09 October 2017

The Iris Prize: ‘Gay Oscars’ celebrate stories from the world over in Wales.

Iris Prize sign in Cineworld foyer

The Iris Prize, Cardiff by 
Wales is a thriving hub of culture which continues to grow and evolve year and year. And artistic kudos aside the sector is also generating some pretty big business. According to Trade and Invest, the creative industries in Wales employ around 50,000 people, generating an impressive £1.6 billion in annual turnover and playing host to a number of productions including Sherlock, Dr Who, Harry Potter and Jurassic World II.  

The Iris Prize Festival combines this vibrant creative atmosphere with that famous warm and inclusive Welsh attitude. The world renowned LGBT+ film festival is held every autumn in Wales’ capital city, showcasing and celebrating the LGBT+ community and film making.

Now in its 11th year, Iris is internationally recognised as the perfect launch-pad for filmmakers wishing to tell LGBT+ stories on the big screen. The festival also offers £30,000 to the best filmmaker to create their next film in Wales, in partnership with the Iris Prize producers. 

The 2017 Iris Prize Festival takes place over six days in Cardiff from 10 - 15 October, offering ticketholders entry to a number of different film screenings (of both short films and feature films), talks and even a carnival. 

Andrew Pierce, Michael Sheen and Berwyn Rowlands standing together

Andrew Pierce, Michael Sheen and Berwyn Rowlands by 
Berwyn Rowlands, Festival Director, is sure that this year will deliver the biggest Iris Prize Festival yet. So what is there to look forward to?

"Iris is first and foremost a facilitator for more LGBT+ voices in film. That will always be our main concern, and our audiences know that, which is one of the reasons they travel from far and wide to be here. 40 per cent of people who attend Iris are not from the local area - and half of that 40 per cent aren't from the UK. Our international reach grows year after year, so aside from the incredible films, Iris also offers a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere for everyone", says Berwyn. 

And which films should we look out for in particular? Berwyn says: "My top three picks would be 'Rift', which is a gripping ghost story short film from Iceland, 'Prom King, 2010', which is a classically cinematic coming of age story from the USA, and 'Teenage Kicks', an Australian film about a family tragedy. These films aren't only beautifully crafted, they're also incredibly diverse, which shows the scope of what we screen at the festival." 

A man bleeding from a head wound

A still from 'Rift', Iris Prize, Cardiff by 
Iris Prize alumni are treated as family, and often return to the festival to introduce their latest work, or take a seat on the judging panel. It is important to the organisers that the audiences are wholly included in this experience, and therefore they are always welcome to converse with the filmmakers. It is the perfect atmosphere for a film buff.

Thinking of the festival's proudest moments, Berwyn names one film that is particularly memorable: "Burger was a short film that was, in a way, a love letter to Cardiff. It came from a Norwegian director called Magnus Mork and chronicled the twilight hour of a typical Cardiff night out, in the middle of a burger bar. It was the first Iris production to win an award at Sundance, and has been shown all over the world. It was a wonderful film to be a part of."

A woman standing in the street

A still from 'Burger', Iris Prize, Cardiff by 
So why does Berwyn think of Wales as the perfect country to host an LGBT+ film festival?

"Our current strapline is 'What will you see in Cardiff?', as we wanted to highlight the wonderful atmosphere the city offers to its visitors. There's more than enough choice, but it's compact enough to be friendly and easily navigated. It is vibrant, perfectly formed and everywhere is accepting, not only the LGBT+ establishments. Also, it's a well known fact that the Welsh are very friendly, so that's always a plus!"

The full festival programme is available on the Iris Prize website.