Films offering light relief were hard to come by at this year’s Iris Prize, according to its director.
The Iris Prize is the world’s largest LGBTQ+ short film award, showcasing a variety of short films and feature films each year.
However, its director, Berwyn Rowland, said it was difficult to find films for the light relief category this year.
The Iris Prize winner was announced on Saturday night as “Scaring Women at Night” by Karimah Zakia Issa.
The film is the first-ever winner from Canada and was described by the award’s jury as a “well-made short film with a unique perspective that is rarely explored in LGBTQ+ storytelling.”
Rowland congratulated her, saying, “At Iris, we always value great storytelling, and I’m glad we can celebrate this.”
Before the announcement, Rowlands had said, “There are groups within the LGBTQ+ family whose lives are not as good as they should be.
“I was talking to Seth, who is responsible for the program, and he included all the short films in different programs. And I said, ‘Oh, where’s the joy?’ And there was silence.”
Rowland said the festival is an “opportunity to gauge what filmmakers want to talk about” and that the current state of affairs is “quite serious.”
But he said joy and tragedy can be combined.
“An example is ‘It’s a Sin’ by Russell T Davies, which is a story about AIDS from the perspective of young people and those affected during that terrible period. But there is something strange and joyful in it as well.”
Tilly Robba and Steph Jowett, directors of “Single: Meat Cutes,” showcased their animated short film in the light relief category.
Their film tells the story of three roommates going on three different dates.
“We always talk about how when we were teenagers, there were a lot of films and TV shows out there that killed off lesbian or bisexual characters,” they said.
“I think it’s very important to acknowledge the queerness and tragedy in the queer community and sadness. But I think you also need enlightenment in terms of representation because we are human, things have many facets.”
Heartstoppers Euros Lyn, who directed the popular Netflix series “Heartstopper,” said in a conversation at the Iris Prize Festival that there is room for strange stories to be both tragic and joyful.
“There are many stories about queer people suffering, going to hell and coming back,” he said.
“Heartstopper shows falling in love with someone of the same sex or the opposite sex is the most natural thing in the world.
“You can express something more optimistic and fun, which in its own way can express the truth.”
Steve Anthopoulos, director of “My Summer in the Human Resistance,” a strange science fiction short film, said his early drafts were much darker.
“When there was a tragedy at the end of the much earlier and different version, a friend of mine gave me some good advice to be kind to gay people,” he said.
He said that the unusual joy for him means that everything “doesn’t have to be too serious, traumatic, or important.”
Lorena Russi, director of “History of Sitting in Waiting Rooms,” said strange stories often have darker themes.
“All these strange films are hyper-sexual, very painful… a lot of drugs, very dark,” she said.
Her short film tells the story of an immigrant who grows up with the help of her friend, a ghost.
“I just really wanted to make a film where the characters would never kiss.”