Ben is having a bit of a chaotic summer. Newly out as bisexual, he cruises relentlessly, resulting in a series of fleeting sexual relationships that fill the void momentarily but still leave him feeling empty inside. Ben is running from a terrible memory he can’t yet face, throwing himself into distractions and avoiding real connection and conversation. But one day he meets Sam, a handsome and charismatic guy who is carrying his own trauma, having recently survived a horrific attack. The two begin a summer romance, their intimacy deepening as the months pass, each challenging the other to be open about their vulnerabilities.
Cicada explores many complex traumas, specifically focusing on the destabilizing long term effects of childhood sexual abuse and the ever present fear of violence that Black people in America live with every day. Both Ben and Sam are surviving as best they can, both knowing that the violence they experienced has informed their ways of being, but not knowing how to speak back to it. Their relationship is complex, and the film doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations about racism or abuse. The film is especially unique in that Ben and Sam’s stories are embodied through the performances of the real life Ben and Sam, actors Matthew Fifer and Sheldon Brown, whose own experiences inform the script. Set against the backdrop of the national scandal of the 2013 Jerry Sandusky trial, Cicada is a timely survivor story. It is also an honest, loving and sometimes uncomfortable depiction of an interracial relationship and the deeper conversations we need to have with each other when we love across identities.
Cicada | Matthew Fifer | USA | 2020 | 94 min | English