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KISS ME SOFTLY (Kus Me Zachtjes)

August 8, 2018

17 year old Jasper lives in a very grey, small town. In his family, he cannot be himself. Jaspers dad is a singer, named Lukkie Luk. All the attention in the family goes to his career. Jasper searches a way to handle this and is faced with the typical questions in the live of an adolescent. Questions that will not be answered when he stays in his own routine.

Here is a family all but blind to the fact that their son Jasper is habitually bullied at school just for being gay. Not that his father’s views would seemingly be any different, fixated as he is on his career as a Schlager styled folk singer whose closing number Kiss Me Softly On My Mouth wouldn’t be out of place in a repeat screening of Eurotrash. Sensing something is troubling her son, but addicted to the lottery, talented artist Jasper finds himself instead seeking refuge in the arms of his boyfriend Mathias, in the knowledge that perhaps the time has finally come to make his own kind of music.

Jasper’s face come close of play is all but yearning for love and acceptance, in this tender take on saying it with pride.

The director claims that it is autobiographical. “My own personal coming out to my father, who is a famous singer in Belgium.”

You can watch it here.

Other shorts on BOYS ON FILM 17

ALEX AND THE HANDYMAN

A cute story of a rather precocious nine-year-old boy who is used to be indulged by his mother who spends most of her day drinking and on the phone.  Alex develops a crush on twenty-four-year old Jared an out-of-work performance artist who has been employed as a handyman to do work around the house.  He will stop at nothing to get Jared’s attention, and even plies him with tequila from his mother’s hoard just to get his own way.

MR SUGAR DADDY

Fifty-something Hans is looking for a fresh start. When he is pursued by the handsome younger Andrej, he falls for him fast. As the pair get closer, his wallet becomes looser. Is Andrej interested in Hans, or just the perks of an older man?

SPOILERS (Iris)

Leon’s loved and lost. Scarred by his experiences, his life takes a turn for the better when he meets the ideal man. Life seems full of possibility again, but what if he knew the ending before it even began?

It turns out that they have a lot in common and decide to spend an impromptu day together. Both men are carrying baggage from their past relationships and so fear that although they seem perfect for each other it may still all end up getting hurt again.

BOYS

Set on the first day of summer, Brian sleeps over at Jake’s house, as they have done countless times before. This night however, the two encounter unfamiliar desires that illuminate a new side of themselves.

It explores the feelings of growing up and experiencing sexual impulses and desires for the first time. The film is a subtle and clever piece that doesn’t spell anything out. Instead, it offers the audience the opportunity to interpret and consider, through its nuanced use of improvisation and a small amount of choreography

The writer: Boys is a story about the initial moment of sexual awakening. Sexual discovery is such a delicate moment in a person’s life, the raw encounter with it happens to most of us only once. There is a huge spectrum of emotions this moment yields; excitement, shame, guilt and more. It is a film about adolescence, desire, loneliness and the realization of being different.

Boys is an adaptation of my personal growing up memory. When I was 12 years old I lived through a similar story. For years I have spent time thinking about it and gathering the courage to make it. In many ways this is the story that propelled me to make films. From my personal gay perspective, I always knew that one day I’d have to share this story with the world so that other boys and girls, and their parents, understand they are not alone. It is a concept that turned into a mission of mine.

In many ways this is the story that propelled me to make films.

Interestingly, the film’s Facebook page is getting many likes from teenage boys in the Middle East from countries like Saudi Arabia and more. I’m not sure how they came to learn about the piece, but it’s enough for me to know that so many youngsters in less open minded places in the world know their voice is represented. It makes a lot of difference. I truly wish I was exposed to a story like this growing up.

On a broader perspective I wanted people to think about how natural a sexual awakening moment is. I want them to talk about it, develop empathy for it and thus deal with it. It is not at all a taboo for me. Though my own gay discovery inspired this story that was not my intention in this film. I’m not interested in putting ‘gay messages’ out there. It feels to me that it defeats the purpose of promoting inclusivity. Boys is first and foremost a human story that could be interpreted as either gay or straight but I’m leaving that to my audience.

What was it like working with the young actors? How did you approach creating such naturalistic performances?

Working with the actors was a big challenge. This process itself was amazing and inspiring to me as a human being and only then as a filmmaker.

It was important for me to cast two 12 years olds in the moments before they hit puberty. It was not an easy decision but one that was very important for the story. Pearce Joza (Jake) and Wyatt Griswold (Brian) are two amazing children and actors. They were the first two boys to step into the audition room, and I saw around 40 boys after, and it was immediately clear to me they were the ones. It was a sign. As a rule of thumb Stephanie O’Neill, my Producer, and I were very honest from the get go with the parents and children with regards to what it’s about. We walked the parents through every shot in the storyboard. For the boys it was about two best friends discovering new things, which is what it’s about at its core.

Most of the rehearsal process was focused on creating the friendship between the boys and in getting them familiar with the reality of these characters. It was very much about the dynamic of the friendship. We went to the park and played hide and seek, recreated sleepovers, games, jokes, etc. Once this base was sturdy it gave them the freedom to truly live in our story.

The most difficult moment to create was the one when both boys experience the sexual awakening with each other. This of course required a lot of thought. In order to figure out how to do it right I brought in consultants to the process, children psychologists and very experienced filmmakers who have dealt with similar challenges. The most important thing for me, more than the film and the way it came out, was not to harm the children in any way. Since it’s such a delicate moment in growing up I didn’t want to ask them to do something they didn’t understand, even if it’s what happens to the characters in the story. I therefore decided to take the moment they roll on top of each other on the bed and choreograph it like a dance. I made it about physicality. We had counts and movements as you can see in our workshop video:

On the shooting days some moments were scripted and some were improvised around specific ideas. I only gave them the framework then allowed them to live in it freely, which is what direction is for me. The fact they have understood the dynamic between them allowed them to find new ideas that surprised both them and me. This technique also yielded very believable performances.

HOLE (Iris)

A daring portrait of a disabled man yearning for intimacy in a world that would rather ignore him. Billy has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita and is struggling to find physical and sexual intimacy.Craig is his love interest and support worker.

Trailer here

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From → Film, Sexuality

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