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SHORT FOCUS 2018: Iconoclast [Alex Haney, USA, 2017]

Alex Haney’s Iconoclast is a bold and compelling exploration of shame and denial told through the eyes of a black, Jewish and gay teenager. For the lead character Yuri, the thought of coming out causes a profound agony. A sensitive soul, he coils in discomfort when merely asked by a classmate to explain the colourfully patterned yarmulke rested upon his “hi-top” hairdo. This strong internal conflict is furthered clarified once we learn that his parents (an African-American father and Jewish mother) are none-the-wiser regarding their son’s sexual orientation.

His parents’ possible despair and revulsion is a fear that haunts Yuri and leads to sleepless nights. His secret threatens to burst forth and materialise, imaginatively portrayed through subliminal flashes of his ‘other’ self, clothed in drag and poltergeist-like thumps that emanate from behind the bathroom mirror. Sat in an after-class art studio, it is Yuri’s best friend and love interest Fisher that stirs this subconscious conflict to the surface, urging him to confess his parents. “C’mon, Yuri it’s just two words”, as he paints ‘I’M GAY’ in thick red brushstrokes upon a blank canvas. Will Yuri find the strength to actualise his true self, or will he allow the weight of his anxieties to push him further into the closet?

Iconoclast is a well measured short film with a moving central performance from Malik Adjuia Smith-Johnson and with a stylised production design that, at its most striking, bears elements of horror and reflects perfectly the inner turmoil of a young man in fear of his entire world falling apart around him.


'Iconoclast' was part of the Official Selection at Short Focus Film Festival 2018.

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