Summer (Great Britain, 10 minutes, directed by Hong Khaou, anamorphic widescreen) finds Leung (Peter Peralta) walking through the woods with Will (Jay Brown) with the two talking--and making wishes when they catch leaves. Leung's feelings for his supposedly straight friend come to the surface, and the emotional aftermath provides the bulk of meaningful dialogue. There's nothing that really stands out about this entry, and there's only a minute or two that makes you pay attention.
Night Swimming (United States, 19 minutes, directed by Daniel Falcone, non-anamorphic widescreen) is a similar story in that it hinges on the "is he or isn't he" hope of a closeted young gay man for his straight friend. Otter (Bobby Steggert) pines after butch bud Darby (Damon Cardasis), who spends a lot of time making out with his girlfriend. The two hit the road by themselves for a concert in New York, but when the car breaks down as nighttime looms, they spend a memorable evening together that could alter their friendship forever. Again, this is familiar territory that we've seen before, and better. The portrayals of both characters in the beginning border on annoying, with overblown emotions and acting almost coming across like caricatures. And the set-up to get them stranded is just silly; but some meaning arrives in the final minutes.
Running Without Sound (United States, 13 minutes, directed by Judd King, full frame) revolves around deaf Sean (Shad Sager), who runs on his high school cross country team and has a crush on teammate Derek (Trace Barnes). There's an effective silent soundtrack for some of the scenes, which is effective in making viewers focus on what it must be like to be deaf and gay, a double dose of isolation (and we get our first locker room scene here, for those interested). Sean's attempt to reach out to his friend--the same dramatic element from the first two entries--is the focus here, and the big scene comes across a little too simple, not achieving the heft it hopes for. This story has some great ideas and poses some interesting issues, but can't do much with them.
Out Now (Germany, 20 minutes, directed by Sven J. Matten, anamorphic widescreen) starts with some (unintentional) overacting from its teenage cast, which can't do much with the stereotypical roles. Awkward Tom (Dennis Prinz) is the subject of teasing from a handful of loud and annoying classmates, including abusive behavior on the soccer field and in the school showers. The latter incident (featuring full frontal nudity) ends with our hero in the fetal position on the floor and is handled in an oddly menacing tone that had me thinking we were headed down the Carrie road, or watching the birth of a mass murderer who would crack at any moment and pick up an ax. One of the weirdest moments has Tom aggressively coming on to his gal pal, slamming her against the lockers and kissing her in an attempt to impress his tormentors--a ridiculous scene in a number of ways. This entry comes off best when it deals with Tom's chatting online, where his hope for acceptance is dealt plenty of blows (something most of us can relate to), and with his longing for a kiosk candy man.
The Bridge (Australia, 8 minutes, directed by George Barbakadze, anamorphic widescreen) is the entry that aims for deep meaning, but just comes across confusing. It has very little dialogue as it flips back and forth in time. Luka (Glen Upton) and Niko (Andy Cunningham) seem to be on their way to happiness, but it's clear that a sad ending awaits. This one will raise a few questions (like why Nilo makes the choice he does), but isn't intriguing enough to watch again for potential answers.
Hitchcocked (United States, 8 minutes, directed by David M. Young, anamorphic widescreen) is by far one of the strongest entries here, with moments of comedy and near-terror. Al (Yuval David) shows up to meet Fred (David Grant Beck) after an online meeting. The two quickly strip and head to the shower, where the action escalates to a conclusion you might not expect. Cute shots like water circling down a drain--and some of that scary red stuff, too--pay homage to Psycho, and the acting and direction fits the tone perfectly. Fun and frightful, this one feels more professional than all that have preceded it.
Oedipus N + 1 (France, 26 minutes, directed by Eric Rognard, non-anamorphic widescreen) is the most ambitious entry here. The science fiction thriller starts with Thomas (Jalil Lespert) waking up in a futuristic France. He's a clone--and on a mission to discover how he died, and where his lost love is. But there's no record of his past friends who lived outside "The Circle": a haven for the genetically superior. That may have something to do with his loving mother (Nicole Jamet), who just wants her son to be happy, right? Thomas soon makes a trip outside The Circle, where danger awaits. And a virtual reality trip to one of his old haunts may provide more information than he can handle. Sure the effects here are cheap, but the sterile Circle designs and Blade Runner-esque Outer Circle are still pretty cool. The bar trip provides some nice twists and keeps you thinking, and the conclusion stays with you. Like Hitchcocked, this one stands out.