get from this film, and maybe that is the case, but it certainly doesn’t make me want to travel there anytime soon.  There are a few minor things that bugged me: the out-of-focus, into-focus, and out again technique (or mistake?) was bearable the first few times but after a while it was a little annoying.  Same goes with camera angles where characters were on the very, very edge of the screen and the rest of the screen was empty, or one time, where Johnny and Romeo are on either side of the screen, and we get a glimpse of just water between them for a few seconds while they talk, which seemed odd.

I’m sure people also had issues with the ending, and I do, to an extent.  It’s a bittersweet ending, so it’s not completely horrible, but I can’t help but feel that Children of God is going in the collection of movies with a tragic ending.  Why does gay seem to equal bad things?  In fact, there isn’t a happy resolution for any of the characters, is there?  Some subplots are left unresolved (Lena and her husband, Lena and her kid) or randomly ended (the Reverend; where was he going and why??).  Is this the theme?  That all gay people (in the Bahamas) will never be happy except the ones that dream?

Good for watching: for a quiet night in (but not on a date!), or if you’re having mood swings (the film changes tone at throughout)

Overall:  Johnny Ferro is my new crush.  And for good reason.  🙂

Grade: B

Johnny Ferro

The ultra handsome Johnny Ferro

Saturday Morning Documentary at the Queer Film Festival: Holding Hands

15 08 2010

I was sad when I realized I would be missing my Saturday Morning Documentary since I had to journey to UBC to do a study, petting this furry robotic creature.  Then I realized after that I had planned to see a documentary today, and why not have it be my film? (even if it’s in the afternoon)  Oh, and I’ve altered slightly how I review things after minutes of consideration.

Holding Hands

Synopsis: Shane and Craig are a gay couple living in Australia.  One night, they get jumped by some men on the street and Craig is pretty badly hurt, having taken his face stepped on by one of the men.  The film chronicles their fight to change the police department in Sydney, Craig’s numerous operations, and the relationship between the two lovers over the next few months.

Super awesome things: If you’re expecting a tear-jerker, you’ll get it.  Quite possibly the most devastating and upsetting quote from Craig is when he explains what happened after he was bashed and taken to the hospital: he calls his family up, all bloodied, and asks his mom if she’ll come see him in the hospital (the family lives in a small town nearby).  She says no, that it’s too far and too late.  He says Shane will go and pick her/them up.  She refuses again, and says how disappointed they are in him, for being gay and how badly they have embarrassed them and their family name.  She tells him it was selfish to tell them about his sexuality.

His own mother refused to go to the hospital to see her own son after he was beaten and required surgery.  Wow.  I can’t believe that.  And this happened in 2007, so it’s not like some era of Neanderthals (well, apparently there still are some).  Though I couldn’t see beside me, I could hear the woman sitting on my right crying.  And of course, I was tearing up too, and I couldn’t help but wonder if my mom would come see me in the hospital if I was nearly dying.

Anyway.  Back to the film.  Holding Hands shows the couple’s fight against the police system, how they allegedly tell Craig that it would take a death for them to actually investigate hate crimes (ie. the little people versus the big, powerful people is always a winning formula).  Also well-done is how they show the couple’s relationship, how comfortable they seem in front of the camera and how happy they are.  The grainy re-enactment scene using Super 8 (I think?) film is also effective in capturing that fateful night and showing the grittiness.  Shane and Craig also = super cute couple!  🙂

Not so super awesome things: The first two thirds are very good, very absorbing, and emotional.  The last third focuses more on Craig’s multiple surgeries and how the relationship between Shane and Craig change, which isn’t necessarily bad or boring, but I thought the main point was about changing the system and finding the guys who did this to them.  Yes, their relationship goes up and down after and going to hospital for yet another surgery is definitely harrowing, but the cause of all this was those bashers, and at the end of the film, *spoilers!* because there’s no update on what happened to their case, I don’t even remember what the last point was about it.  I also thought some bits, such as Craig explaning his family’s religious background, could have been moved to the beginning rather than in the middle of the film, and I also wanted to know a little more about Shane’s family and their reaction when they found out their son was gay.  A little more of that humanity that people can relate to.

Overall:  A good look at how unresponsive police forces not just in Australia but most likely in many other parts of the world can be.

Grade: B