It’s become a staple of each Iris Prize that the international jury’s job is made particularly unenviable in the last few programmes of shorts, and this year was no different. If they thought they’d already found a winner on Day 1 or 2, they were in for a big surprise on Day 4.
Sign, from director Andrew Keenan-Bolger and writer/composer Adam Wachter tells the story of Ben and Aaron, who meet on New York’s subway. The film features not one word of spoken dialogue. Aaron is deaf, and so we follow the course of their relationship through the medium of sign language, without subtitles. It’s utterly beguiling, with excellent performances, brilliant use of location and a charming score by Wachter.
Programme 7 then gave us the first of two animated films in this year’s shortlist, Kai Staenicke’s B., an expressionistic take on the bizarre world of Barbie and Ken. This is Kai’s second film at Iris, after It’s Consuming Me was shortlisted in 2013.
Balcony, from director Toby Fell-Holden, is shortlisted for both the Iris Prize and Best British Short, and stands a very good chance of winning both. The Iris Blogger hates making predictions (his crystal ball is far from reliable) but has heard nothing but praise for this hard-hitting story about the friendship between two teenage girls on a run down housing estate.
Vamonos gave us a neat twist on the caper movie, with lesbian Latina Hope breaking into a mortuary to make sure her recently deceased partner, Mac, is properly attired before her burial – in a butch suit and tie, rather than the pretty dress and hair extensions chosen by her Catholic mother.
Programme 8’s La Tana set a tense, disquieting story of sadomasochism and revisiting former flames against the sun kissed backdrop of Ostia, while Sunday Lunch (Le repas dominical) gave us the family meal from hell in vibrant, witty fashion. Then, last but certainly not least, we had Programme 9.
I’ve talked before about those seemingly coincidental motifs that seem to in certain programmes, and Programme 9’s would appear to have been “death and childhood”, with an additional bonus motif of “blonde girls burying and then exhuming dead birds”, which featured in both Little Boy Blue and Like a Butterfly. In all other respects, you couldn’t find two more different films. Little Boy Blue is a dark fairy tale, in which a lonely little girl in rural Australia takes on the monstrous owner of a neighbouring farm, while Like a Butterfly is a very touching, honest drama about terminal illness.
Little Doll, also in Programme 9, deserves a special mention for the wonderful performance by its young lead actress, Ciara Gallagher.
The Iris Blogger had thought he might be all filmed out, but still managed to watch Nathan Adloff’s semi-autobiographical film Miles. Tim Boardman is very endearing as the eponymous hero, who joins his high school’s girl’s volleyball team, and there are some great turns from familiar faces such as Molly Shannon, Missi Pyle and Paul Reiser.
I’d promised myself I’d get an early night last night. It’s the award ceremony today. Get a proper night’s sleep, I thought. Wake up refreshed and ready for a day of fun and frolics. Well. That didn’t quite go to plan. The Miles after party at Chapel 1877 was just too much fun, and Chapel 1877 is only a stone’s throw from Pulse, and before he knew it the Iris Blogger was throwing his hands in the air as if he just didn’t care and knocking back way too many Jagerbombs. (Surely one is too many? – Ed.) and getting home at 4am.
So now it’s almost 11am, with an hour to go until showtime, and I’m still not dressed. Time to transform this decrepit wreck into something vaguely presentable. See you on the other side, folks.