Acts of Love - 2021
💌 📹 👨👨👦👦 💦 🛋 🍆 📞 🍻 🎱 📸 🛌 ⏰ ☕ 🎵 🚿 📺 📄 🚗 🏡 👨❤️💋👨 🎁 💔 🐶 🤕 🚕 🕳 📱 ❤️ 👩👦 ✈️ 💞.
“When his older boyfriend loses interest in him, the filmmaker relocates to Chicago and uses dating apps to cast new lovers in an amorphous project about attraction, rejection, compatibility and attachment. His mom hates the concept and offers her honest opinions throughout the process. Her amusing role as a sounding board prevents the experiment from becoming an aimless or narcissistic way of dealing with a break-up. Blending pop-up photos, scripted and unscripted scenes, this hybrid picks up on the vulnerability and protections men put up in sexual scenarios, and discovers a meaning of love where investment in a relationship isn’t measured by a partner’s commitment but by your own – to pleasing yourself. Who you love can be determined by who fits you best, whose body is your landscape and how well you travel together. The director searches for love in the other, and with the help of his mother, finds it within himself.” -Angie Driscoll, Hot Docs
– a film by Isidore Bethel and Francis Leplay / produced by Lucie Rego and Pauline Tran Van Lieu (Hutong Productions, France), Jamie Gonçalves (Sin Sitio Cine, USA), Isidore Bethel, and Francis Leplay / photographed by Ryan Saunders
– Hot Docs, Thessaloniki DF, Transilvania IFF, Sidewalk FF, In & Out Queer FF (Nice), Pink Apple Zurich LGBT FF, Queer Lisboa, Black Canvas Contemporary FF, Reel Pride Winnipeg LGBTTQ* FF, Chicago IFF, Porn FF Berlin, St. Louis IFF, RIDM, Chéries-Chéris Paris LGBTQ+ FF, OutFest Santo Domingo GLBTIQ IFF, Oxford University Filmmaking Foundation SFF, Écrans Mixtes Lyon Queer & Feminist FF, Prismatic Ground, New Adventures in Nonfiction (MoMI, Gender Border FF
– Tacoma FF Best Feature Documentary, Gender Border FF Special Mention, among Payal Kapadia’s (A Night of Knowing Nothing) Top Five Films of 2021 for Le Polyester, #4 on MovieWeb’s Top LGBTQ+ Movies of 2021
– Île-de-France region writing grant, Agora Docs in Progress (Thessaloniki Documentary Festival), Eurodoc
– 71 minutes
– The Hollywood Reporter: An “exciting, genre-bending film” that “proves that it’s worth taking risks – in art and in romance.”
– NOW Magazine: “A bold, brave look at intimacy, honesty and the power dynamics that exist both in interpersonal relationships and between artist and subject.” (4/5 Ns)
– Filmmaker: “Acts of Love is simultaneously discomfiting and meditative, its locked-down frames capturing troublesome scenarios building to an unexpectedly cathartic ending.”
– The Moveable Fest: “The film feels as if it’s capturing raw emotions more than manufacturing them, with a self-consciousness that’s particularly impressive when Bethel is both the film’s driving creative force and its central subject.”
– POV Magazine: “A thoughtful study of love and heartbreak, but ultimately a celebration of savouring the encounters that define us throughout our journeys.”
– One Movie, Our Views: “A daring and exciting hybrid documentary…the film itself becomes surprisingly moving, building towards an incredible final sequence of images that ends this journey on a deeply resonant note.” (3.5/4 stars)
– ForReel Movies: While Bethel “wades through footage to find the purpose of his production, we as an audience get to watch him wade through hopes, desires, and fantasies to find what it actually means to love people and to cherish the experiences they offer.”
– KinoCulture Montréal: “A one-way mirror behind which hides a budding filmmaker who’s shy despite his appearance – or who acts that way – who’s aware of his actions, who’s wildly in love with film and cameras. He’s a filmmaker who unsettles us, who deliberately disorients. But that’s how true moving image makers assert themselves.”
