Review: Iris Prize Festival - Day #4
Iris Prize Festival
Chapter Arts Centre & Cineworld, Cardiff
Saturday 12th October 2013
Alright, this is a long review. I’ll admit that. But to be fair, there is a lot to discuss of a hectic and final day of films.
Although I was disappointed to leave before the world premier of Vampires: Lucas Rising on day three, as it turns out no one really got to see it. The film had technical problems twenty minutes in, then started at the beginning again then stopped after thirty minutes. As far as I know, there was sadly no rescheduling for it. It appears to have been left behind.
The last two sets of shorts contained some of the best films in the entire festival. We would be at both Chapter and Cineworld, with audiences splitting up into the gay male choice of film or the lesbian choice in the evening. But for most of the day we remained at Chapter. The first short was called Dirty Talk by Jeff Sumner and is the first film seen on the Iris Prize 2013 Trailer. Nathan (played by Sumner) is telling his friend Zach in a restaurant about a bizarre one night stand he had with a Latino hunk.
This is arguably the funniest short out of the lot. The Americans this year have certainly made some films for us to giggle over. This film is made perfect by the quartet of male actors who each add their own humour and comic timing to the piece. The waiter alone was enough to have me in knocks of laughter, making me lose my breath.
The only Irish film seen this year was Barry’s Bespoke Bakery, whipped up by Denis McCardle. We see two bakers in a pristine bakery, both trying to top each other on the design and panache of their creations. It turns out they are both to be married to each other and the cake they are making is for themselves. A sweet and charming Chocolat-type short, with a somewhat schmaltzy ending. There is much money (or pink pound if you will) to be made in gay weddings if people can bring themselves to comprehend that.
For Dorian is a masterpiece, if ever I’ve seen one. Rodrigo Barriuso has handled the subject of disability with such care and attention, it made for a refined work which shows us the other side of homosexuality. Dorian has Down Syndrome and his father is becoming more aware of his son’s fascination with the handsome weatherman and a friend he frequently goes out with. After all, if the father can deal with his disability (like any great father would), then his son’s sexuality really shouldn’t be that big of deal. Perhaps it’s just the fact he is on the cusp of sexually activity that gets to the father the most. Both actors deliver such honest and warming performances, the bond seeps off the screen. Most certainly an Oscar for Best Short Film. A revelation.
A clip from The First Date ends the Iris trailer, with the two ladies going in for a kiss, only for one of them to sneeze in the others face. This delightsome little flick by Janella Lacson (who was here for the event) is a pretty true portrayal of going on a first date. Do you shake hands or hug? Do you mention a second meet up? Should you even talk about it with somebody else? You root for these characters to get together, since they make such an adorable couple.
It was a day or two before that the thought occurred to me if Iris had ever had a Cardiffian film-maker in the festival. This was answered by photographer Jay Bedwani, who now lives in California (we don’t blame him for that, just envy him). My Mother is his first film and is a documentary about Gustavo, who recounts his childhood and growing up as transgender (or a drag queen, I never know which one to say).
This is a telling portrait of a fascinating person who appears to have a heart of gold. We hope to see more from Jay. Speaking to him at the Full Moon bar that night, he reassured me how easy it can be to make a film. With no budget and a great subject, he has proven and inspired me to consider making some more films. For that, I am immensely grateful.
The very last set packed in six staggering shorts. I can firmly say that The Language Of Love by Laura Scrivano was the most imitate and therefore theatrical of all the film miniatures. Charlie an Australian schoolboy is sitting his French examination. During this time he realises that he is in love with his best friend, Sam. With a pretty decent monologue, this telling tale of young love is warm-hearted and a trip back to school for all of us. Not one you would always want to go back to. But sometimes the memories of school are so potent, you simply can’t ignore themâ€¦
Fatima, one of the other films makers was telling me her girlfriend had produced the next film. Tim Marshall should be very proud of Gorilla. It's miles away in content from the other films. This film has something I truly love. An Australian gay couple go camping for the weekend to observe the stars and take in the glories of nature. They encounter a European female backpacker who joins them for some time.
This is the classic and perhaps sexist look at ‘women as threat’, since one of the guys is very unsure of her. But one night we see what she truly is and it’s quite a spectacle to say the least. She approaches the doubting guy and they briefly share a moment or two. Nothing sexual and yet the other guy in the relationship mistakes it for that. With the music homage to Steve Reich, this is one of my firm favourites and a treat to watch. If you can find a way to watch this, please do so.
Alex Bohs’ Finding Franklin started off unsure and with no speech, but became a pleasurable and nostalgic trip back a few decades. After the death of her grandfather, Violet is left with mementoes, but also a mystery: Who is this Franklin? It turns out to be the lover of her grandfather and she seeks him out. They meet and talk about how they met and became a couple (not a word on the nan though).
