Queer Shorts 2: Outside the Comfort Zone | QFest St. Louis 2022

Continuing with my vow to watch and review more short films, I decided to take a walk on the wild side with Queer Shorts 2: Outside the Comfort Zone (May 3, 6 pm, and virtually April 29-May 5), which definitely will take you to places you haven’t visited before.

Libby (Bethan Nash) gave birth six months ago, but breastfeeding has been a struggle, and she’s ready to try anything to make it easier. Such is the setup for Tia Salisbury’s “Placenta Pâté” (13 min.), a heartfelt romance/comedy from Australia that includes frank discussion of how difficult the nursing process can be, and will resonate with anyone who’s given birth, or lived with someone who’s given birth, or ever known anyone who has given birth, or needs to be educated on certain aspects of female biology…If you think the premise is far-fetched, just google the title and see what you find.

Tommy (James Hightower) and Vela (Chiquitita) make a real odd couple—he’s a shy guy could blend in at a law firm picnic in his polo shirt and jeans, while she’s wearing a red cocktail dress adorned with white wings and the spikiest of spike heels, and has no problem expressing herself. But they’re in Brooklyn, where anything can happen, particularly when accompanied by a bearded stranger (Adrian Ruiz Diaz) playing a ukulele for no apparent reason. Welcome to the world of John E. Kilberg’s “Pierce Me” (10 min.), an ode to the magic of summer nights in the city and the good things that can come from taking a chance.

Emma Sofia Fazzuoli’s “Lucy” (13 min.) is set in a brave new world of where automated doorstep deliveries are an everyday thing. When Brad (Daniel Robaire) orders takeout following a date with Jordan (Peter Pasco), his order arrives courtesy of a rather bossy robot named Lucy. But there’s still some bugs in the system, because Lucy brings him not an order of noodles but a baby, which it threatens to destroy if he doesn’t accept it, and the comedic stakes just accelerate from there.

One evening Arianna (real-life musician Arianna Di Lorenzo, known professionally as Arianna and the Rose), a waitress in a retro-futurist diner, finds her everyday existence interrupted by the arrival of Nebby (Rex Taylor-Klaus), a teenage space alien. Elia Petridis’ “Out of This World” (17 min.) calls itself “A space operate action adventure musical comedy,” and it does pack a lot into a short running time, while looking simply amazing, thanks to production designer Vanessa Plaza Lazo, cinematographer Kelsey Talton, costume designers Orchid Satellite and Elias Martian, and editor/visual effects artist Jakob Thorhallsson.

I’m up for anything that takes a shot at mega-TERF J.K. Rowling, a.k.a. She Who Shall Not Be Named, a.k.a. TS, JKR (That Scoundrel,…), so Logan Ellis’ “Lego Harry Potter and the Transgender Witch, Episode 1” (12 min.) is right in my wheelhouse. It tells the story of Quincy Blueberger, who, accompanied by her faithful owl Pudge, becomes the first transgender student at dear old Hogwarts, and offers up a much-needed critique of the HP Universe. I kind of hope the filmmaker and crew stole the Lego sets used to make this, since I’d hate for TS, JKR to make any money off their efforts.

Jessica Smith’s “The Test” ((8 min.) opens with cute couple Jo (Michala Banas) and Sarah (Christie Whelan Browne) nervously waiting in a medical office for a test that could make or break their relationship. The results are good, but life is full of surprises.

Things take a turn to the serious in Sarah Kaskas’ “The Window” (16 min.), in which Basma (Sophia Moussa Fitch) and Mariam (Tamara Saade) return to the apartment they shared before life was turned upside down in the massive Beirut port explosion of 2020. They have a lot to talk about, mainly their shared history, and work through a whole feature film’s worth of drama in just 16 minutes. | Sarah Boslaugh

All QFest films will be shown at the Galleria 6 Cinema in Richmond Heights. Individual tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for Cinema St. Louis members and students with valid ID; five-film passes and all-access passes are also available. The shorts programs and two features—The Unabridged Mrs. Vera’s Daybook and Two Eyes—are also available for home viewing in Missouri and Illinois from April 29 through May 5. Proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test from the previous 72 hours is required for in-person screenings. Further information is available from the Cinema St. Louis website.

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