A restroom rendezvous evolves into something a bit unexpected in “Stalls,” a short film that puts a cinematic twist on the, ahem, nuances of gay hookup culture.
Written and directed by João Dall’stella, “Stalls” follows Jonathan (played by Andrew Ableson), who goes cruising for a quickie in the men’s room of an opera house. Once there, he finds a bit more than he bargained for, including a talented tap dancer and a mysterious janitor (Matthew Jain) with similarly lustful pursuits.
Viewable above, “Stalls” debuted on YouTube last month after being screened at Outfest Los Angeles and other film festivals around the world. Dall’stella said he drew on his own “racy experiences” to write the film, which he sees as a celebration of “glory holes, cruising and sexuality.”
“The great thing about cruising and the hookup culture is that it is naturally very cinematic,” the Brazilian-born filmmaker, now based in Los Angeles, told HuffPost. “Looks and gestures make the action go straight to the point, literally ... My hope was to show that what the character is doing is not inherently wrong. He is doing what he feels like and going great lengths to achieve his naughty goals.”
The film was shot on location at the Warner Grand Theater in Los Angeles, a setting that would turn out to have a special significance. In 1990, Madonna visited the theater with photographer Herb Ritts, who snapped a series of images of the pop superstar for Interview magazine. The photos, many of which were shot in the theater’s restroom, would also appear on T-shirts and posters for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour, as well as the sleeve of the “Immaculate Collection” album.
A lifelong Madonna fan, Dall’stella said he was unaware of the connection at first, but soon came to see the restroom as “sacred ground.”
“Now we have this spiritual connection inside a bathroom where she shot pictures 30 years ago,” he quipped.
As a queer man, Dall’stella sees “Stalls” as his first step in bringing “the stories that I wish I saw when I was younger” to the big screen. Though mum on details, he said he’s got a number of LGBTQ-inclusive projects in the works, including a gay superhero series and a queer horror franchise film, and hopes to try his hand at a music video.
With regard to his overall aim as a filmmaker, he said he’d like his work to “make your heart beat fast, make you laugh and make you understand and discover a world that you had no idea about,” even when it touches on controversy.
“I’ve been all the characters I write at some point, so I have a personal connection to each of them,” he said. “I always hope that the audiences feel exactly the thrill that my characters are feeling and root for them.”