This year’s Iris Prize Festival has come to an end after a tremendous six-day celebration of film in Cardiff. Events came to a close on Sunday with a carnival and awards show, which included the announcement of this year’s winner of the most valuable LGBT+ short film award. The £30,000 prize gives support to a filmmaker to make another film in Wales.
Three Centimetres, directed by Lebanese student filmmaker Lara Zeidan, was announced as the winner of the Iris Prize 2018. This was the first time in the festival’s 12-year history that a film from Lebanon had even been nominated for the prize. The single shot short, which takes place in the gondola of a ferris wheel in a decaying fun park in Beirut, took the prize after massively impressing the jury.
International Jury Chair Carrie Lyell, editor of DIVA magazine, said: “Three Centimetres is such an audacious film. It’s so refreshing to hear female sexuality spoken off in such a frank and positive way, and from a female perspective. It’s visually stunning, with utterly convincing dialogue and engaging characters, and it uses the form of short film perfectly to tell its story. And it’s so nice to see a coming out story in a context and a setting that feels new. It’s like nothing we’ve seen before.”
Of the film’s writer and director, Lara Zeidan, she said, “We all agreed that we couldn’t wait to see what she does next. If there’s any justice in the world, she has a great career ahead of her.”
After winning the prize, Lara Zeidan commented, “I’m delighted to have won the Iris Prize. I love working in short film – It’s all about sharing small but meaningful moments.”
The prize was presented by Lord Glendonbrook, whose Michael Bishop Foundation supports the Iris Prize.
The three finalists in the international category were announced at an event on Saturday afternoon, with Pre-Drink, by Canadian filmmaker Marc-Antoine Lemire, and British director Harry Lighton’s film Wren Boys named alongside Three Centimetres.
“Wren Boys is a huge feat, executed perfectly,” the jury said. “It was shot on film, which we so rarely see, and it drew us instantly into that world, challenging our prejudices and expectations. It was refreshing to see a positive depiction of masculinity and the relationship between gay men and straight men.”
Of Pre-Drink the jury said, “This was a stunning exploration of the fluidity of attraction, challenging but accessible, and the performances were superb. It portrayed sex in a positive, shame-free way, and handled the subject of consent with a lightness of touch. It sparkled.”
Alonside the main International Iris Prize, Beyond ‘There’s always a black issue, dear’, directed by London-based photographer Claire Lawrie, was announced as Best British Short, sponsored by Pinewood Studios.
Chair of the Best British jury, Rod Thomas (aka Bright Light Bright Light) said, “Its visual choices are on point, its soundtrack perfectly orchestrated, and its treatment, presentation and representation of its subjects deserves the highest commendation. A truly magnificent film, showing the adversity and struggle of an era and the people who fought and survived and influenced society through their art and creativity. It made us want to see so much more.”
Beyond… was named alongside Abena Taylor-Smith’s film Ladies Day and Wren Boys in the top three films from this category, with a special commendation going to Bachelor, 38, from Cardiff-based filmmaker Angela Clarke.
Rod added: “The jury loved Ladies Day’s visual choices, the diversity of its characters and its ability to raise an often ignored conversation with quiet resilience and pride, demonstrating a promising future in the director’s career.
“Wren Boys is an extraordinary piece that deals with heavy subject matter with both humour and punch. By playing with our own presumptions and expectations, and constantly keeping us surprised, the story was a triumph.
“And Bachelor, 38 delivered one of the most beautiful and touching love stories, told with extreme respect and care for its subject. The film’s majesty lies in its ability to let the protagonist voice the entire piece.”
The Best Feature Award, sponsored by Bad Wolf Studios, was won by Yen Tan’s drama 1985. The jury said, “Writer/Director Yen Tan has crafted a film of intimate moments sewn together with such care that found ourselves wholly immersed, feeling equal parts sadness and hope.”
Best Performance in a Male Role, sponsored by Attitude Magazine, was awarded to Félix Maritaud for Sauvage. The jury commented, “Through Félix’s honest, vulnerable portrayal as a young gay hustler surviving on the streets in France, we were pulled into his world from the opening scene.”
Best Performance in a Female Role, sponsored by DIVA Magazine, was awarded to Jamie Chung for 1985. The jury said that even though it was a supporting role, “Every scene Jamie appeared in was thoughtful, heartbreaking, and so honest we felt like we were in the room with her.”
The Iris Prize Youth Award, sponsored by Cardiff University, was won by the Australian film Mrs McCutcheon, from director John Sheedy. The award was voted for by audience members at the Iris Education Day on Friday and the Pride Cymru Youth Conference on Saturday, who had the opportunity to watch five films considered age appropriate from this year’s programme.
The inaugural Audience Award for Best British Short, sponsored by Buzz Magazine, was won by Wren Boys, with Bachelor, 38 in second and Ladies Day in third place.
Commenting on this year’s festival, Director Berwyn Rowlands said, “This year’s festival was all about the filmmakers. Helping them to network, to see each other’s films, discuss those films, and meet the audience for their films. We’re very happy and very proud that both Lara and Claire are here in Cardiff to accept their prizes.”