Romance, identity, and being true to yourself are at the forefront of South Africa’s first gay romantic comedy film. ‘No Hiding Here’, which centres on a male couple coming to grips with the world after secrets are revealed, was released on Showmax.
For writer and director Gabe Gabriel, the film presented an opportunity to depict and normalise the experiences of queer people. “It was imperative to me to strike a balance here though,” he explained. “I’m not a fan of content that ignores or down-plays queerness but I knew I wanted to write a story that features multiple queer characters at different stages of self-discovery for a myriad of reasons.”
The film marks Gabriel’s feature-length directorial debut, having worked on previous short films such as 2019’s Real Friends Check Each Other. Set in a small conservative town, ‘No Hiding Here’ follows openly-gay drama teacher Sam Stephens who after having his trust betrayed by his boyfriend, accidentally screens gay pornography to his pupils at a school event. Present at that same event is closeted celebrity Caleb, who is fearful of being outed to his fans.
Following the incident, the two retreat to Sam’s house for the weekend and with the help of Sam’s pupils and a fellow teacher, begin to ask questions about themselves and who they want to be.
Gabriel added the movie extends beyond previous queer representations in media that involve the depiction of people’s “otherness”. “Its emotional crux does not rely solely on the particulars of the difficulties of queerness, yet it also doesn’t pretend that those particulars don’t come with a complex set of challenges of their own,” he explained.
“This love story speaks to the delicate sensibilities we all share — anticipation, hope and dreams on the verge of adulthood, the promise of renewed passion and romance, the whirlwind fantasy of adventure, and the potential for loneliness that at any age can give you that sweet kick in the butt to get your act together and fight for true love even if it’s knocked you down before.”
Produced by Nagvlug Films, ‘No Hiding Here’ was shot in under two weeks and at just four locations spread across Melville in Johannesburg. Nagvlug Films also produced the 2020 horror, Rage, as well as the upcoming Cape Town nightlife drama, Skemerdans.
Sam Stephens is played by South African actor Earl Gregory, known for his role in the local stage production of Kinky Boots. The film marks a return for Gregory to the silver screen. “I was very fortunate to work alongside the best in the business so that helped me get into the swing of things very quickly,” he said. Gregory commented on the inclusivity of the production crew. “They were adamant about making it a safe space where pronouns and gender identities were respected,” he said.
“Perhaps it had to do with the fact that a bigger percentage of the cast and crew were from the LGBTQI+ community. Regardless of that fact there is something wonderful about being in an environment where you feel valued and respected and that just makes you want to be your best.” Meanwhile, Caleb is played by Cape Town actor David Viviers, whose character grapples with the potential public fallout of being exposed as a homosexual.
“He uses a projected idea of himself as a ‘ladies man’ as his kind of brand, a constructed persona that he imagines is necessary to sell himself and his music,” Viviers said. “But, as a result, there is a big part of him which is dissatisfied with his life and career.” Viviers added: “This is just a fun, uplifting celebration of love and identity. No one in the film is ever rejected or belittled for their sexual orientation, and the only constraints anyone experiences are the ones they place on themselves.”
The film also stars Tiffany Barbuzano, Antoinette Kellerman, and Phumzile Sitole. ‘No Hiding Here’ is available to stream on Showmax.