Which films are competing at the UK’s queer film festival?
If you love queer films and film-making from the LGBTQ community, then the Iris Prize film festival is worth having on your radar.
This annual film festival is held in Cardiff, with prize money up for grabs that can really help boost the careers of emerging queer filmmakers from around the world.
The 2019 festival beings on 8 October – it will be the 13th time that the festival has been held. Early Bird tickets are now available.
The feature films
Fourteen feature films will be presented as part of the Iris Prize festival program.
One of the highlights is expected to be Sequin in a Blue Room, which is currently being shown on the festival circuit ahead of its general release.
Sequin in a Blue Room is the debut film from director Samuel Van Grinsven. The story follows 16-year-old Sequin (Connor Leach), as he seeks out sex with men, deleting them from his dating app once he’s achieved his objective. However, Sequin gets into trouble when he tries to reconnect with an older-man he encountered at a sex party.
Best International Short Film
36 films from 19 countries have been shortlisted for this year’s Iris Prize for Best International Short Film. The winning film will collect £30,000, which will be presented by Russell T. Davies at the closing gala.
“This impressive shortlist represents the very best in LGBTQ storytelling, offering a window into queer lives of the past, present and future…” said Andrew Pierce, Chair of the Iris Prize. “From love stories to tales of persecution, moving documentaries to joyous celebrations of freedom and pride. “I can’t wait to see them on a big screen and enjoy the conversations that flow after each screening.”
The shortlisted films are:
- Black Hat by Sarah Smith (USA)
- The Booth by Rohin Raveendran (India)
- Break Me by Irasj Asanti (Norway)
- By the End of the Night by Denoal Rouaud (France)
- Carlito Leaves Forever by Quentin Lazzarotto (Peru/France/Spain)
- Crash and Burn, Honey by Dawid Ullgren (Sweden)
- Dante vs. Mohammad Ali by Marc Wagenaar (Netherlands)
- Delivery Boy by Hugo Kenzo (Hong Kong)
- Dubs by Anthony Greyley (UK)
- Equal by Gillian Callan (Northern Ireland)
- Fame by Christian Hodl and Lene Pottgieger (Germany)
- Ficus by Andrey Volkashin (Bosnia & Herzegovina/North Macedonia)
- Girl Friend by Chloe Sarbib (USA)
- Greta by Sparkman Clark (USA)
- How to Live Your Life Correctly by Xindi Lou (USA)
- In Case of Fire by Tomas Paula Marques (Portugal)
- Joy Boy by Stef Smith (Australia)
- Leaking Blue by Julia Alqueres (Brazil)
- Marguerite by Marianne Farley (Canada)
- Mini DV by Shauly Melamed (Israel)
- Miss Chazelles by Thomas Vernay (France)
- Outdooring by Maxwell Addae (USA)
- The One You Never Forget by Morgan Jon Fox (USA)
- The Orphan by Carolina Markowicz (Brazil)
- Ponyboi by River Gallo (USA)
- Renovation by Fabio Leal (Brazil)
- Ruok by Jay Russell (USA)
- Skies Are Not Just Blue by Lysandre Cosse-Tremblay (Canada)
- Skin by Audrey Rosenberg (USA)
- Stigma by David Velduque (Spain)
- Strangers by Jamieson Pearce (Australia)
- Terminally in Love by Justin Black and Emily Jenkins (Canada)
- Thomas Banks’ Quest For Love by Pip Kelly (Australia)
- U for Usha by Rohan Parashuram Kanawade (India)
- We Outlaws by Wang Kaixuan (China)
- Wonder by Javier Molina (USA)
Check out the trailer below for a taste of what’s on offer.
Best British Short Film
There’s also a prize of £20K that’s on offer for the Best British Short Film.
“This shortlist is possibly the most eclectic mix competing for the Iris Prize Best British award that I can remember…” said festival director, Berwyn Rowlands. “As with the best of modern British short film, these are tales spanning animation, documentary, comedy, science fiction and beyond. Luckily, the shortlisted filmmakers have remembered that regardless of genre you must tell a story, and can this lot tell a story!”
“But there is a sense of unease through some of the films this year, whether through honest depictions of coming out as transgender in modern Britain or a look back to the past which feels all too familiar…” added Rowlands. “The stories cover a documentary attempting to rediscover our recent history, a vision of the future which will keep you awake at night, and a dark comedy which will have you screaming in your cinema chair.”
The nominated films are:
- Becoming Cherrie (Dir. Nicky Larkin)
- Invisible Women (Dir. Alice Smith)
- We Are Dancers (Dir. Joe Morris)
- #TradWives (Dir. Anna Snowball)
- Fee (Dir. Guen Murroni)
- Starboy (Dir. Joelle Bentolila)
- Dead Birds (Dir. Johnny Kenton)
- My Brother Is A Mermaid (Dir. Alfie Dale)
- Marco (Dir. Saleem Haddad)
- Deep Clean (Dir. David Wilson)
- Dix Pix (Dir. Steven Fraser)
- Hey You (Dir. Jared Watmuff)
- Dubs (Dir. Anthony Greyley)
- My Sweet Prince (Dir. Jason Bradbury)
- My Loneliness is Killing Me (Dir. Tim Courtney)
Check out the trailer for a taste of the 15 British short films that have been shortlisted for consideration.
We caught up with Berwyn Rowlands, Festival Director, for a behind-the-scenes at this year’s 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.
With the availability of content online and streaming services, are LGBTQ film festivals still relevant?
Festival audiences are generally getting older, but most film festivals that are still relevant today will work with the other platforms to maintain and build their audience.
Well-produced film festivals, with the right resources, offer something that streaming and online platforms can’t offer - direct access to the talent. You’ll meet directors, writers, producers, and actors if you come to Iris in October. This is fantastic for the audience, as it gives them an opportunity to engage directly with the film makers and ask questions, or simply take a selfie.
Festivals can also be a great way for the industry to meet and share experiences – the good and the bad - which will contribute to a sustainable LGBTQ film sector.
Each year the Iris festival seems to be becoming bigger - what’s driving interest in the festival?
The main reason I guess is the £30,000 cash prize to make a new short film. I’d also like to think that it’s word of mouth. We look after our visiting film makers by offering hosted accommodation, a free festival pass, and daily lunch.
Cardiff is also a fabulous capital city – small enough to feel intimate, but with all the attractions you’d expect from a modern city. We always talk about the Iris Family, and over the years this has grown from the modest 1,500 admissions in 2017 to the 10,000 we’re expecting this year.
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!