As the month of Pride commences, it is not a time simply to market different-coloured food and drink packaging. It’s a chance for LGBTQ+ celebration, protest, and to remind the world of the distances gained, and still to travel. Matt Houghton’s short Landline touches upon one of the smaller, but no less important, struggles by looking at the UK’s only helpline for gay farmers.
Through a series of recorded telephone conversations and dramatic recreations, Houghton shines a light on the farmers’ different experiences of their sexuality, in communities not renowned for their embrace of individuals diverging from ‘the norm’. Any project that provides a voice to the voiceless is worthwhile, but the short takes a while to connect with. This respectful approach allows the farmers space to tell their stories, but there’s energy missing to power the short to a higher level. There is little examination of the wider relationship between the LGBTQ+ and farming communities, forcing Houghton’s short to miss the higher echelons it could have reached.
Blurring out Landline’s limits, though, one can appreciate the excellence achieved by Houghton and his crew. James Blann’s photography is exquisite throughout, adding wondrous depth and soul to the landscapes in front of us. There are welcome similarities to Clio Barnard’s Dark River, Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling and Francis Lee’s excellent God’s Own Country, and any comparisons with these recent gems is no bad thing. It’s a testament to Houghton’s direction that Blann’s sublime imagery never allows for claims of style over substance. The stories of a father’s discovery of Grindr, and a father almost encouraging his son’s suicide over their homosexuality, stand out and remind us all too strongly how Pride is a month equally of celebration, and of reflection.
Do you have a short film you’d like to be considered for our Short of the Month feature? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
CAST: Jem Dobbs, Jonathan Blake, Alex Thompson, Niamh Blackshaw, Bradley Johnson, Valerie Bundy, Oliver Devoti
DIRECTOR: Matt Houghton
SYNOPSIS: Landline is a short documentary about the only helpline in the UK for gay farmers. Through a series of recorded telephone conversations and reconstructive visuals, the film uses the helpline as a lens through which to view the experiences of LGBTQ people in the British farming community.