Today I bring you my second round of reviews of the films I saw at the Iris Film Festival. My apologies to the filmmakers who are waiting patiently for my reviews. As you can see, I have my work cut out for me with each day progressing. I promise I’ll get them done as quickly as I possibly can! Without further a’do, here are my reviews!!
Short Films 4
Culture and chance encounters play a major part in the fourth programme of films shortlisted for the Iris Prize 2017, taking us from Norway and the Netherlands to the commuter trains of Mumbai.
Director: Halfdan Ullman Tondel
Time: 29 Mins
Plot: Fanny has moved back to her old hometown to begin studying at the local university, but when she struggles to bond with her fellow students she decides to seek out an old friendship.
Opinion: Fanny is a character we can all relate to since we’ve all been in her present position once or twice in our lives. We’ve all wanted to be loved, and we’ve all done it in the wrong situation and with the wrong person. Unrequited love is an incredibly painful feeling and is touched upon nicely in the film. I loved the ending where each character looked sad while laughter can be heard in the background. This touched upon the fact that everyone is going through something. Fanny isn’t alone. I thoroughly enjoyed the clubbing scene. The choice of music was perfect, and I loved the use of neon paint!
Director: Nish Gera
Time: 14 Mins
Plot: A casual hook-up takes an intimate turn when Sami, a Syrian refugee from Damascus, meets Johan. In the course of a single night in Amsterdam, the two men will confront some truths, and unsettling secrets, about the very different worlds they come from.
Opinion: I was blown away by the location they used. Amsterdam was the perfect place to shoot this film. I can still remember the silhouette at the end of the film. This was a very interesting story. The part I remember vividly was when Sami looked disgusted at the Drag Queen. You’re thinking why does he seem so repulsed but then you remember that he’s not used it. I didn’t even think about anything like that until I saw this film, it was an eye-opener for me.
Director: Faraz Ansari
Time: 15 Mins
Plot: Set on a bustling Mumbai commuter train, Sisak tells the touching story of a romance which develops slowly, through wordless gestures and universal expressions of affection between two strangers.
Opinion: This film blew everyone away!!! All shot in one location and with no script, this was an incredibly moving and powerful film. The message it was conveying was done delicately and with care. I’m more than happy to admit that I shed a tear or two. It’s hard to believe that homosexuality is illegal in India, I honestly can’t wrap my head around it, and this film is a solid piece for those whose stories never get told or ever get dialogue.
The Fish Curry
Director: Abhishek Verma
Time: 22 Mins
Plot: 28-year-old Lalit is about to come out, and a special occasion calls for a special dish – Maacher Jhol, a Bengali-style fish curry. But will Lalit’s curry be delicious enough to win the heart of someone special?
Opinion: This piece of animation was adorable! I loved the ending!! Did he accept him? Did he not? I believe that he didn’t. Hence the loud bang on the door, but then on the bus ride home, holding his dish of Maacher Jhol, he realizes his mistake. I loved the use of minimal colour. It made the vibrant primary colours stand out. We’ve all seen coming out films before, but this stands out to me as it was over-the-top. It wasn’t dramatic, but at the same time, it didn’t sugar-coat how hard it is.
Short Films 5
A short collection of films where the main protagonist is a woman. Programme five gave us an insightful look at the world of Drag Kings alongside three touching tales of teenage self-discovery.
Director: Laurel Parmet
Time: 7 Mins
Plot: Amanda, a 16-year-old girl, struggles with conflicting emotions and desires when she spends the afternoon taking intimate photos of her best friend Crystal.
Opinion: This was a short yet sweet film. They manage to pack so much emotion is such a tiny amount of time!! The audience and I were in fits of giggles. The actresses played their parts so well and conveyed the emotion of their characters beautifully. The actress who played Crystal is an absolute star!! She stole the whole movie.
Manly Stanley Takes New York
Director: Shelby Colby
Time: 22 Mins
Plot: London-born drag king Edythe Wolley – a.k.a Manly Stanley – walks us through her cabaret performance set, which utilizes misogynistic images from Old Hollywood films, footage from ‘designer vagina’ surgery documentaries, and genuine online vagina contests to offer a queer, feminist take on drag performance.
Opinion: I fell in love with this film, and I fell in love with Edythe and Manly Stanley. The beginning was all nice and fluffy but once that music kicked in, and the scene for the performance was set that was it, I was completely captivated. Can you believe young girls at the age of 14 are asking for ‘designer vaginas’?! I don’t even think I was looking that closely at my vagina at that age!! I had to pick my GCSE subjects!! New life goal – to see Manly Stanley perform live!!
Director: Graham Cantwell
Time: 22 Mins
Plot: Together, best friends Lily and Simon navigate the treacherous waters of school life, but when a misunderstanding with the beautiful and popular Violet leads to a vicious attack, Lily is faced with the greatest challenge of her young life.
Opinion: I felt this film was… slightly dramatic in places. Yes, it’s true things do get better but not in the span of a week. I also felt that it gave an unrealistic view of bullying too. They went from ‘let’s kill her’ to not being able to look her in the face. If that were real life, they wouldn’t have cared. I understand this is a work of fiction. However, I personally feel that if you’re going to portray a reality of some form then portray it all, no filter. Those bullies would’ve carried on bullying her regardless of whether she stuck up for herself. Saying that, it’s a great film and definitely a must for those who are struggling. I could’ve done without that mother though.
Director: Liying Mei
Time: 25 Mins
Plot: China, 1997, 11-year-old Qingqing embarks on a journey of self-discovery when she begins investigating her mother’s close relationship with a female friend. What she learns brings into question everything she thought she knew about her family, life, and love.
Opinion: The children in this film were endearing!! I fell in love with them!! When the girls started talking about what periods are and describe it as ‘eating and sleeping,’ I know for a fact that every woman in the audience was howling. Such naive precious angels up on screen!! The use pastel colour set the tone of the film perfectly. It was soo vibrant and aesthetically pleasing to look at. I would like to know though why it was set in 1997. That seems like a random year to pick. I’m intrigued as to why!!
Short Film 6
In the sixth programme of shorts, the focus was on aging and tensions between desire and duty, with everything from expletive-ridden comedy to a thoughtful meditation on family and religion.
Director: Danny DeVito
Time: 17 Mins
Plot: Robin visits her curmudgeonly, foul-mouthed grandpa Ralph in the nursing home where he lives, but what should have been a routine call takes a surprising turn with the arrival of Ralph’s wheelchair-bound (and equally sharp-tongued) lover Jackie.
Opinion: This film had the whole audience in absolute stitches!! Everyone was laughing from beginning to end. Curmudgeons was the funniest film at the whole festival. Not only was it funny, but it was sad and touching too. Mr. DeVito managed to pack so much emotion in his film in such a short time frame. The film showed that love can happen to you at any point in your life and that itself gave me such comfort.
Director: Uriya Hertz
Time: 20 Mins
Plot: Michael is a charismatic and much-admired rabbi at a Jerusalem Yeshiva. When his favourite student, Gadi, shares with him his innermost secrets. Michael’s familiar, secure world comes into question.
Opinion: Very interesting film and the chemistry between the two actors were on point. This was one of the other films I enjoyed where they used a minimal amount of colour, mainly brown and white as well as blue. I would love to see this as a feature film. It has the potential to continue further than what we’ve already seen.
Odd Job Man
Director: Marianne Blicher
Time: 22 Mins
Plot: The story of an older man who gets fired from his job and is promptly left by his wife. His search for new opportunities takes him into a sparkling and colourful world of drag queens and cabaret, but does he dare to seize the moment and pursue a dusty dream.
Opinion: This made it to the top 3 Iris Prize finals, and I can definitely see why. I do love it at the beginning where we constantly saw it from the viewpoint of our protagonist. I also love the use of dull colour. It made the lilac of his dress stand out so much more. The film stood out for me because of the subject matter. The storyline was refreshing and interesting. This is another film that I believe has the potential to be a full feature.
Director: Brendon McDonall
Time: 16 Mins
Plot: A lifelong friendship is under siege when two mature Australian men visit the monolithic dam that defined their young lives and are confronted by his feelings that were impounded long ago, but cannot be contained any longer.
Opinion: I love Australian cinema, and I absolutely love their style of humour, so this was an immediate hit for me!! It was touching and loving with such a beautiful story, and yet it was a slight tear jerker too. I did cry I have no problem admitting that. Such a sweet, heartfelt ending. If you want a good weep, then I suggest this film.
British Short Films 1
This was the first batch of best British shorts we were shown. The first programme of films competing offered four different takes on gender, family, and parenting.
Director: Rowyn Mottershead
Time: 8 Mins
Plot: A documentary short focused on the lives of transgender and non-binary young adults, the emotions, and experiences they go through during the process of transition, and the impact this has on their everyday lives.
Option: A documentary and a very interesting one at that. The young adults featured were very nicely spoken and were completely honest. They were themselves and very relaxed in front of the camera. This is the type of film that I would show as part of sex education in school. It’s informative and educational. It’ll help those who identify with these young adults.
Where We Are Now
Director: Lucie Rachel
Time: 9 Mins
Plot: 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.
Opinion: I love the fact the interview is being shown to us over their everyday lives. I do love the fact that we got to saw a glimpse of their reality while still listening to their stories. Even though their lives must’ve been tough, it did have a happy ending. I felt the music did not suit the film because, to me, it wasn’t a sad film, but they used very sad music.
Sununu: The Revolution of Love
Director: Olivia Crellin
Time: 23 Mins
Plot: Trans dad Fernando Machado became an international news sensation when he announced that he was pregnant by his transgender girlfriend, Diane Rodriguez. This film offers an intimate portrayal of this remarkable couple and their six-week-old baby as they balance parenthood and political activism in Ecuador.
Opinion: I remember reading this story, and I found slightly triggering on a personal level. As a female who may not be able to have children (or will find it hard to), reading in the newspaper about a man who was pregnant was… tough. I’m not going to lie it was tough. However, now that I’ve seen this documentary I realized maybe I’m just bitter. It’s a very interesting documentary, and it’s not all about high’s, they show us the low too. They both lead such interesting lives, and the way the newspapers and news anchors were talking about it was actually disgusting!
An (un)Natural Birth
Director: Laura Kingwell
Time: 16 Mins
Plot: Laura and Mairi are searching for a sperm donor, but with only a handful of registered donors available in the UK they must select one online from the European Sperm Bank. Laura seeks guidance from the other women in her life, her mother and friends. Would they have chosen a father based solely on an online profile? And which would they prioritize; looks, intelligence, mental health or personality?
Opinion: These two were naturally funny, but I felt at the very very beginning… they might’ve been trying too hard, but I do mean the first minute of the film. At one point (and it’s unfortunate this stuck with me) but one of the ladies was eating toast and… chewing. I’m one of those people that could easily slap someone for chewing loudly, and this was no exception. It was painful to listen to. I do love the mixture of reality and script too, and I do love the fact this story had a happy ending!