Spotlight on Iris Prize Film Festival 2021

Brian Butler September 18, 2021

The Iris Prize LGBTQ+ Film Festival has unveiled its full programme celebrating global diversity and including international short films competing for its £ 30,000 Iris Prize, which is supported by the Michael Bishop Foundation.

Nineteen countries, including Iran, Brazil, The Philippines, Bulgaria and South Korea are represented. Feature films include Todd Stephens’ Swan Song, and  Bruce La Bruce’s Saint-Narcisse, as well as the stunning documentary Rebel Dykes.

As well as live screenings the festival promises music workshops, panel discussions and even exciting food options. Now in its 15th year the festival runs from 5-10 October and online until 31 October. Scene magazine is taking part in a session asking “ do we need film critics ?” And we’ll be covering some of the week’s key screenings.

There are also 15 filmmakers nominated for the Best British Short Film prize, supported by Film4 and Pinewood Studios. This year the gender balance of makers is 50/50 and includes Trans and Non-Binary individuals. Hove-based Channel 4 senior executive Tim Highsted is chair of the judging panel. He told me: “ The first year of the Iris Best British Shorts, sponsored byFilm 4 and still available to watch on All4, has been a resounding success. And I can’t wait to see this year’s new line-up at the festival to be reminded of the singular talent working in British short films”.

Screenings will be in the Chapter and also for the first time at Premiere Cinemas in the heart of Cardiff’s Queer night-life. Iris Director Berwyn Rowlands told me: “ This year’s festival offers those who are ready to re-connect and meet like-minded people to watch amazing films in person a lot of choice”. But he also said that last year’s online access will continue for those not yet ready to meet face to face.

I watched a couple of trailers to sample what’s on offer. Saint-Narcisse is a gloriously sinister movie starring Canadian actor Felix Antoine-Duval playing identical twins, separated at birth and unaware of their past history until their meeting creates – well watch it to find out.

Swan Song, stars legendary German actor Udo Kier and Dynasty diva Linda Evans, alongside Michael Urie. A retired flamboyant hairdresser is paid to give one last hair-do to a dead woman. It’s outrageously funny.

The UK documentary Rebel Dykes offers a celebration of a punk Lesbian collective, who fought for LGBTQ+ rights in the 1970’s and 80’s, taking in the peace camp at Greenham Common and the abseiling into the House of Lords .The film will be the centrepiece of a day of related activities.

Other films that caught my eye were: Lara Zeldan’s new short A Beautiful Form To See, which celebrates the female body, and Matthew David’s Skinny Fat which looks at a Gay man who confronts his belly fat in a shop changing room, reigniting memories of his abusive past relationship. It also features Welsh acting icon Ruth Madoc.

The full programme and ticket information is at