Tag Archives: Iris Prize

The Iris Prize Festival is getting red(head) hot!

Fire in the hole! Shot from "Gingers". Photograph: Courtesy of Iris Prize Festival 2013.

Fire in the hole! Shot from “Gingers”. Photograph: Courtesy of Iris Prize Festival 2013.

Those who know me better will know that I have spent the last two Octobers down in Cardiff covering the Iris Prize Festival for So So Gay (SSG), with last year the publication being media partners.

Despite being no longer with SSG, it doesn’t mean I’ve taken my eye off the ball of this brilliant festival, or neither do I intend to take a year off from visiting the Welsh capital for this absolute gem of a cultural event.

For those who don’t know what the Iris Prize is, it’s a yearly competition specifically for LGBT short films from around the world. The winning short, selected by a jury of industry folk, journalists, politicians, and celebrities, will win £25,000 to put towards making their next short in Wales, with help of The Festivals Company who produce the festival. In past years Lisa Power, Policy Director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, and lesbian author Sara Watters, have both served on the jury.

The festival, which takes place over five days in October, also includes a programme of feature films, workshops, and parties. But what’s so great about it is the incredibly informal and intimate nature of it. Festival goers can get to know the creatives and actors involved in the films, as well as festival volunteers, organisers, and fellow patrons, in an environment where everyone is as passionate about LGBT short film as the next person.

The standard of the competing films, partially put forward by a network of collaborating LGBT film festivals from around the world, and also by filmmakers who have personally submitted into the competition, is always incredibly high. Despite there being around 30 shorts each year vying for the prize, there are few that fall below a standard of uncompromising brilliance.

So imagine my delight when the full programme was announced today. One of the things I’m personally looking forward to is Gingers, a steamy short, that looks at the skin, the hair, and the lives of red-headed guys, leaving no stone unturned, or anything unexposed! This short from porn director Antonio da Silva, it’s certainly going to heat up Cardiff like never before. I confess, my excitement for this purely stems from my own little “thing” I have for gingers. 

Other intriguing highlights include a film looking at sexuality and Down’s syndrome, a trip out bed shopping turning into a trip coming out of the closet, and a look at the fears of a young teenager who doesn’t like girls, but is too scared to let his classmates know.

Interestingly, although this year’s programme of competing shorts cover the length and breadth of the globe – 14 countries represented in total – 9 are from the USA. But will it mean an American film will win it, especially after Australia’s domination at last year’s competition led to a win for Grant Scicluna’s brutal The Wildling?

Excitingly, Eytan Fox returns yet again to the festival to open it with his new film Cupcakes, following on from the fabulous success that Yossi had last year, which resulted with me presenting Ohad Knoller with the prize for “Best Actor in a Feature” alongside Amy Lamé. Speaking of which, Lamé be returning to host the glossy awards ceremony held at the Park Inn in the heart of Cardiff’s city centre. Just as exciting is that home-grown talent Simon Savory will be closing the festival with his strange and sinister début feature Bruno and Earlene Go to Vegas, which has already created a global buzz.

I’m also really looking forward to the screening of Burger, a film made by 2011 prize winner, Magnus Mork, marking the fourth short film that the prize has directly funded and produced. Given the standard of Till Kleinhert’s Boys Village and Eldar Rapaport’s Little Man, two of the previous films made with the prize money, Burger has high expectations to live up to.

So, set your sights on Cardiff, start practising how to pronounce “Dwi’n hoffi froffi coffi”, learn that song about a diminutive piece of kitchenware, and pop down to say “Shwmae!” to our friend Iris.

Iris Prize Festival will take place between 9 – 13 October 2013 in various venues around Cardiff, Wales. For more information about the prize, visit www.irisprize.org.

Fank Thuck it’s Twofousand and Firteen

Me and Freiya wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Well, Freiya doesn't really. She's a cat.

Me and Freiya wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Well, Freiya doesn’t really. She’s a cat.

