Film Review – Hanky Code

Part of Glitch Film Festival 

Hanky Code is a feature-length anthology of 25 short films directed by queer, trans and BAME filmmakers telling a myriad of stories about all things erotic. The film takes its name from a system used by queer folks seeking sexual partners in the 1970s, where the placement of a coloured hanky in their back pocket indicated what kind of kink or fetish they were after.

With 25 short films with only one brief – to tell a story about their hanky colour – the variety is fascinating. From a Classic Hollywood style silent film about fat ladies finding love, to graphic scenes of bodily piercing, to a music video for golden showers, there’s something for everyone. A personal favourite is an animated short in which pirate ships and all things nautical are overwhelmed by a sea of purple glitter.

Not all are as playful as this: a few of the films explore hardcore sexualities – BDSM, daddy-son fetishes, piercing play – and can be difficult to watch if you’re a bit vanilla/squeamish. Yet this is important representation, and the explicit displays of consent and aftercare are so needed considering the prominent harmful portrayals of non-vanilla sex in the media (looking at you Fifty Shades).

It is exciting to see narratives that are otherwise banished to the fringes of society, with disabled, overweight, trans, and non-binary people taking centre stage and telling their own stories. There is an ever-so-slightly disappointing lack of people of colour in front of the camera, as opposed to directing, where there is far better representation. However, this is evidently a serious attempt to give a platform to oppressed peoples – ‘Indigenous Luvvv’, a punchy short calling for the decolonisation of sex, is the most powerful of these.

This anthology is a jumble of styles – black and white, silent, animation, narrative, experimental, erotic and comedic – a creative explosion of stories. Hanky Code is a no-holds-barred celebration of LGBTIQA+ people letting their “freak flags fly”, and showcases the vast diversity of sexualities, romances, bodies, fetishes, and people.

[Louise Wylie – @WomanPendulum]

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