FILM REVIEW: Iris Prize shorts Part 1 – Queer Youth

Brian Butler November 14, 2022

The 15 short British films from this year’s prestigious Iris Prize LGBTQ+ film festival are now available free on Channel 4’s All 4 platform.

In my first look, I watched six shorts under the banner of Queer Youth.

From Northern Ireland, Homebird is about the awkward reunion of a Gay son and father, when Conor returns home after having left with his then boyfriend. It’s moody, with a kind of grieving atmosphere and there’s comedy in the awkwardness of father and son, as Conor’s family try to adjust to his new life. There’s a painful gulf but signs of hope.

Piss Witch is a clever juxtaposition of a folk tale about a local old woman, who can allegedly urinate over the church wall and a blossoming girl with ever-growing breasts, which she is hugely self-conscious about. Her mother’s attitude is: ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’. The implication is that the girl in question – Clare – clearly feels she is the wrong gender. When she’s repeatedly stalked she takes drastic if slightly funny action – as the title implies. We’re given a play on the word Whizzer – which means both breasts and someone who urinates. It’s a story that leaves you wanting more.

Keep Off The Grass is about a young footballer, Sonny, who denies his queerness, but has a sudden attraction to another male player. It’s a tightly-told story of coming out, denial and identity. Sonny’s younger brother knows the truth and supports him and the film’s closing moments are a queer affirmation that works well.

The Welsh film Nant was to me a puzzlement. It mixes mythic folklore with a cross-dressing boy Dion, who sings falsetto in a small choir in Snowdonia and is constantly humiliated and abused by his fellow choristers. When a stranger appears, there is further turmoil. A clearer exposition would have helped but it’s intriguing.

Silence features Joseph, who spends his nights away from home creating huge graffiti artworks. In a derelict building he finds a girl practising ballet, and he’s hooked – acquiring a full-length practice mirror. It’s a kind of mixed heritage Billy Elliott tribute, but there are complications when his irate father finds him pirouetting. It has a brilliant ending where ballerina and boy dance a stunning pas de deux to funk music. CBBC and Blue Peter presenter Kai Joseph Keenan-Felix is outstanding as the boy dancer and clearly has a great future in both acting and dance

Fluorescent Adolescent is set in England in 1987, we’re told. Brittany has found herself a gay friend, a boy called Faras, but this is treated with open hostility and ignorance by her mother, who is brandishing the recently-published government leaflet about the dangers of AIDS. In the end there’s a reconciliation of sorts and Faras is allowed to visit, knowing of course that Brittany is gay too. It’s an endearing story that could go further.

All of the Iris shorts are on All 4, thanks to a three-year deal with Channel 4. Full details here. 

Next time I look at a second compilation: Lonely Hearts.