One of the most important, impactful, and heart wrenching shorts that I’ve seen in decades: 103 Shots. Please watch. The film, running just 2 minutes and 35 seconds, is unforgettable and the event it’s based on was unimaginable.

Artist, Cassils on 103 Shots:

Following the recent mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida I was struck by the testimony of one of the survivors, a man who said one of the reasons he did not react immediately to the gunshots was that he initially perceived them as first as the celebratory noises of “fireworks or balloons popping.”

I took this narrative as the starting point for 103 Shots, a short film shot at San Francisco Pride with the help of over 200 volunteers. Filmed in Dolores Park, the footage presents stark black and white imagery of a series of pairs of couples and friends bursting a balloon between their bodies with the pressure of an embrace; the soundtrack was created using foley recordings of balloons popping in a cement room.

The film references the visual style of Gran Fury’sKissing Doesn’t Kill” campaign and the signature typography of Queer Nation. The faces of the film’s participants register affection, surprise, pain, discomfort, and laughter; each embrace is a minor enactment of the disorienting effect of violence in the space of intimacy. 103 embraces, 103 shots, one for each life lost or irreparably altered.


Cassils is a gender non-conforming trans masculine visual artist. Cassils uses plural gender-neutral pronouns (they, them, their) and asks that journalists do likewise when referring to them. This plurality reflects through language the position Cassils occupies as an artist. For guidelines on writing about gender non-conforming people, please reference the GLAAD Media Reference Guide on Transgender Issues: