It’s one of those “Phone, wristwatch, wallet” mornings (i.e. checking the bedside table to make sure all three made it home), which must mean it’s now Day 2 of Iris and that Day 1 ended way too late.
As mentioned in the previous post, the bulk of Day 1 was taken up by Iris’s Education Day, which this year saw six schools participate, including one (Ysgol David Hughes) who travelled almost 200 miles from Anglesey (picture Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but with more elves*) just to join us. I took part in one of the earlier sessions, alongside sound engineer Adam Chestnutt and writer/director/producer Rachel Dax.
Ysgol David Hughes’ presence was particularly special for Iris supremo Berwyn Rowlands, as it was the school that he went to as a teenager. As he said, in his speech before the opening night film, the idea that his secondary school might take a busload of students to an LGBT film festival would have seemed like a bizarre fantasy when he was a student, way back in the 19**s.
Berwyn’s a teensy bit older than this blogger, but I imagine the same could be said of my school or almost anyone’s over the age of 20. It was a reminder, if it were needed, of just how far we’ve come in the UK not just since homosexual acts were decriminalized in 1967, but in the 8 years since the very first Iris festival, even if we still have very far to go when it comes to tackling the bullying of LGBT youngsters.
As someone who grew up in a country where rugby is more or less the national religion, it also felt like something of a watershed that the opening night film was introduced by the Welsh Rugby Union’s head of communications, John Williams. His speech, in which he stressed the WRU’s commitment to supporting LGBT rights and stamping out discrimination and prejudice in the sport, is not something I would ever have imagined hearing when I was the last person to be picked for the team as a teenager, back in the days when the internet was in black and white.
The opening film, Scrum, was a beautifully shot documentary about gay rugby team the Sydney Convicts’ bid to win the prestigious Bingham Cup on their home turf. Focused mainly on only a handful of the Convicts’ players, some of whom joined us here in Cardiff, the film offers a surprisingly tender take on that most brutal of sports. And anyone who left the cinema without a soft spot for Irish player Pearse Egan quite frankly needs some sort of professional help.
After the film we hotfooted it up the escalators to Cineworld’s Bafta bar, where we were greeted by an Astroturf green carpet, a giant goalposts made out of balloons, and lots and lots of wine. Then it was over to The Eagle for “extra time”, i.e. more drinks… and this is where things start going a bit fuzzy. I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything inappropriate, but won’t know for certain until I tiptoe into Cineworld in about an hour’s time.
I had the honour of being on the pre-selection jury for this year’s Iris Prize, and so I’ve seen around half of the short films in the competition. Programme 1 contains a couple of my favourites, and – in Tits on a Bull – what is without doubt the best title of any film to ever feature at Iris.
And now, before returning to the fray, I’m going to reward myself with a bacon sandwich for writing an entire rugby-based blog post without making a single joke about men with oddly shaped balls.
* – There are no elves in Anglesey