Submissions are now open for the Iris Prize – the UK’s LGBTQ film festival
Submissions are now open for the 2021 Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival.
Celebrating its 15th edition, the Cardiff-based festival will take place in October 2021.
The festival present nine awards:
- Iris Prize
- Iris Prize Best British Short
- Iris Prize Best Feature
- Best Performance in a Female Role
- Best Performance in a Male Role
- Youth Jury Award
- Community Award
- Education Award
- Micro Short Award
Iris Prize LGBTQ Film Festival – The 2020 winners
- Iris Prize 2020 was won by Short Calf Muscle
- Best British Film was won by Better
- Best Feature was won by Cocoon
- Best Performance in a Female Role was won by Lena Urzendowsy for her performance in Cocoon
- Best Performance in a Male Role was won by Leandro Faria Lelo for his performance in Dry Wind
Short Calf Muscle
Picking up the prize of £30,000 as the winner of the Iris Prize 2020 was Short Calf Muscle – a film from the Netherlands, directed by Victoria Warmerdam.
“Short Calf Muscle captures a universal sense of being misunderstood in an hilarious yet absurd comic tone, setting it apart in a class of its own…” said Philip Guttman, speaking on behalf of the Iris Prize jury. “Piquant dialogue, accomplished storytelling and tongue in cheek acting are distilled into a potent black comedy. Filmmaker Victoria Warmerdam masterfully tackles themes of prejudice and societal authoritarianism, captured through an impeccable Stepford style lens which contrasts the loss of control in a world gone mad. Ms. Warmerdam reveals herself to be a singular, exciting and rising comedy director.”
The prize enables Warmerdam to create a short film in Wales.
With his film Better, Michael J Ferns picked up the Best British award at this year’s festival.
“The quality and range of this year’s Best British Short film contenders has been excellent – so much so that the jury was spoiled in having to choose a winner…” said Tim Highsted, speaking on behalf of the festival jury. “Michael J Fern’s short film Better was distinctive for its quietly controlled and beautifully orchestrated examination of gender as a young mother tries to cope with the bullying of her young son at school. Our other shortlisted titles, Queens, The Passing and Wings raised the bar in their unique portrayals and studies of LGBT+ lives and stories.”
All 15 films in the festival’s Best British category will be available in the UK for free streaming on All 4 from 11 October.
Leandro Faria Lelo was awarded Best Performance in a Male Role in a Feature Film for his performance in Dry Wind – directed by Daniel Nolasco.
Lewis Bayley, speaking on behalf of the festival jury, described Leandro Faria Lelo as delivering a “compelling performance of sexual desire that captivates the audience and explores the intensity of yearning in the monotonous confines of an oppressive system.”
Lena Urzendowsy was awarded Best Performance in a Female Role in a Feature Film for her performance in Cocoon – directed by Leonie Krippendorff.
“Lena’s honest and raw portrayal of Nora in Cocoon captures a teenager in a time of self-discovery, complicated by the dramas and vices of those closest to her…” said Lewis Bayley, speaking on behalf of the festival jury. “In this beautiful coming-of-age story, Lena holds the attention in each frame she appears with quiet nuance and vulnerability.”
Cocoon also won the award for Best International Feature Film Award.
“The winning film is an honest and open coming of age story, addressing its lead’s sexuality with delicacy and heart that speaks directly to personal experiences…” said Lewis Bayley, speaking on behalf of the festival jury. “The innocence of self-discovery, in the midst of the complexities of the lives of those around us are explored with nuance and authenticity. The supporting visages are dreamlike, relatable and beautifully rendered.”
We caught up with Berwyn Rowlands, Festival Director, for a behind-the-scenes look at the Iris Prize.
Why are LGBTQ film festivals like Iris important?
Representation is the key reason why LGBTQ film festivals continue to be important. It’s very difficult to challenge the fact that we’re seeing more representation of our communities in mainstream media - especially television where every soap must have a quota of gay characters - but this is not yet true of the film industry. Do we need more LGBTQ characters in movies, yes! Do we need more diversity within the movies, yes! This is where film festivals fit in. We’re a great place for the communities we represent to see themselves on a big screen.
Festivals are also important because we can also make a stand and be political with a small “p”. Taking for granted our liberties would be complacency on a grand scale - things change in the world very quickly. As LGBTQ communities, we need to be able to talk and listen to each other. Social media is a powerful tool for communication, but it can funnel discussion into an echo chamber, where it’s difficult to listen and understand each other. Festivals like Iris continue to have a role as we offer people a chance to watch, talk, and listen in a safe environment.
How is the festival evolving to reflect the diversity of the LGBTQ community and experience?
When we launched in 2006, the Iris Prize was focused on stories about sexuality – primarily gay and lesbian, bisexuality was invisible or just ignored. The main change since those early days has been the increase in trans visibility, which culminated in a name change in 2013 when we added “T” to “LGB”.
Where do short films fit in the creative development of LGBTQ filmmakers?
I’ve always enjoyed watching short films and get quite angry when some just see them as a calling card on a journey to make a feature film. In the same way that some writers enjoy writing short stories, we have film makers who enjoy the short film form – a place to be experimental and challenge some of the norms of story-telling.
You’ll find more originality at Iris than in many a mainstream festival, because of the freedom that is afforded to short film makers. The digital revolution has also made it easier to create content – but that doesn’t make everybody a film maker!