Watch: 'Stalls' Filmmaker João Dall'Stella Discusses His Cheeky Homage to Glory Holes

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 22, 2020

Glory holes have received renewed attention of late due to COVID-19 as various health officials are citing their use as a way of having sex and safe distancing during the lockdown. "The Canadian B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and others have recommended, in one way or another, the use of glory holes for sex. In New York, the city's official COVID-19 safer sex bulletin didn't mention glory holes directly, but it advised residents to 'make it a little kinky' and 'be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls,'" reports Slate in a story about the glory hole renewal.

Made independent of the current health crisis, the 3-minute short "Stalls" is a cheeky tribute to the ritual of glory hole cruising. In the film that you can watch below, a handsome, well-attired man (Andrew Ableson) enters a bathroom stall at an opera house. With the aria "Sempre libera" (from "La Traviata") playing in the background, presumably from the stage, he discovers that beneath the toilet paper holder is a gold-tinged glory hole and a man in the next stall looking (as they say) and tap, tap, tapping his shoe — the unspoken form of communication in such exchanges. (The film also features Matthew Jain as a Janitor attempting to do his work.)

"I wanted to create a love letter to the act of cruising," writes LA-based, Brazilian filmmaker João Dall'Stella on the website for the film. "Making a glory hole look glamorous and capturing the excitement and adventurous feeling that it can give to you. The rush that sex can give to you is similar to gambling and drugs."

As he explains on the website and in this interview, he drew his inspiration from personal experience. "This film was based on many of my personal experiences looking for the perfect partner in the most creative environments. One day realized that cruising is a dance and that prompted me to make this film," he writes on the film's site.

Dall'Stella won the Directors Guild of America's Student Grand Prize for Latino Directors for his short film "Dia De Las Carpas." As a member of the Latin and gay community, he started making movies to create his own world where he celebrates them through his stories and brings these characters to the foreground of mainstream movies. He holds a BFA in Business Administration from FGV-EAESP and an MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute. His latest screenplay "Steam," an outrageous gay slasher film that is going to change the world, is in development.

His cheeky "Stalls" has found its way to film festivals throughout the world and how can be seen on YouTube.

Andrew Ableson in "Stalls"

EDGE spoke to Dall'Stella about the film and his career.

EDGE: How did you get involved in film making?

João Dall'Stella: When I was 12 years old, I had a YouTube channel where I would make movies from the Sims video games. I went to college for business, but then I started working in Marketing. I then made a short film on myself, but I realized I really enjoyed making films. It just flowed naturally for me and I decided to make it my career instead of just a hobby.

EDGE: Does being an out and Latino filmmaker influences the types of films you want to make?

João Dall'Stella: Yes, I think so. I think it is important for everyone to see representation of themselves in film. I also like creating things that would challenge someone else's view. I feel like there is a lot of humor in my films and I love turning the topic upside down and not only giving the audience something entertaining to watch, but also give them something new to learn from it.

João Dall'Stella

EDGE: Where did the idea for "Stalls" come from?

João Dall'Stella: It came from a similar personal experience. The act of cruising is so visual and such a primal behavior that a man would have in that situation. They forget about everything else and just want it.

EDGE: Cruising for sex in a public bathroom has been a part of gay culture for a long time, but it is also very risky. What do you say to the critics that say it should not be glorified?

João Dall'Stella: It is glorifying it. It is supposed to be a celebration of cruising as an act. There is nothing wrong with it unless you get caught. I think that sex can be portrayed in a very negative light, but sex is fun and can be exciting. That is what I wanted everyone to see — the fun and exhilarating part of sex.

EDGE: Do you have a memorable cruising moment?

João Dall'Stella: So many, I don't know where to start. Everybody has them, but we don't talk about them. Like in the film, I wish I had seen a golden glory hole.

Matthew Jain in "Stalls"

EDGE: The actor playing the Janitor in the film is hot. What can you tell us about Matthew Jain who portrays him?

João Dall'Stella: I wanted to make sure that the guy who played the janitor is handsome and hot, because it is the janitor who is probably going to catch, not the police. So, having a hot janitor was very important to me.

EDGE: How challenging was it to convey your message about the act of cruising in 3:15 minutes.

João Dall'Stella: Oh, of course, it was a challenge. I think as a filmmaker it makes you very vigilante in the message you want to get across, the shots you are selecting, and how long each shot should be. I shot this film in 35 mm and that is why it looks so good and visually alive.

EDGE: "Stalls" has also played in more than 35 LGBTQ+ Festivals worldwide. Does the reception of the film differ depending on where it is screened?

João Dall'Stella: From the places that I have been, it doesn't seem to differ, and I haven't noticed anything by country. I have noticed the difference when it comes to the age of the people watching it. I found that older straight couples are uncomfortable by it. But younger gay or straight people, they find it very entertaining.

João Dall'Stella on the set of "Stalls"

EDGE: When and where will "Stalls" be available to watch?

João Dall'Stella: The film will be launched on Vimeo, after the festivals end, in about two weeks. It will also be available on Revry, a queer streaming app. (Note: It has now been made available on YouTube, which can be viewed below.)

EDGE: Tell us a little about your new project "Steam."

João Dall'Stella: "Steam" is based on one of my short films that I did at AFI. I cant say much but its going to be scary and just as fun as "Stalls."

For more information on Joao and to view his work, visit his website.

Watch "Stalls":