Celebrating its 13th running, the Cardiff, Wales based Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival returns with a catalog of 36 incredible LGBTQ+ shorts. Filmmakers and sponsors from around the globe gather for six days to celebrate queer film and award one talented filmmaker with the coveted £30,000 prize. This year’s collection of intriguing tales range in topic and perspective, from love over pork dumplings, to challenging physical disability, to the perfect dream date for the school prom. Suffice to say, we think we may have spotted more than a few winners this year.
Black Hat (Director Sarah Smith)
Directed by Sarah Smith and starring Adam Silver, Black Hat is the story of a married Hasidic Jewish man who is living a double life. After misplacing his black hat during a night out in a seedy underground night club, he fears the guilty pleasures of his forbidden nightlife may crash head first into the pious world within his synagogue.
Skillful camera movements and tight lens choices make this film a pleasure to watch, even as the anxiety of the protagonist plays out on screen. Actor Adam Silver offers a lovely performance, communicating much while saying very little.
By the End of the Night (Que la nuit s’achève) (Director Denoal Rouaud)
Karim is a taxi driver who mostly works the night shift. In the midst of attempting to patch things up with his estranged girlfriend, he stops at the airport to pick up a bold and flashy American artist named Alex. While uncomfortable at first, Karim soon finds himself intrigued by the artist, particularly after Alex compares Karim to one of the characters in his paintings. After accepting an invite to his gallery opening, Karim pursues Alex down a path he’s not quite sure he’s ready for.
Crash and Burn Honey (Miss Inga Issues) (Director Dawid Ullgren)
Cimon is a senior care provider whose life is crumbling apart. Desperate, in need of cash, and facing possible eviction from his home, Cimon retreats into his drag persona, Miss Inga Issues. As Miss Inga, Cimon has the freedom to pursue whatever he dreams seemingly without consequence. However, when the parties, lovers, and alcohol all dry up, Cimon is still left with his stark reality.
Swedish writer and director Dawid Ullgren offers a bleak and intimate portrait of heartache over lost dreams and missed opportunities. Per Öhagen’s delivers a powerful performance, skillfully conveying the anger, pain, and love Cimon/Miss Inga Issues must feel.
Delivery Boy (Director Hugo Kenzo)
ChunHo is a take-out delivery boy working in Hong Kong. One of his most frequent deliveries, Eric, has caught his eye, but ChunHo has yet to work up the courage to speak to him about anything other than delicious pork and leek dumplings. However, a chance encounter on the street gives ChunHo just the opportunity he has been looking for, and he makes his move. Soon after, he’ll discover if taking the risk and following his heart is worth the reward.
Outdooring (Director Maxwell Addae)
Kobby and his lover Don concoct a plan to acquire a sum of money and run away from their families, who seem to be unaccepting of a gay relationship within the family. However, when Kobby attempts to carry out the plan he gets cold feet, putting his plans with Don at risk.
Engaging acting and expert cinematography drive this short story, making it a treat to watch in spite of a very anxiety-provoking climax to the story. Keith Machekanyanga shines with a very authentic performance.
The One You Never Forget (Director Morgan Jon Fox)
One of the shortest films in this year’s festival (just shy of 7 minutes before credit roll) also happens to be one of the sweetest. Set somewhere in suburbia, a young Carey finishes up his chores and prepares for his night at the prom. Meanwhile, his mother and father reminisce about their first formal dance together. Hearts swelling with pride, they are eager to send Carey off with his date. However, Carey knows his date isn’t exactly what Mom and Dad were expecting.
Morgan Jon Fox delivers a relatable and refreshing story in this award-winning short, packing plenty of heartfelt hope in a short span of time.
RUOK (Director Jay Russell)
Told almost entirely through text conversations, RUOK offers a glimpse into the lives of a couple modern gay men in New York. More specifically, best friends Alex (played by Peter Mark Kendall) and Bryan (played by Zachary Booth) are hashing out an argument over a man they both liked. Bryan is working hard to get back in Alex’s good graces, even if Alex still needs a little time to get over the disagreement. As Alex feverishly types text messages to Bryan, he also takes a few brief moments to swat away numerous potential lovers who are repeatedly contacting him through an online dating app.
Strangers (Director Jamieson Pearce)
A lovely entry from Australia, Strangers is a story that carefully weaves together themes of acceptance and the challenges of growing older. Adrienne (played by Angie Milliken) and Stewart (Jo Turner) are called into their mother’s retirement home for a discussion with the administrator and medical doctor on staff. Perplexed and worried for their mother, they soon discover this meeting is about a relationship she has formed with one of her fellow residents. Adrienne and Stewart are given an ultimatum and must determine how best to care for their ailing mother.
A touching drama, this short film puts the audience in the difficult space between providing the best care for an elderly parent, and ensuring that parent is able to feel happiness in their golden years.
Thomas Banks’ Quest for Love (Director Pip Kelly)
In this unique documentary, writer and journalist Thomas Banks offers an intimate glimpse of the challenges of being disabled and desiring a relationship with another man. The fourth of five children, Thomas Banks was born with cerebral palsy, which has understandably become off-putting to potential lovers. Turning his pain into art, Thomas wrote and produced a play about his own experiences seeking love.
Comprised primarily with present-day footage, filmmaker Pip Kelly provides an unflinching look at some of Thomas’ greatest challenges, from being understood properly on the phone, to being mistaken for someone who is deaf, or being assumed for a drunk in the club. Amazingly, in spite of all of his troubles, Thomas finds many reasons to hold his head up high.
Wonder (Director Javier Molina)
With Halloween fast approaching, Sammy (played by Benji Siegel) and his schoolmates are discussing costumes and other adolescent nonsense. When a glammed up drag queen crosses the street ahead of them, the kids start to tease and make fun of the notion of a man dressed like a woman. Except for Sammy, of course, who is incredibly intrigued by the idea. This chance encounter leads Sammy to construct his own Halloween costume – Wonder Woman – much to his father’s surprise.
Directed and Produced by Puerto Rican-born Javier Molina, Wonder manages to pack the full gambit of emotions in its 17-minute runtime. This charming film serves as a gentle reminder that it’s ok no matter what masks and costumes we might choose to wear.