Arts & Entertainment
2 min

The tropics come to Toronto

Steamy dialogue-free short film leaves plenty to the viewer's imagination

Adamo Ruggiero and Mike Beaver star in The Pool Date.
Since Xtra is a gay and lesbian publication, when I interview an artist I make a point of asking their sexual orientation and whether they’re comfortable putting it in print. But when I popped this question to writer/director Patrick Sisam, he just laughed.
“My partner and I prefer to keep things mysterious,” the Montreal-born, UK-based film director says. “In the past I’ve written mostly about straight relationships. But a lot of the filmmakers I know are working to break down those barriers that say you have to be gay to write a gay film or straight to write a straight film. I don’t think you can or should limit creativity that way.”
Avoiding questions about his own orientation makes perfect sense, given Sisam’s current turn at the Toronto International Film Festival. His dialogue-free short, The Pool Date, is an exercise in ambiguity, sexual and otherwise. Set at a tropical resort in an unnamed though Spanish-speaking country, a portly, pasty-white Canadian tourist (Mike Beaver) has an unusual exchange with a lithe local (Degrassi: The Next Generation’s Adamo Ruggiero) when the tanned, Speedo-clad youth steals his poolside seat.
“I was interested in exploring the dynamic between someone people would assume was gay and someone they would assume is straight,” Sisam says. “Whether the connection the characters forge is sexual is deliberately unclear. It’s about an intimacy between two men that sits somewhere in the middle of the Kinsey scale, which can be a really interesting place.
“As a filmmaker, I think things should be romantic,” he adds. “Not just in terms of sexuality, but in terms of imagination and revelry. I want to make things that sweep you away a bit, and if this film achieves that for people I’m happy.”
Though Sisam hopes to transport viewers to the tropics, the work was actually shot in Toronto last September. Lacking the budget to take a crew south, his team scouted area homes with pools sizeable enough to accommodate them. By masking architecture with copious tropical plants and littering the background with bronze-skinned extras, his skilled art directors convincingly transform the suburban mansion into a balmy resort.
“We pulled it off, but it took a lot of imagination and some very creative shooting angles,” Sisam laughs. “It’s funny to rewatch it and really get that feeling of being somewhere in South America. But then you remember the CN Tower is just beyond the edge of the frame.”
The Deets:

The Pool Date
Toronto International Film Festival
Thurs, Sept 13, 6:15pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Fri, Sept 14, 9:30am
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
350 King St W