I'm feeling you boo, and you're feeling me to

Greek Pete

hat must it be like to save a life? Many lives. It's a feeling writer and director Rikki Beadle-Blair and his actors must know, because that's exactly what their film FIT achieves.

Originally conceived as a stage play, FIT toured schools in the UK, with a definite gay agenda: to challenge homophobic bullying, and educate the masses on what gay really means. And being Rikki Beadle-Blair, it had to be funny, sexy, and pack a real emotional punch.

The play became a DVD, which went out to secondary schools across Britain as part of the National Curriculum (how's that for a gay agenda, America?) and became an even bigger success. But, no matter how good the film is, could it really change deeply ingrained homophobia amongst school children? Cynics will doubt any real seachange. But even if it doesn't achieve that aim, it will have one indisputable benefit.

Right now, there's going to be a little boy out there who's totally alone, who's been bullied nearly to death. He might be even be on the edge, about to jump off. And FIT will come into his school, and suddenly, there's a little ray of light, hope that it might get better. Don't doubt that this film will have that sort of impact: it will save lives.

Sermon over, FIT also happens to be hugely entertaining, with... ahem, a fit young cast that offers us a full candy shop of flavours: black, white, Asian - and even a redhead - the kind of racial diversity America just couldn't manage (at least, not as organically as this). It's split into several linked episodes, with each part focusing on one particular character: popular girl Karmel (Sasha Frost) and her homophobic parents; bully boy Ryan (Stephen Hoo) and his secret crush; football ace Jordan (Ludvig Bonin), who takes a stand against hate; and loud and proud drama teacher Loris (Rikki Beadle-Blair).

Joyful, witty, moving, magical and thoroughly delicious, FIT is truly ground-breaking. Everyone should see it.

reek Pete is the flip side of the coin. If FIT's message is "it gets better", Greek Pete's is "don't end up like this".

That isn't a judgement on escorting (that would be somewhat hypocritical...) but rather the empty, nihilistic world inhabited by the film's characters: the dreaded "Scene", with its false camaraderie, grim dance music and mountains of coke.

Greek Pete actually has a lot in common with FIT: like Beadle-Blair, writer and director Andrew Haigh has created a thoroughly engaging, fascinating film, centred around the titular Greek Pete, who - like the characters in FIT do - inverts a stereotype; in Pete's case, that of the rent boy.

Nevertheless, the film is laden with a sense of doom, and waste. I was reminded of Paris Is Buring, or rather, singer Kele Okereke's comments on that landmark film: "I watched it again a few years ago on YouTube. As soon as it finished I started crying. You go to Wikipedia and all bar one are dead. And they died in such sad circumstances..."

I suspect Greek Pete's real value is as a time capsule. In twenty years viewers will look at it and wonder, "I wonder what happened to those poor, lost boys?"

Let's hope the answer doesn't echo Paris Is Burning.


John R Gordon said...

Really nice double-review - & Kele's quite right about Paris is Burning too. I've seen myself the effect Fit, both as a play & as a film, has had on young people: Rikki's showed me Facebook messages from youngsters saying things like, 'After I saw this I decided to never use 'gay' to mean 'crap' again' as well as more heart-felt responses. And I was with him in Covent Garden recently when a kagoule-clad posse of sixteen-year-olds from Hull called out excitedly, 'It's that Mr Loris from Fit!' & gathered round him, taking photos on their phones, & one lad did the 'to be or not to be' rap, so they were certainly won over. For myself I'm always surprised at how well the film works as a feature-film in the sense that, despite its being a story in six chapters, one on each character, it does build in interconnectedness & there is a sense of narrative progression & psychological detail & complexity. I'll watch Greek Pete with interest...

♫Hershey's Kiss♫ said...

Nice double review. It's a shame america can't do all the good movies like that. I'mma have to check both movies out

Mike said...

"You go to Wikipedia and all bar one are dead." you come back to these websites in 80 years and all bar no one is dead. Whether you live long or short, we all are dead.

Liberator Émigré Éire said...

That's a logical point, Mike. But Kele is referring to young boys in the late '80s - boy like you and me, and our loved ones - who are now dead, when they ought only to be in their 40s. And that's desperately sad.

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