For almost my entire life I’ve been extraordinarily cynical about New Year’s Eve. The dreary anti-climaxes and the insincere promises made to oneself made during a bout of quiet self-loathing used to make me roll my eyes. To me, NYE (to give it its popular acronym) was always just another day as insignificant as the one before it.

Never did I think I’d ever be so glad to see the back end of a year. “2012, fuck you and goodbye”, is all I have to say on the matter. It’s been a year where I’ve really struggled with my mental health and suffered a handful of other misfortunes.

That’s not to say there weren’t high points. Joining my lover and tormentor of almost two years now @peteypetey1982 and his friends in New York for his 30th was a hoot, being in charge of So So Gay’s coverage of the BFI’s 26th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival was a brilliant opportunity, as was leading and representing the site’s coverage as media partners of the Iris Prize Festival was tremendous and reinforced with vigour my undivided love for the festival.

But from November onwards the shit didn’t just hit the fan, it flew into a jet turbine. With sadness I left my post at So So Gay and the magazine altogether for various and unfortunate reasons, then I had a horrendous week regarding my medication completely misfiring, and then to top it off December saw the approach to Christmas being homophobically assaulted and having to take significant time off everything whilst I recovered from concussion.

I grumble, but it could have been a lot worse, especially as I know several close to me who had a rougher time of it but politely, for the most part, put up with my rants and whines nonetheless (sorry for being such a self-centred git).

But I made it through 2012 in a better state than Britney did 2007, and oddly I’m suddenly down with the whole New Year’s guff, feeling like I have the chance to start afresh blah blah blah. The cynical side of me hates myself for feeling this way, but sod it, the other side of me doesn’t care anymore.

Therefore I’m really hoping to do more writing here, especially as there are drafts of posts that didn’t end up getting published due to the left side of my head being very swollen. But for those (30 or so) people who read this, thanks for bearing with me the past year, and I hope to deliver a bit more through this blog if you’ll let me.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (because I’m Welsh, innit).

Extra special thanks to my housemate @thezulu, and @tomwicker for being impeccable friends, my family, and for the fantastic work that the Metro Centre in Greenwich do for LGBT physical and mental health.

Smug News – Film & TV Editor at So So Gay

I’m not sure how to be coy and humble about these things, so I’ll just be out with it.

As of today I have been appointed Film & TV Editor at So So Gay. Hurray!

I must say I’m incredibly excited and incredibly grateful for So So Gay for not only appointing me the role, but supporting me now for nearly 16 months when I first wrote a review of Fela! for them; my first EVER piece of published criticism.

I’m especially looking forward to the opportunity on working on the upcoming British Film Institute’s 26th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. I had the opportunity to cover it for So So Gay last year, along with Colin Warriner and the Marvellous Mr. Wicker (Tom Wicker), and I can’t wait for the challenge of increasing the coverage this year. Also, it’s a great honour to have the opportunity to work directly with the Iris Prize, especially as last week a media partnership between Iris and So So Gay was announced for the upcoming festival in October.

So why mention it on here? Well, as much as I’m quite proud about the appointment, it’s also an opportunity to put myself out here on behalf of So So Gay to invite LGBT film makers and promoters to work with myself and a magazine which is looking to develop and further build it’s reputation as an authority on LGBT film. My priorities, however, will understandably lie with working with established distributors such as Peccadillo, TLA Releasing, and the British Film Institute. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to turn a blind eye to the independent films that are really driving the genre. It was a pleasure to review Hearts Break Open, a film that was handed by the film’s own director for So So Gay to contemplate. So by all means drop me a line if you have something you want to tout via So So Gay.

My only regret is that by taking on this position means I won’t be able to write as much as I would like about theatre now, a genre that I am as passionate about as film. This is because it has really spurred on my writing from strength to strength, alongside my involvement on cinema, through the opportunities, feedback, and chances that people have bestowed upon me this past year and a quarter. But I can’t wait to get stuck further in the world of celluloid. So here’s to a great 2012 for LGBT film & TV, and So So Gay.

