The Iris Prize has been running since 2007 and each years showcases an internationally diverse selection of LGBTQ+ centres of cinema, with many previous winners going on to garner widespread critical acclaim; The Wilding (Grant Scicluna), Black Hat (Sara Smith) and Pariah (Dees Rees) have all one the prestigious award.
The audience favourite category of the prize rewards films that have won over their audiences, not necessarily the critics. This year’s programme was no different. The event featured three short films; Thrive (Jamie di Spirito), Wings (Jamie Weston) and On My Way (Sonam Larcin). The small and intimate screening room at Brighton’s Electric Arcade was the perfect place to observe the cinematic talents of these directors, and was surprisingly but pleasingly empty during this particular event.
On My Way was the first film to be shown, a emotional and heartbreaking case study of the trials and tribulations of being gay in the 21st century, On My Way tackles these issues through three characters who are all on very different journeys with their sexuality. Director Sonam Larcin has produced short films before, most notably After the Silence, but this outing feels like his finest. The merits of On My Way do not lie solely in its subtly gut wrenching plot, the score and cinematography have an overtly sensory focus, with the rustling of trodden leaves and the whipping of wind against a sheet metal caravan feeling completely immersive.
Perhaps unfairly overshadowed by its predecessor Wings, Jamie Westons, montage heavy lesbian love story tells the story of two lovers; separated by families and society who reunite later in life. Whilst the films premise is touching and the mis en scene of first half resoundingly impresses, as time goes on the cinematic and narrative elements of this film, much like its characters, grow old. The resulting effect is a picture that feels more like an emotional bank advert than an award winning short film. However, the expectedly superb performances from Miriam Margolyes and Virginia McKenna do go some way to redeem Wings flaws.
The premise of Thrive is simple, two men meet through a Grindr hookup and inadvertently explore what it means to be HIV positive. Topical and thoughtful, Jamie di Spirito tenderly tells a story that is hopefully becoming more common within the gay community, one about open and honest discussion about issues such as HIV and AIDS. The understated but exceptional performances from the films lead’s, Taofique Folarin and Fleabag’s Ben Aldridge are Thrives most successful element but the narratives bold tackling of the stigma and shame surrounding HIV are highly commendable.
From Gscene contrubitor GEORGE PIZANI