Outfest 2020: "Cicada" explores trauma and love with care
CW: trauma, hate crimes, sexual abuse
The first day of LGBTQ+ film festival Outfest 2020, which this year is a virtual experience, did not disappoint. Part of the fest's US Narrative Features, Cicada was a standout and wonderful way to kick off the 11-day film festival experience.
Written by Matthew Fifer and Sheldon D. Brown, and directed by Fifer and Kieran Mulcare, Cicada takes us back to 2013 New York City. Fifer also plays leading man Ben, a sweetly aimless young bisexual man who drifts between casual hookups with multiple genders, and his jobs as a temp and house painter. We learn early on that Ben broke off an engagement with a woman and is now just exploring more of his queer sexuality.
When Ben meets cute with the sweet and serious Sam (Sheldon D. Brown) his outlook on relationships begins to shift. At the same time, the real-life trial of child rapist Jerry Sandusky hits the news and reawakens Ben's early childhood trauma of being molested. Sam too is dealing with PTSD, after his life was changed in a violent hate crime attack. Together, the men open up to each other and those close to them and find themselves on a journey to healing.
Both Brown are Fifer are relatively new to the world of filmmaking, but Cicada is an exemplary example of thoughtful writing, beautiful direction and spot-on performances. The way Cicada addresses trauma is refreshing, giving the characters room to experience their pain both emotionally and physically, but also opens up a path to self-love and healing. It was the first time in a long while that I simply didn't want a film to end. Actress Cobie Smulders drops in for a small but memorable role as Ben's flakey but observant therapist, as do out actors Bowen Yang and David Burtka.