words: MAB JONES
The Iris Prize is six years old – old enough to swim, old enough to know its times tables, to blow out the candles on its own birthday cake. It offers the world’s largest short film prize (a whopping, whooping £25,000) and this is understandably something to be proud of. The air at Iris is thick with this pride, not in an arrogant way, but in the way of a six-year-old: an innate pleasure at its own rambunctious growth and youthful resilience. There is a resolutely good vibe everywhere at Iris, in the people as well as the places; but most of all in the films, many of which are good, plenty of which are very good, and all happening, in a purposeful as well as an incidental way, to come under the banner of LGBT.
Despite one film being unable to play, this did not detract from this vivacious and vibrant atmos. A range of extremely interesting short films added much to the proceedings, with upcoming and emerging filmmakers being allowed to preview/show work alongside the feature length works – a rare chance for the short form to be seen alongside its bigger siblings, and also for the audience to enjoy snippets of insight and experience from a diversity of different viewpoints.
Particular favourites for me were anti-rom-com Coffee & Pie, which introduced us to the word ‘confucked’ and taught us how revenge really is a dish best served cold (with pie, preferably); also What Are You Looking At? which offered curious character conflict when a drag queen and a Pakistani girl in a hijab are stuck in a lift together. I found both films quirky and amusing, although my personal preference is for the comic piece – lots of other shorts offered tragedy, thriller, drama, and so on, although the winner of Best UK Short was a comedy. A Stable For Disabled Horses featured an uncomfortable ‘friendship’ between the over-zealous Benny and his Norwegian friend Kanoute. When Kanoute decides to move back to Norway, Benny throws a goodbye party, with funny, and slightly sad-making, results.
Best Actress went to Kristina Valada-Viars of Molly’s Girl, the hilarious tale of an emotional misfit who, as the daughter of a US state senator opposed to gay marriage, falls for another woman, with (un)predictably chaotic consequences. Best Actor was awarded to Ohad Knoller, Sex Of Angels, which tells the tale of a trio of young lovers, won Best Film, while the Iris Prize itself went to The Wilding, a 15-minute film in which LGBT issues seemed more as a ‘by the way’ than the main feature of the film itself. A taut, tense thriller, this was a worthy winner of the main prize this year.
In all, the Iris Prize really is something for Cardiff to be very, very proud of. Also featuring an education day, talks, a Producer’s Forum, and numerous networking opportunities, this is one six-year-old that should be shouting its sheer, shining, superb selfdom from the rooftops.