In 2017’s superb film God’s Own Country, a lonely young sheep farmer (Josh O’Connor) idles away the days until a Romanian migrant worker played by Alec Secareanu enters his life, making everything sexy, confusing, and really quite dramatic.
And while the love they discover is beautiful, much of the film focuses on the loneliness and isolation that comes with being LGBT in rural, heteronormative places like the Yorkshire countryside in which the story is set.
The real gay farmers living under these conditions don’t often find a cinematic happy ending, but a project started in 2009 called the Gay Farmer Hotline has quietly been helping people through tough times.
Now a new short film called Landline has been produced that tells the stories of some of these men, most over the age of 50, using real phone conversations to pull back the curtain on a fragmented community that continues to exist in the shadows.
The goal of the project is to raise awareness and funds to allow the Gay Farmers Project to continue its mission.
The film’s director, Matt Houghton, shared this message via the official website:
I have always been drawn to ideas surrounding shared experience. Speaking to a good friend Rupert Williams one evening, we got talking about what it was like for him growing up in a farming family as a queer man, and the unique sense of isolation that he felt. As we researched further, we began to understand the extent to which being an LGBTQ farmer was so heavily wrapped up in ideas of identity. Keith Ineson’s helpline seemed a unique lens through which to explore these ideas. Over the course of about a year, we collected stories and experiences from LGBTQ farmers who have at one time or another called the helpline. A series of recorded telephone conversations emerged as the emotional centre of the film.
I work in both documentary and scripted film. In recent years I have become increasingly interested in making films that experiment with story structure and that blur the boundaries between fact and fiction. The idea with Landline was to create an active conversation where the stories of a group of individuals compound and react with each other to paint to broader picture. It is an experiential take on the documentary form with the helpline at its centre. It is the honesty and openness of our contributors that made this film possible. To me it is defined by its intimacy but in depicting the very personal, my hope is that it poses questions about much broader ideas surrounding community, family and masculinity.
Watch the trailer below: