Day 1 of Iris 2017!

A sell-out Education Day and Opening Night saw the 11th Iris Prize Festival starting with a bang!
To long-time Iris-goers and readers of this blog, here we are again. Another festival. The 11th, in fact, ten years - more or less - since we held the very first Iris Prize Festival, back when YouTube was mostly Buster Keaton movies and Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon. To newcomers, welcome. This is the Iris Blog, and this is what happened on Day 1 of Iris 2017. This year, for the first time ever, both the Education Day and our Opening Night Gala were fully booked. Cineworld - Iris's home for the next six days - was a bustling hive of activity for much of the morning and afternoon, with secondary school students from as far afield as Newcastle Emlyn (take our word for it, it's miles away) taking part in workshops and screenings, and learning about LGBT+ issues and storytelling from industry professionals. Later in the morning, it was my duty/privilege to shuttle Fawzia Mirza (co-writer and star of Signature Move) up to the BBC's Broadcasting House in Llandaff, where we were shoved in a soundproof cupboard for half an hour.  OK, actually, we were put in a studio so that Fawzia could be interviewed by BBC Asian Network, which you can listen to here. There was just about enough time for me to go home, get changed and neck a cup of coffee before the Opening Night festivities began. There, in a gala event hosted by Heno's Angharad Mair, we were treated to three short films, all screening out of competition. Giovanni Coda's powerful film Xavier looked at the personal life of French police officer Xavier Jugelé, shot dead by Islamist terrorists in Paris in April, 2017. From the brutal tragedies of the present day, we took a look back at the injustices - but also the emotional experiences - of the past in Bachelor, 38, in which filmmaker Angela Clarke interviewed Cardiff's very own Bryan Bale. In the film, Bryan recounts his experiences of life before the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts in 1967, and the relationship he had which spanned this time of change but which was cut short far too soon. Finally, something to make the spirits soar, with Côr Blimey, one of the films produced through Iris's outreach programme, with the support of Big Lottery Wales. This documentary followed the South Wales Gay Men's Chorus as they headed down west for the biennial Cornwall Male Voice Choir Festival. Obviously, I'm a tad biased, but tonight was my first time seeing the film, and it's heartwarming and funny and about as Welsh as a film can be. The perfect introduction to Iris, really. From there, we trotted through the atypical Cardiff drizzle to the neighbouring Park Inn Hotel, where there was music and drinks and lively conversation. There was hushed talk of the party moving on to the Eagle, but now that he's nearing his fortieth year, and with an early start looming on his alarm clock, this Iris Blogger decided to call it a night. Tomorrow, you'll be in the more than capable hands of Suri Mukherjee, who joined the team this year to do some amazing interviews with our guests and competing filmmakers for both the Iris Prize magazine and this blog. Suri, it's over to you!