We see their relationship blossom on golden sepia tones and old vintage cameras. It created a marvellous and lamentable atmosphere of times gone by. The young couple were gorgeous and made a button of a duo. My tears were really true and I could perhaps relate to this (love conquers age). This felt like the underdog of the festival. I didn’t want to forget this film since so much other good work was flying about. This too is also a recommendation of mine.
France was next with its only selection of Social Butterfly. Lauren Wolkstein’s short could easily be a chunk out of a larger film. A thirty-year-old American woman is at a teenage party in the south of France. Without knowing a word of French, she goes about stealing whatever she can get her hands on, only for one of the teenagers to approach her. I can say I enjoyed this, even if others didn’t. She is the type of character who is both fascinating and destructive.
The girl sussing her out after some very intimate moments of virginity lost and swimming pool antics. Draft Day by Josh Kim was the last documentary. In Thailand all males have a sort of lottery to determine who goes into the army. This includes the transgender male-to-females. I was unsure of this. Did it prove its point? How people reacted good and bad to going into the army was puzzling. I think some more research is in orderâ€¦
Last and in no ways least, Blake Pruitt’s 20MALEGAYNYC was for me a revelation. It was just what the name says. Gay men talking very openly about other gay men. It proved fascinating viewing. I found myself nodding and agreeing on frequent occasions. It’s reassuring to know that the insecurities and frustrations of being homosexual are shared by other men and not just myself. For one of the guys to say, "When two gay men meet and are in front of each other, they instantly hate each other". This blew my mind and is not far from the truth. Not all of the time of course.
These and more are the type of concerns I am intent on putting in future gay-related articles. Speaking to Blake on the blasting dance floor at Full Moon (I pick the worst places to speak to people), I spoke of how truthful his film was and was nearly tempted to hug him as thanks. I truly appreciate his work and hope to see more of his output and would love to see him again. He thinking of doing a UK equivalent and of course, me being me, I have expressed my interest to be in itâ€¦
Having missed Two Mothers because I wanted to have seconds of the chilli for lunch, I would also miss Margarita that night (I’ll try for a review of both of these in the future). This was because the later clashed with Five Dances at Cineworld. It’s a shame these two films were on at the same time, since I was so intent on seeing everything.
For me, Five Dances was the best feature. Even as I write this now, I tear up at the thought of this film. Chip, a budding dancer (with buns of steel) is homeless in New York and is involved in a dance trope. His mother wants him back home in the Midwest, but he has to stay in the big city. This is a film for dance lovers (it could also make a great play), which is me included. Ryan Steele gave this his all in movement and performance. You felt very sorry for him and only wanted the best to happen to him with his tumultuous dancing skills.
Reed Luplau as Theo didn’t match up to this. His accent was a curious one and I never would have thought he and the character are supposed to be Australian. He was much less engaging and made for a poor partner for our little Chip (but it was splendid to see them together in a happy ending). I never cry in a sex scene (unless it’s a rape of course *cough*), but here it was dealt with the most sensitivity and sensuality that it was hard not to bawl. As I left the cinema for the millionth time, I said the film was like ‘taking a vacationâ€¦’ I still stand by that statement.
And so, to send us on our way, Bruno And Earlene Go To Vegas was the last feature and film on Saturday (the next day’s repeated films would be the selected view who win awards). Simon Savory has given us a slow-burning, far out road movie. It took a while to kick in and then made for delectable viewing. All parts of LGBT and more were incorporated in the movie and it’s pleasant to see a film-maker combine all of us together. With a jewelled soundtrack, it’s not so much the story, but rather the journey Bruno, Earlene and the gang, go on that makes for a compulsive trip (as should all road movies be).
With some body shock elements and a great lead pairing, this film had great charm and pathos, leading to a positive conclusion that was hard not to fall into and rejoice for all the characters. There is nothing wrong with a happy ending. Misery loves company, but I think in today’s world our sprits do need to be lifted as much as possible (Teens Like Phil certainly a depressing start to the shorts). Again, speaking to Savory in the club, I spoke of how great I thought it was and how it grew on me. ‘Like a rash?’ he added to my amusement. The film is out next year and should be watched by all. I know I will see it again.
With the post screening party at Hell’s Bent at the Full Moon club that night, the least said about me there the betterâ€¦
Shorts Programme 5 Rating: 8/10
Shorts Programme 5 Favourite: For Dorian
Shorts Programme 6 Rating: 9/10
Shorts Programme 6 Favourites: Gorilla & 20MALEGAYNYC (I simply couldn’t chose between them)
Five Dances Rating: 9/10
Bruno And Earlene Go To Vegas Rating: 8/10
Overall Rating: 9/10
Photo Credit: Iris Prize