– Il Manifesto: “Cinema becomes an instrument for both showing and seducing – and it’s almost never the person behind the camera who’s leading the game…When sex and art blur, where’s the line between simulation and truth?”
– Cinema: “Last but not least: One of the [Thessaloniki Documentary] Festival’s most exciting and remarkable films was Acts of Love…[It] is a film that blurs boundaries, in terms of both genres and intimacy, and receives our warm recommendation.”
– La Estatuilla: “Acts of Love is a tremendous example of documentary cinema’s malleability and power. Directors Isidore Bethel and Francis Leplay use a fascinating combination of fiction and nonfiction to explore the complexities of a romantic relationship…a brave and highly creative film where we see an individual seize upon the uncertainty of his own romantic life to celebrate courtship, to forge a path towards self-discovery, to understand the role of sex in relationships, and to study everything that could constitute an act of love, from hooking up to taking a picture – or thousands of them.”
– Cine-File: “The protective cover of fiction gives way to candid dialogue and behavior…Acts of Love is very much about its own searching, uncertain tack, about the nebulous, even dubious ways relationships can form and mutate, particularly in the digital era.”
– HollywoodChicago.com: “The glimpse into the light and dark corners of what love can be is a perfect example of do-it-yourself filmmaking that has something to say within its art.”
– The Spool: “Told with remarkable candor by its participant-performers, Acts of Love is an ingenious example of how, contrary to logic, adding performance layers can sometimes expose something true. It’s almost dizzying how the layers of storytelling build as layers of clothing are shed.”
– Cult MTL: “The film takes a radically kind and empathetic approach by addressing the loneliness of contemporary life amidst the illusion of connectivity. Raw and almost student-like in form, the movie harkens back to the early classics of queer documentary cinema, which utilized limited resources to explore transgressive questions and ideas with tenderness and intimacy.”
– queerguru: “You will be privy to some of the most raw and unfiltered moments of gay intimacy on celluloid.”
– popandfilms: “Curious, harebrained, vibrant, and entertaining yet also introspective and sometimes unsettling, Acts of Love is an art film that invites us out of our comfort zones to prompt questions of personal and intimate significance. If its experimental and nonconformist aspect might confound certain viewers, it will also strike others right in the heart, nourishing them with its strange artistic, existential, and emotional quest.”
– Baz’art: “Like a mirror, Isidore reflects and absorbs his subjects’ tenderness and vitality. He records them indelibly on film and their portraits are truly moving. In exposing them, Isidore also exposes himself in this auto-fictional film that may be ‘vain and futile,’ as his mother contends, but that’s also vital, as are all works of art.”
– In Review Online: “There’s a very real unpredictability to Acts of Love, because by Bethel’s own admission, the project is formless and the emotions still raw, and as each develops, the other must adapt…it’s hard not to be intoxicated by a work so disarmingly vulnerable.”
– 13-minute live radio interview with Scott Duff and Ellen Miller on WCPT’s Out Chicago, AM820 (October 17, 2021).
– seven-minute commentary on Acts of Love by Mari Moroz and Jeffrey Hersheway for Oscar Buzzkills podcast (November 12, 2021).
– on NOW Magazine’s top “12 must-see films according to NOW critics,” Yohomo’s “10 Queer Films to Watch at Hot Docs,” The Queer Review’s “LGBTQ+ highlights at Hot Docs 2021,” programmer Inney Prakash’s Prismatic Ground recommendations for Hyperallergic, and Lifo Magazine’s (“15 Unmissable Films at the 23rd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival”) lists.
– Gender Border FF Jury Statement: “The seemingly circular cinematic structure goes increasingly beyond events’ factuality, resembling a romance and constituting the titular acts of love. It’s a film that comes into being before our eyes, where communication with family sews together its story, leading to an ending that expands the actor-author’s understanding of narrative itself.”
– Hot Docs Q&A with programming director Shane Smith and filmmakers Isidore Bethel and Francis Leplay.