JAY BEDWANI: Iris’s Cardiffian Contender

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Jay_Bedwani_portrait[1]Though it’s based in Cardiff, the Iris Prize is an internationally renowned film festival and 2013 brings about the involvement of 14 different countries – including the USA, Brazil, Israel and Australia. This October, six years after it began, the Iris Prize has nominated its first Welsh film-maker: Cardiff-born Jay Bedwani.

Though Jay has been split between South Wales and San Francisco, the location of his film My Mother which explores the life and relationships of transgendered woman Gustavo, his interest in art and documentary started at home in Cardiff.

“When I was a kid I used to go for walks with my dad and we’d take photos of frogs. I guess that’s when it really began,” he reminisces. After taking a short course in photography at Chapter Arts Centre, Jay went on to undertake a Masters in photography at Newport University.

Always fascinated by real-life stories and characters, Jay started to work on his own documentary photography and, whilst volunteering in San Francisco, was introduced to Gustavo by a mutual friend.

“He was dressed as Donna. He was looking very glamorous, standing next to a pool at a party,” Bedwani explains. The two of them discussed taking some still pictures of Gustavo and his female alter-ego Donna, but soon after the project began it dawned on Jay that there was more to Gustavo than what simply met the eye.

“I didn’t really know where it was going to go,” says Jay, “but I very quickly realised that Gustavo had a lot to say. He was very eloquent, quite captivating, quite sincere and it seemed like what he had to say would make a really good film.”

“I wanted to find out what compelled him to dress up as Donna and go up to San Francisco every weekend. I soon realised it was a lot to do with the relationship he had with his family and his mother.”

Only 10 minutes long, the film itself creates a touching and thought-provoking portrait of an interesting an honest person. Beautifully shot, with a photographer’s eye, My Mother doesn’t try and explain every aspect of Gustavo’s character and intentionally steers clear of an artificial ending. “Documentary is really hard to pull off,” states Bedwani; “films sometimes try and go for a resolution and ending, when you know life isn’t always like that. I like things left quite open.”

Having always had a love of film and documentary, Jay attended last year’s Iris Prize Festival as an audience member and left feeling inspired. “It’s quite rare you can get three days to sit in a theatre and watch films non-stop. I watched all these short films and I loved it, so I put all my effort into doing this short film.”

Looking forward to this year’s festival Jay’s eyes are on the screen rather than the prize. “In a really egotistical way I can’t wait to see it on the big screen,” he laughs.

“Winning the Iris Prize would really give me the freedom to do something completely different – to have the freedom really to invest in something” Jay notes. “I’d love to do one in Wales.”

With a desire to pursue more documentaries with the ‘portrait of a character’ feel that is present in My Mother, Bedwani’s inclination to present a personality, rather than a subject, is one that could prove extremely interesting – especially with the variety of captivating characters across Wales for him to choose from. While you’re waiting for Jay’s next project, however, make sure you catch My Mother on the big screen next month for a heartwarming and slightly surreal insight into another person’s life.

Jay Bedwani’s short film My Mother will be screened, along with four other nominated short films, at Chapter Arts Centre on Sat 12 Oct, 12.30pm


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