Saturday, October 17, 2020

NewFest Spotlight: Cicada

I’m delighted to be covering a number of selections from the 32nd Annual New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival, NewFest. The festival runs October 16th-27th, 2020, and films are available to watch anywhere in the United States during that time.

Directed by Matthew Fifer and Kieran Mulcare
Ticket Information

A theme that’s been explored in a number of many NewFest selections is the disparate experiences of people involved in romantic relationships regarding the public perception of their sexuality. If one person has come out to family or friends, they may be less reticent to appear intimate while others are around, whereas someone who has not yet done that may be particularly secretive or careful so that there is no risk of anyone finding out before they are comfortable sharing that with others. There is much that goes into the decision to share a personal part of a person’s identity with those closest to them, and such a monumental move shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Ben (Matthew Fifer) is a bisexual man living in New York City. He navigates hookups and relationships during the hot summer, connecting occasionally in a meaningful way with the many people he meets. Things are different when Sam (Sheldon D. Brown) comes along. He is still finding himself and dealing with deep scars from his past and present that involve his sexuality and the color of his skin. Ben falls for him but finds a barrier in their relationship as Sam processes what he needs and feels in a way that Ben can never really understand.

This film is a contemplative, quiet exploration of intimacy. Ben in particular almost fades into the background in every room that he is in, indicating enthusiasm for his company but not matching that with actual energy. Sam, in stark contrast, is much more vibrant and buoyant, but that inviting exterior masks a pain protected by walls that Sam is not eager to let down, even when Ben wants to be let in to truly know his partner. Their shared experiences are limited, and the ways in which their paths diverge make their outlooks on the world and the possibilities it offers distinctly incongruent.

This film is a personal project based on the lives of both Fifer and Brown, which adds a level of involvement and investment that shows through in their heartfelt and authentic performances. There is no showboating for the camera or over-dramatization of scenes or moments, and instead this film feels like a series of conversations in which the audience is merely present rather than watching. A supporting turn from Cobie Smulders as a wholly inappropriate therapist give this film a dark comic edge also felt in some of its lighter and more awkward moments. Ultimately, however, this is a drama about two people trying to forge a connection who may just not be fated to be together the passion they feel for each other.


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