Title – ‘North Sea Texas‘
Director – Bavo Defurne
Starring – Jelle Florizoone, Luk Wyns, Thomas Coumans, Eva van der Gucht
Release Date – 2011
Days spent playing card games, sitting on sandy beaches, listening to old records, drawing pictures of your crush, pining after romance. Bavo Defurne is a master at evoking these deep emotional moments that leap onto the screen with the clarity of the present and the warmth of nostalgia and longing. Before making his first film, ‘North Sea Texas‘, Bavo spent years travelling the LGBTQ film festival circuit with 4 short films that each contained queer longing, magic, history, and everyday life.
‘North Sea Texas‘ tells the story of Pim, a dreamer who more than anything else wants to be with Gino, his handsome older neighbor and friend. Early on in the film Gino seems happy to return Pim’s feelings albeit with the hesitance of a closeted gay man. After Gino gets a girlfriend however things definitely fall apart. We mostly follow Pim in his daily routine – dealing with his party-loving mother, his avoidance of Gino’s sister who has a crush on him, and the new boarder in his house, Zoltan, a handsome gypsy. Pim’s bravery in the face of everything is breathtaking and inspiring and the movie is worth watching for that alone. Of course the incredibly handsome Gino helps things as well.
I was lucky enough to interview Bavo shortly after the film came out back in 2012. Here are some highlights where we talk about distribution, homophobic Flemish audiences, and steamy romance:
F: About distributors; I know you were involved with that a while ago for the compilation DVD of your short films. What is it like working with them again?
B: Oh, it really depends. At this point, I’m very happy working with Strand on . But we’re just in the first steps now, so I’m still curious as to how it will go. In Holland, it was fine, but I think they could have done more, especially because the lady who plays the mother is actually very popular in Holland. I think they should have used that much more in the press. They didn’t maximize their potential. Right now, things are great in the U.K., because the film is now in its third or fourth week in the U.K. cinemas, and it’s still running, which is amazing.
F: Yeah, that’s pretty great for a gay film.
B: And for a Flemish gay film!
F: Yeah, that too. Subtitles! Oh my god!
B: Flemish isn’t really spoken anywhere else in the world, so I’m very proud of what they did in the U.K. Because, once I had finished the film, I had done what I set out to do; I couldn’t make it better. But sometimes when your producer gives the finished film to the distributors and they want to make it ‘better’ by actually putting in some work. For example the poster that Peccadillo created is very beautiful and it’s an image that didn’t actually exist. They collaged it together from various images taken on the set. That’s how creative and smart some of the distributors can be.
F: Do you not get the creative final say, when it comes to the distributors?
B: No, not at all. For the Belgian poster, you can see the boys, but they didn’t want them to be any closer together in the picture than that.
F: Did a gay company handle the distribution?
B: No. It was a big family chain and they thought it would be too controversial. To which I thought: “Why take the film in the first place?” The way they handled it was really awful. Homophobic, actually. I don’t know why they wanted to distribute it. It was a homophobic, art-phobic company. Anyway, the person who worked there and was responsible for that is now gone, and maybe it will get better. I hope so. For them.
F: Is homosexuality controversial where you live?
B: Yeah. Well, they said no, no. It was because it’s with young kids that it was controversial.
F: What do you think about that? Because that peaked my curiosity. I know there weren’t many explicit scenes in the film, but if there had been, do you think this film would have had trouble getting released? Say there were more explicit sex scenes between a 15-year old and an 18-year old. I guess for your ideal artistic expression, would you have made the film more explicit?
B: No. Because, it’s not a porn film, right? A porn film is to excite people only, and not to tell a story. Is sex an emotion? I don’t know. This film is more about emotions: people laugh, people sigh. So with the sex scenes, we thought, well in the book they’re there, but they’re poetically explained. You know in poetry you don’t have to use the word ‘penis’ or ‘masturbation’ to talk about very intense love scenes. But for a film, you have to show something. So our artistic problem was how to stay poetic and beautiful and still tell the audience what’s going on. Pim discovers sexuality and his body and how he feels about another boy, so we couldn’t not show it. In an action movie, it’s easy not to show sex. In action movies, sometimes there’s a romantic subplot and they kiss almost, and then it’ll cut to an action scene. But this film is really about love, so you have to show all the key steps in the process. I think the love between Pim and Gino really changes from the beginning of the film to the end. You see how they get closer, how things get more intense, and they do more things with their bodies. So that was the balance we sought: to be precise without showing pornographic images.
F: I thought that for how “steamy” the sensual scenes were, it was still extremely romantic. And let’s not even focus on when they’re kissing in the tent, but after, when Gino’s mom asks Gino, “How did you sleep in the tent?” and Gino slyly replied, “Very well. We should do it more.” That was almost even better than the sex, showing that there was going to be more, and that Gino was very attracted to Pim.
B: Yeah. You see it in his eyes; he played that very well.
F: I think that’s one of the few times we see a quick smile from Pim. We don’t see him smile too often.
B: Yeah. He doesn’t smile often. He’s very…not unhappy, but he keeps his emotions to himself. He doesn’t have someone to share his emotions with. He keeps everything internal.
F: So, speaking of keeping things internal, he has that box he keeps a lot of his memories inside. Did you have something like that as a kid?
B: Yeah. I think many of us have them. I still have boxes. I keep a lot of things. I thought I was the only one, but now that I’ve made the film, a lot of people tell me, “Oh, I have a box like that, and do you know what’s in it? Hair.” At the London premiere, many people shared their box experiences with me. Maybe we should make a website and people could post what’s in their boxes. I haven’t really kept my things in a box, but I definitely have a lot of things. When I talked to my actors, I explained things to them. My main actor was a 14 year old, so I tried to explain things in simple words. When I talked about the box, I explained that the box is a fetish. Pim is a bit of a fetishist. So when you love someone and you don’t get him, then there’s something physical to replace or symbolize that love. That’s fetishism. And you actually love things more than the person, because it’s the things you can touch and feel and love and the person is so far away or so unreachable. So that’s how I explained to him what the box is about. That’s what a lot of our boxes are about. Not a fetish for rubber or fabric, but a fetish for someone to whom you can’t show your love.
Watch it with: A romantic partner
Mix it with: A drink from your childhood