Best Of Iris Prize (Shorts)

irisWhere We Are Now: A personal insight into the changing relationship between a young woman and her transgender parent. Looking back, they share their individual experiences of coming out and begin to consider what the future might hold for their family now the decision to transition has been made.

Iris 2Sunday Morning Coming Down: It’s 1994, the apex of Britpop culture and the advent of the Premier League, and Max is searching for his tribe. On a Sunday morning, he journeys to Hastings with his twin brother Jordan. But will the decaying seaside resort offer up what Max is looking for? They didn’t look like twins and I doubt that a straight guy would guard a glory hole.

Sunday Morning Coming Down is a long name for a short film. The producers advised the writer to shorten it, but he’s a stubborn young mule.  For now, the shorthand is SMCD.

The name is pinched from the Johnny Cash song that Max – the protagonist – plays in the car while his peeved brother Jordan drives him down to the coastal town of Hastings.  Why the road trip?  Because it’s 1994, years before You’ve Got Mail lit the trail towards Grindr and Tinder, and Max is sexually frustrated.

What happened as a fledgling homosexual when dating sites weren’t at your fingertips?  Max’s answer: head to the nearest glory hole*.

This film aims to move away from conventional queer-teen narratives with isolated protagonists and high drama “coming out” scenes. Instead, SMCD centres on how Jordan is made complicit in Max’s sexual exploration through accompanying him, and the effect this has on the brothers’ relationship.  The appeal of the glory hole is wrapped up in issues of insecurity and the preservation of anonymity. It’s a potent site for exploring the fears that persist after coming out, and provides an original, shocking climax to the film.

 Wolves: Teenager Josh lives alone with his father in a remote corner of the British countryside. Their relationship is strained, and Jfsh spends much of his time exploring the nearby woods, but his life takes an unexpected turn when he meets a mysterious boy, wearing nothing but his underwear, shivering with cold and unable to speak.

Rink: Tomboy Jane is visiting her local ice rink with best friend Alfie when she spots her crush, Leanne. Can she pluck up the courage to speak to her? And what will Leanne’s brother say if she does?

Iris3Sununu: The Revolution of Love: The desire to start a family against all odds puts one couple to the test as they face international scrutiny for their unconventional circumstances. This film shows the challenges they face being trans activists in the public eye while also becoming new parents.

Trans dad Fernando Machado became an international news sensation when he announced that he was pregnant by his transgender girlfriend Diane Rodriguez. Sununfi: The Revolution of Love offers an intimate portrayal of this remarkable couple and their six-week-old baby as they balance parenthood and political activism in Ecuador.

This film is an intimate and touching portrayal of a couple getting to grips with parenthood while they challenge complex ideas of gender roles. With exclusive access to the new family in its earliest days, we see how this remarkable duo balance parenting with a career in activism.

Iris 4Fay Presto: Queen of the Close-Up: A documentary portrait of the legendary Fay Presto; the UK’s most in-demand close-up and cabaret magician, who would rather die on stage than quit performing.

Influencing hundreds of magicians and making way for women in the magic world, (I didn’t know that women couldn’t join The Magic Circle until 25 years ago.) in  Fay’s humour and brilliance have led her to perform for the Queen on six separate occasions as well as doing private magic shows in countless of celebrities’ homes. Now as she passes her 70th birthday, Fay reflects on gender roles and aging, and tries to make dark thoughts of retirement and death vanish, meanwhile doing a workshop for would-be magicians and astonishing the diners at the iconic London restaurant, The Langan’s brasserie.

Perhaps Fay’s best magic trick was turning herself from Letitia Winter, a transgender woman, into Fay Presto, fabulous on-stage magician – and then making that transformation disappear from her life as an entertainer. It’s invisible in this documentary as well, though keen-eyed viewers might spot a few clues are hidden here and there.

Director Statement: As one of the first female magicians in an otherwise male-dominated field, she is nationally recognised for introducing the thrill of close-up magic to a UK audience in the 1970s. At the time, magic was typically presented on stage but Fay revolutionised the art form, bringing it into restaurants and performing her tricks in immediate proximity to guests.

When I first heard about Fay I immediately felt that she would be a great character for a documentary. Not only has she built and maintained an incredibly successful career but she is also widely admired for her cheeky humour and colourful personality.

Fay has long been suspicious towards journalists and it was difficult for me as a filmmaker to gain access when I first approached her. Throughout the years, she has experienced a lot of prejudices and the media has often pushed for stories relating to her gender – rather than exploring her remarkable journey as a magician. I wanted to make an honest and respectful portrait of Fay Presto without exploiting her or turning her life story into sensationalism. Therefore this documentary never forces Fay to defend her right to be a woman. It is time to look beyond gender!

Bearable: What if your tribe within the gay community defined you? What if the labels we attach to ourselves were literal? What if you lived with an actual bear? Imagine going shopping!  It’s online here.

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