Talking to the ‘Best of Iris’ Filmmakers

Suri Mukherjee talks to the directors of Mother Knows Best, We Love Moses, Odd Job Man and Lily - about winning, filmmaking and Iris!
The festival is over for now but the ‘Best of Iris’ is sticking around! Chapter Arts Centre will be screening five of the best International and British shorts that were competing at the Iris Prize Festival 2017. (If you're in Cardiff and reading this on Thursday October 26, that's today at 6:10 pm, so don’t miss it!) I wanted to know more about the lucky ones whose films stood out as the best of this year's festival. How do they feel about their wins? What was their experience of the festival? Do they have something to say to you, the audience? Let’s find out! I talked to the directors of Mother Knows BestWe Love MosesOdd Job Man and Lily. Mikael Bundsen of Mother Knows Best Winner - Iris Prize It feels amazing to win this award! It feels like I’m the Beyoncé of LGBT short-film cinema! No but seriously, it is an incredible honour to have won the Iris Prize and I feel very humble for it. A friend of mine, who is from Cardiff, emailed me to tell me the film was in the top three. With so many great films in competition, it was quite a shock to find out that we were in the running for the big prize. I was following the award ceremony on Twitter the next day while my boyfriend was sleeping a few metres away from me. Once I saw that we had won, I made this weird noise out of sheer excitement and joy – which of course instantly woke up my boyfriend. Once he was awake, I began screaming and playing music. It would have been great to be there in Cardiff for the award ceremony of course, but it was also a wonderful moment to share with him. A lot of cinema and TV is preoccupied with how horrible and awful it is to live as an openly gay person, that it’s basically a life full of suffering with a constant threat of violence and oppression. This is of course, horribly enough, still a reality for way too many LGBT+ persons living today. But alongside these images, I also think it’s important to show that it is possible to live a happy life as an openly gay person. These are the images that I longed for as a teenager, these are also the images that I wished my generation of parents had seen. It most certainly affects what mothers and fathers tell their children about what it’s like to live openly. Making the film was a way for me to highlight this. Dionne Edwards of We Love Moses Winner - Best British Short It felt wonderful to win! I had such a great time at the festival. Getting this award was the cherry on top. Winning some post-production time at Pinewood studios wasn't bad either! Unfortunately I could only make the last two days of the festival. As soon as I arrived I could see that many of the filmmakers had really bonded. But everybody was so egoless, and welcoming I quickly felt a part of the family.  There really is a family vibe there. Other than winning Best British Short - getting to meet really awesome filmmaker peers and watching The Wound were highlights for me. Besides the fact that We Love Moses pretty much changed my life and opened up doors for me, it’s the one short, of all the shorts I’ve made, that I’m most creatively satisfied with and proud of. The filmmaking experience was everything – intense, tiring, challenging, yet exciting, fun and ultimately really rewarding.  I learned a lot, especially about how important it is to have a team that are on board with your vision and who you really like and trust - it makes the experience so much more meaningful and you really see the results on screen. Hope you enjoy it! Marianne Blicher of Odd Job Man Highly Commended – Iris Prize It was an amazing experience to attend a super well-organized, open-hearted and important film festival such as Iris Prize. And to win a “Highly Commended” was out of this world. I’m of course extremely proud of that accomplishment! Especially with so many outstanding films where the level of talented filmmakers was so incredibly high! As a filmmaker, it is always a struggle to get finance and it can take years. There is a lot of waiting on things that you have no control over. So, I got tired of waiting and I made “Odd Job Man” outside the system, with my own money, some crowd funding, a small grant and a whole lot of sponsors. All the people working on Odd Job Man put their heart and soul into the film and invested their salaries in the project. We all know that short films usually earn no money. So, I owe everything to the people involved, for believing in the project and in me. A funny little anecdote is that the main character in “Odd Job Man” actor Peder Holm Johansen was actually in the first movie I made as a director - that is until I edited him out of the movie. He wasn’t good and I didn’t find a way to direct him. Years later, I met Peder at a reception. We started talking and he told me the story of his life. His story stayed with me, and a few months later I finished the first draft of Odd Job Man. I called Peder and told him, to his surprise, that I wrote a script for him inspired by his life story. And this time I didn’t cut him out! Graham Cantwell of Lily  Winner – Iris Prize Youth Award It was an incredible honour to receive the Iris Prize Youth Award. In many ways, the screenings to young people in Cardiff were the most important of our film's journey to date. Because we made it specifically to reach out to a young audience and engage them in conversation about bullying, specifically bullying of young people who identify as LGBTQ+. Being chosen from a selection of such incredibly strong films was very gratifying and has helped us in our attempts to find a wider audience for the film. Lily is a very personal film, one that I hope will continue to resonate with young people. At its heart is a message that I wish I had heard at a young age, that it is okay to be yourself and to stand up to bullying. I said a few words in Cardiff before we screened the film, and I'd like the same words to be heard by the young people attending on Thursday: Whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or not, the sad reality is you will more than likely encounter bullying, prejudice and intolerance in the course of your life. If and when that happens, I want you to remember something. The people who treat you with intolerance or prejudice or hate are operating from a place of fear. They are afraid of you because you are different, because you are special. They are afraid that you are better than them. And they're right. You are better than those people. Because a large part of who you are, your identity, is defined by love. By who you love and how you love. They are defined by who and what they hate. Love is better than hate. You are better than them. So don't meet fear with fear. Be proud of who you are. There's great power in that word, ‘pride’. A lot of people fought and suffered to make sure you get to own that word. The word ‘pride’ has become synonymous with the LGBTQ+ community. It belongs to you. So use it. Be proud. Be yourself. Be you. Because you are amazing. Don't ever let anyone tell you you're not.