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Niall Wright as James https://twitter.com/Niall_Wright
Director of Photography - Declan Keeney https://twitter.com/declankeeney
James is a young boy who struggles as the outsider at his school. His teacher, Mr. Sutherland, is the only person he feels he can connect with. When James finally puts a voice to his feelings, Mr. Sutherland's response isn't what James had hoped for.
FOCUSING ON A BOY IN NORTHERN IRELAND ISOLATED BY HIS SEXUALITY AND ALIENATED FROM HIS FAMILY DUE TO HIS PARENT'S MARITAL TROUBLES, THE TITLE CHARACTER, "JAMES", REACHES OUT IN DESPERATION TO HIS TEACHER FOR SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE.
James is the most emotionally powerful film of this year's Sundance lineup, and through superior writing creates a worthy addition to this over-exposed genre.
The director Connor Clements is a first-time writer/director. In documenting a universal experience among gays and lesbians, he discovers a new angle, crafting a story that is of course personal and local, but also challenges all viewers, not just those who are queer, with questions regarding teachers and students, that resonate in our culture.
What I love, being again someone who likes to think about films, to chew on the topics and questions they present, is the ambiguity that is present in the film. James comes out to his teacher, yet does not get the kind of warm response he desired. He is instead gently rebuffed from leaning upon the older man for support. Interestingly though, his teacher reveals that he was not surprised by James announcement. He also mentions somewhat forlornly about a boy a "few years back" who came out and had great difficulties, when he warns James to continue to keep his sexuality a secret. Is the teacher gay as well?
That is the reading I got. And it lends an even greater sadness to the film, as it suggests that the nature of closeting oneself off continues through time. That even though the teacher understands James' situation, he is psychologically unable to reveal himself in a true friendship. A second possibility is that the instructor feels empathy, but needs to push James away as a matter of perception. That, perhaps especially by being in a Catholic school setting, it would be too easily misunderstood by others for him to be engaging in such a personal relationship with a young student. If that is the case it is tragically ironic, that the fear of, and potential for an inappropriate relationship, directly drives James into that exact situation.
It is these kind of deep readings which I find rare in the rather literal world of short film, and so i do appreciate it when I find them. With it also being a film that stuck with me for some time after watching it, I find it easy to heartily recommend James.
Best Northern Irish short, Belfast Film Festival 2008
Best First Irish Short 2nd Place, Galway Film Fleadh 2008
Best Short Gaze Dublin International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 2008
Jury Award Best Student Short Palm Springs Shortfest 2008
Best Student Cinematography 2nd Place, Palm Springs Shortfest 2008
Best UK Short Iris Prize Festival 2008
Outlook Award Best LGBT Short Film 53rd Corona Cork Film Festival 2008
Award of Merit Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival 2008
Best International Short 17th Annual St Louis International Film Festival 2008
Bronze Palm Award, Mexico International Film Festival 2009
Best Foreign Film, NYC Downtown Short Film Festival 2009
Gold Kahuna Award Honolulu International Film Festival 2009
Best GLBT Short Breckenridge Film Festival 2009
Audience Award Breckenridge Film Festival 2009
Best Drama UK National Student Film Festival 2009
Grand Jury Award UK National Student Film Festival 2009
Best Short Film, Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival 2009
Best Short (Male) Fort Worth International Gay&Lesbian Film Festival 2009
Chessie Award Best Short Film, Cineslam Vermont 2009
Best Short, Barcelona International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival 2009
Jury Prize for Best Short, Image+Nation LGBT Film Festival Montreal 2009
Best Screenplay, Grand OFF World Of Film Awards 2009
Best Short, Coming Of Age Movie Awards 2010