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Powerful short film explores what it means to be queer and have a learning disability

Reiss Smith February 21, 2020
George Webster and Sam Retford in S.A.M

George Webster and Sam Retford lay two teenagers, both called Sam. (James Kenneth Photography)

S.A.M will debut at the BFI Flare LGBT+ film festival, and tells the story of two disadvantaged queer teens who fall in love.

The 16-minute short stars Ackley Bridge‘s Sam Retford and up and coming actor George Webster as two teenage boys both named Sam.

Filmed on location in Manchester, it shows the pair as they meet at a set of swings each week to escape their dysfunctional home lives, and slowly fall in love.

One is from a disadvantaged background and has little ambition to go to college or escape the life in which he grew up.

The other has Down’s syndrome and has big plans for his future after school finishes.

S.A.M creators want to change perceptions.

Writers and directors Eyre and Ely – who developed the film with the help of young adults with learning disabilities – said they “wanted to develop a story that expressed how many people living with learning disabilities feel about love and sexuality”.

“We found that many people felt like they didn’t have a voice when it came to expressing sexuality and were often seen as non-sexual,” they said.

“We hope this film will change people’s perceptions and give a platform to an issue that is rarely discussed.”

The duo added that their ambition is to turn S.A.M into a feature film, and are committed to working with crew members with disabilities.

Webster, a MenCap ambassador who himself has Down’s syndrome, said that the film is “so important, because it’s about being yourself, accepting yourself and accepting others for who they are”.

The film also shows that people with disabilities have the ability to be strong actors.

“Another thing that’s important for visibility is that we can have equal opportunities and equal rights too.”

Retford said that being involved in the film was “an incredible honour”.

“I got to help tell the ever important story of being who you are.

“I’m so unbelievably proud of this project, it shows what it means to find someone who makes you, you, regardless of their background or their disability.

“It’s so important we continue making films like S.A.M in order to reflect the beautiful diversity of life, on screen.”

The main cast is rounded out by Hollyoaks star David Tag, who found filming “incredibly liberating”.

“I feel lucky to be part of such a progressive and inclusive film,” he added.

S.A.M will screen at BFI Southbank on March 22 at 3.50pm, as part of the BFI Flare Catching Feels shorts block. Tickets are on sale now. 

More: down's syndrome, LGBT disabilities, lgbt film

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