Closets, written and Directed by Lloyd Eyre-Morgan, won both Youth Award and Best Of British Award at Iris 2015 for its portrayal of the struggles gay teens have faced over the past 30 years.
Henry (played by Tommy Lawrence Knight, of The Sarah Jane Smith Adventures), a drag-loving 16-year-old living in 1986, is transported, via his wardrobe, to 2016, where he meets Ben (Cucumber’s Ceallach Spellman), a gay teen with problems of his own. Together they find solace and hope in each other’s stories, and the knowledge that they aren’t alone. The performances between the two boys is wonderful, and their interaction is in turns both touching and funny. Suffering slightly in the end scene, Closets is a coherent and enjoyable piece of queer cinema that’s obviously designed to inspire and provoke debate in younger viewers.
Eyre-Morgan says he wishes this was the movie he had seen when he was younger and it certainly serves as a letter of hope to younger gay men, especially those struggling with bullying and victimisation. While this piece is clearly aimed at a younger audience, nothing in this short feels dumbed-down; this is an intelligent, well-written piece, designed to highlight to younger viewers that going through these issues alone is never the best solution.
Ably supported by Julie Hesmondhalgh as Penny, the caring 2016 mother and her polar opposite, Susan, the angry and domineering 1986 mother, this is a heartfelt piece that speaks of hope and progress. It’s easy to see why Closets has been awarded so many accolades, and it’s easy to imagine this short being shown in classrooms across the country.
In The Hollow
In The Hollow is easily one of the most haunting shorts in Iris this year; both narrative and execution staying with the viewer for a considerable time afterwards.
Directed by Austin Bunn, In The Hollow is the true story of Claudia and Rebecca, two girls who were attacked while out hiking in 1988 and is told by one of the girls herself, in a simultaneous retelling and retrospective piece.
This is an unsettling watch, due in part to the foreknowledge gained by the dual-viewpoint narrative, but also due to some confident and able camerawork.
If I were to offer any criticism for this short, it would be that the sinister attacked was cast as far too handsome for the role of an inbred gun-obsessed hillbilly. Beyond that, In The Hollow is a smart, poignant and well-told story.
Snowfall, featured in Iris’ Irish Collection this year, is a beautiful animated short by Conor Whelan that wonderfully captures the feeling of meeting someone exciting at a party.
Short, succinct, but perfectly executed and beautifully touching.
Peacock, by Ondrej Hudecek, starring Julius Feldmeier as Ladislav is the true story of a Bohemian composer, his youth and loves, as told through a very Wes Anderson-inspired short film.
Visually stunning, the narrative is in turns touching, tense and amusing. This is a lavishly produced short, a little longer than many in the festival this year, but none the worse for it – this is a lovely piece of cinema, and a personal favourite from this year’s Iris Prize.
Cead Ghra (First Love)
The only all-Irish language short in the Iris Prize festival this year, Cead Ghra by Brian Deane is a very sweet story of first crushes won with bribery, burgeoning emotions and the bonds of friendship.
The young boys Colm and Donal, played to perfection by Brandon Maher and Tadhg Moran, are competing for the love of a girl when things take a turn for the unexpected.
Cheeky and very sweet, this short captures the essence of first love in a way that transcends language. Spellbinding.
Reviewer: Scott Flashheart Elliott
In short: a film festival in Cardiff where the world’s most promising up-and-coming queer film-makers compete for up to £30,000 towards their next short film.
But it’s not just that, as the Festival’s tagline “Watch movies. Party nightly. Repeat.” hints:
It’s a chance to network and rub shoulders (or possibly other body parts) with interesting, talented people in the film biz.
It’s a chance to watch funny, clever, heartwarming, and heart-breaking queer cinema from around the world amongst like-minded individuals.
It’s a chance to drink at night and watch movies all day.
(Copyright Naik Media)
More than all of these things, it’s a chance to be a part of something special. Not for nothing does the welcome pack given to everyone on the first day bear the words ‘welcome to the family’: That’s exactly what Iris is. From the moment one arrives at the festival, to be greeted by festival Directors Berwyn and Grant, or one of their small but incredibly hard-working and capeable team, the sense of inclusion and the personal touch is apparent in everything. This isn’t a large, brassy corporate event like some of the more well-known film festivals can be, but instead a home-grown event that’s managed to hold on to that welcoming vibe while growing in membership and stature every year.
Maybe that’s the real prize at Iris: the feeling of being part of a large and constantly-growing creative family, being able to share in conversations and hangovers in equal measure and throughout every minute of the festival, the underlying feeling of love and care that goes into making those five days in Cardiff some of the best of the year.
Or maybe it’s the £30,000. Hard to tell, really. Come to Cardiff in October 2016 and find out for yourself.
Find out more at http://Irisprize.org