When The Revenge of the Shiny Shrimps (2022, dir. Cedric Le Gallo and Maxime Govare) opens with a chorus of men in drag lip-syncing to Hit Me Baby One More Time, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were about to watch a light-hearted, camp comedy. Which you are but, the film also manages to tackle serious issues facing the LGBTQ+ community.
The French language film follows the Shiny Shrimps, a water polo team on their way to the Gay Games in Tokyo. Hoping to round out the team, coach Matthias (Nicholas Gob) brings in a new athlete, Selime (Bilal El Atreby). The problem is that tough guy Selime is unaware that his team mates are gay or that he is about to compete in the ‘Rainbow Olympics’. Things only get more chaotic when the team have an overnight layover in Russia.
For the production, Ukraine stood in for Russia because it would not be safe to film there. (This is because, under Russian federal law, foreigners can be detained, deported and fined for advocating “non-traditional sexual relationships”.) In fact, production wrapped shortly before the outbreak of the war. Most of the crew and some cast members are Ukrainian and fled to France.
Despite plenty of jokes, the film deals with very real themes: conversion therapy, homophobic violence, the difficulties of being out, the relationship between religion and homosexuality, transgender acceptance, the struggle to come to terms with your sexuality and how dangerous it can be to just exist as a queer person in countries like Russia. Knowing that it was made in Ukraine makes the ridiculousness of the plot feel more real and the urgency of the issues the film talks about even more pressing.
The film is fast-paced, packing a lot into its run time. Yet, it manages to deliver some heartfelt messages like the importance of not being silent when faced with oppression and of supporting your found family or community regardless of your sexuality.
The Revenge of the Shiny Shrimps is not a perfect film. It juggles all the dramas of an extensive ensemble cast, sometimes letting interesting sub-plots fade away when they could be explored more deeply. The pace can feel choppy at times, jumping from one event to the next. The characters could be developed further but, since the film is a sequel, watching the first instalment may fill in those gaps. The filmmakers ensure that you don’t need to be familiar with the first film – The Shiny Shrimps (2019), on Amazon Prime – to enjoy this one.
In spite of its cliché, this film made me smile as I left the cinema. Later, the serious moments of the film came to me like when, after risking their life to help the Shiny Shrimps, a character urges the team to never be silent.
As a recently released independent film, The Revenge of the Shiny Shrimps may be hard to find in cinemas or on streaming platforms. Still, if you’re looking for a film to watch for Pride that isn’t But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) or The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), look no further. To the filmmakers I would say: why not make it a hat trick and hit me, baby, one more time.
Written for The Film Dispatch by Niamh Carey-Furness.