DAY 2: Reviews of the First International Shorts Screened

Suri Mukherjee reviews three of the international shorts screened on Day 2 of the festival.
I hope you had a fabulous time getting to know some of our many fantastic filmmakers, actors and writers with the Iris Interviews. It was merely a warm-up - an appetiser to prepare you for the main course. Now that the festival is surging forward in all it’s glory, let’s focus on what we’re here for - films. Presenting: the Iris Reviews. Wednesday saw the first of the competing international short films. Regrettably, I didn't manage to catch all of them, but here are some of the ones I did see: Half a Life Taking its title from a poem by Khalil Gibran, this documentary explores LGBT+ rights in Egypt. The protagonist is followed through the city of Cairo as he recounts the devastating event that led to him becoming an activist and being a part of the Egyptian revolution. The screening is timely - coming at a moment in Egypt's history when even though homosexuality is not illegal, LGBT+ people are being arrested and persecuted in droves. Somehow, director Tamara Shogaolu manages to make the film unbearably heartbreaking and yet soothing. It poses an important question: Should the oppressed communities in a country discard their national and cultural identity? The short brings up another poignant idea - those who shout the loudest at protests, probably love their country the most. It brilliantly incorporates Egyptian tableaux and scenes from the souks of Cairo into our protagonist’s story with various styles of animation. In the last frame, his face becomes Cairo. Now that’s a visual metaphor! Picture This This probably applies to many of the films showing at Iris, but ‘Picture This’ is an important film. Watching it was a fun, learning experience - which is what every documentary should be. Director Jari Osborne found a truly enviable ensemble of characters to tell this story. Protagonist Andrew Gurza, his mother Sher St. Kitts, colleague Stella Palikarova and best friend Tinashe Lawson are all funny, intelligent and charming people. What more can you ask for? The film explores how desirability is denied to those with a disability. It asks, if you had to choose between being invisible and being a fetish, what would you choose? The answer is, those shouldn’t be the options at all. But like Andrew says, our society isn’t there yet. Little Potato This was an unexpectedly feel-good film even though the story-line seems dark on paper. I loved its use of colours, archive photos and American movie clips. But mostly, I loved its expert storytelling. Its main focus is two people talking to a camera but that doesn’t get in its way for a second. If that isn’t a testament to directors Wes Hurley and Nathan M. Miller’s talent, I don’t know what is. With great comic timing, the film follows Wes Hurley and his mother’s journey from Russia to the US in search of freedom. It makes you hold your breath at several junctions and ends with a plot twist no one could foresee. It tells a brave tale - that when immigrants find their destination, it may only begin another chapter of hardships. And yet, dreams do come true and freedom can be found in the most unexpected ways.