Who likes short shorts?

Still from the short film "Manhunt". Courtesy of FURY.

It’s great to hear that the Iris Prize is raring to go for its 2012 festival as it announces that it’s open for submissions. I attended and covered it for So So Gay last year. It was my first time there and I utterly loved it. Despite being totally knackering it was enormous fun and I’ve already put this year’s dates (10th – 14th October 2012) into my diary regardless on whether I’ll be covering the festival again, or just going on my own accord. However, this piece of news reminded me of something that I’ve wanted to pen for a while now, so I thought this might make a nice first post for this blog.

At the festival, one of what I felt were one of the weaker films at 2011’s festival was a French flick called Manhunt (to give it it’s English title) by Stéphane Olijnyk, which I described as ‘…laboured with a sense of trying too hard to be edgy, and indulged in an overt and cliché military fetishism.’ I certainly wasn’t the only person who felt this way about it, from festival goers that I spoke to. But on my round-up article for So So Gay, someone posted a comment to a link to an altogether very different review by Amos Lassen that was surprisingly positive and interesting to read.

As much as I, like any other reviewer, can get a tad defensive when having an opinion challenged (depending on how nice or nasty it’s put), I do really enjoy it when someone disagrees with me. Indeed, what I think have been some of my stronger reviews are ones where myself and Arts Desk editor, Matt Wolf, have exchanged fevered e-mails enforcing our often very polar viewpoints. I feel I end up having my own thoughts challenged and therefore can stand back from a piece better.

Confronted to a very different review of Manhunt to my own, this was no different. Of course, no review is ever wholly objective. That’s impossible. There will always be the reviewer’s own tastes and past interactions with the genre that will heavily weigh their opinion. But what about immediate factors?

Manhunt was part of a block of short films that were shown at the festival. This particular batch included  the fantastically tense, violent, and erotic Spring, and the deliciously heart warming and funny Cappuccino; two of my highlights. By comparison, Manhunt appeared more than a little wounded.

When I read Amos’s review I immediately thought of several things:

1)      Really?

2)      Did the reviewer watch this feature by itself?

3)      If not, what was the calibre of the other films it was seen with? i.e. was this the best of the bunch?

4)      Reeeeeally?

Although I still stand by my opinion of the film, I do often think that I might have ended up with a different one if I viewed the film under different circumstances; if I’d seen it on its own, or if the quality of the films it was shown with had been a lot worse. Or, maybe I wouldn’t have.

Then, thinking back, the same thing happened when I wrote about May 2011’s Queer as Film event which I also reviewed for So So Gay. The film that was shown was a piece by Pierre Stefanos entitled Bedfellows which had won more than a handful of awards at previous festivals and screenings. Yet when it was shown at Queer as Film, and this is unfortunately not an exaggeration, the entire audience laughed AT it! ‘…unrealistically optimistic [and] crammed with every imaginable cliché,’ was my verdict.

However, on reflection, the films that preceded it were all British. One of them was the rather marvellous Toothless by Steven Dorrington (see embedded video), which, along with the others, was a fine example of the pessimistic and self-deprecatory dry humour that we’re famed for. Then, along came Bedfellows, which I still personally feel is a typically over-American, Disney-esque, slice of perfect, “happily ever after”, super-sweet…thing. But I do sometimes wonder that whether given the timbre of films leading up to its showing meant that myself and the other audience members rated it a little unfairly.

Both short films are obviously doing quite well for themselves despite my grumbles. Manhunt was part of the prestigious Iris Prize Festival 2011, and Bedfellows has an intimidating amount of laurels flaunted on its promotional material. Though they may not have wowed me, I still wish both films all the best, and hope that others find charm where I hadn’t. And I promise that when I review my next batch of short films, I’ll try my best to not be swayed too much by others shown alongside it.