100 Men fast-tracks through 40 years of gay history via a countdown of filmmaker Paul Oremland’s most memorable shags. This isn’t just a blow-by-blow account of past glories; instead, Paul uses a personal lens to explore the key moments that have defined the contemporary gay experience.
The significance of the men on Paul’s list varies, but all have lingered in his mind for some small or, ahem, big reason. Most of the men feature only as a descriptive nickname (‘US Jet Pilot’, ‘Closet Westie’), but Paul has convinced a handful to appear on camera for candid interviews. Although the film does ask whether gay men are too fixated on sex, Paul is more interested in the lives that these men have lived, emphasising the collective experience of isolation that can come with growing up gay.
Paul recounts how a religious upbringing in New Zealand fuelled an inner struggle and how his first heartbreak led to a move to the UK. It’s there that he met John, the love of his life. Their on/off-again romance gets major screen time, with Paul unpicking their decision to have an open relationship, and its consequences.
The polyamorous life is a major talking point of the film. In the days before gay marriage seemed even remotely possible, the rejection of monogamy was a defining feature of gay culture. The freedom of multiple partners had a devastating impact on the community during the AIDS epidemic, but Paul also shows that his encounters led to long-lasting friendships. His thoughtful film looks forward as much as it does back, leaving us to ponder the intricacies of gay identity today. — Chris Tse