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2011 Iris Prize Festival 5th Iris Prize Festival
Shorts in competition at the Cardiff festival, 5-8.Oct.11 (2 of 3)
Thinking Straight   2.5/5
dir Ric Forster
scr Becky Simpson
with Kat Redstone, David Atkins, Natalie Marie Perry
10/UK 9m
redstone and atkins
A bit hammy and simplistic, this film at least has a nice sense of energy. Sam (Redstone) is a laddish girl who goes out looking for women with her friend Josh (Atkins). They meet Dilly (Perry) in a bar, but aren't sure who she's interested in - is she gay or straight? They don't bother to ask, but set about trying to seduce her. Filmmaker Forster creates a colourful visual style, with strong use of editing and music to give it an enjoyable vibe. So it's a shame that the plot is so simplistic. Is it even remotely possible that Dilly thinks Sam is a boy? It's not easy to believe in these characters when things begin to get melodramatic. But while it's corny and extremely obvious, it's also rather cute.
F**kbuddies   4/5  
dir-scr Juana Carillo
with Richard Garcia Vazquez, Domingo Fernandez
11/Spain 6m
garcia and fernandez
F**kbuddies With extremely clever camerawork and strikingly naturalistic performances, this gimmicky short has such a dry sense of humour that it takes us aback. Two strangers (Garcia Vazquez and Fernandez) meet for sex in a car on their lunch break. Awkwardly manoeuvring in the car, things don't go so well. And as they jostle for position, both men state that no, of course they're not gay! From here the conversation turns to their sex lives with their wife/girlfriend, and then complaints about terrible mortgage interest rates and other financial pressures. As the film progresses, it gets increasingly hilarious, as these guys desperately try to prove their masculinity. Not that they need to. Which makes it a remarkably astute look at Spanish machismo.
Manhunt   Chasse à l’Homme   3/5
dir-scr Stephane Olijnyk
with Eric Bernard, Laurent Leca, Laurent Maurel
11/France 28m
leca and bernard
Manhunt This thriller opens with the sounds of a helicopter and hunting dogs, as a man (Bernard) is chased through the woods and captured by a soldier (Leca). Racial slurs and insults fly back and forth until it's clear that there's a level of attraction between these men. Then another soldier appears and things take a series of twists and turns that are alternatively violent and sexy. Filmmaker Olijnyk never quite convinces us that this is a real situation, so it always feels a bit like play-acting. And as the power games progress between these two men, we are interested but never really believe that the tension is real. Even so, the combination of ethnic and racial issues makes it clear that something awful could happen at any moment, which holds our interest even it if never quite shifts up a gear. Some of this is due to the artificiality of the production, and some to the thinness of the characters and plot. Intriguingly, this short was based on a novel, and perhaps if we knew more about these men we might be able to get more emotionally involved in their odyssey.
Play Name   4.5/5
dir-scr Dave Snyder
with Vin Kridakorn, Tom Macy
10/Thailand 12m
Vividly shot with a sense of colour and culture, this film has a comical tone with some surprisingly serious undercurrents. Pong (Kridakorn) is a young guy whose friends dare him to talk to an American in a gay bar. James (Macy) turns out to be a banker from New York, and the two get on extremely well, laughing and teasing each other as they get increasingly intimate. The next morning their conversation gets even more personal, as they talk about the issues their sexuality has raised in their families. Director Snyder vividly catches the lively gay scene in Bangkok, with its lady-boy review, go-go boys and giggly atmosphere, then shifts quietly into something more thoughtful and observant. And the film's final moments are almost like a slap to the face: sharp and startlingly real. A terrific little film.
The Lesson   3/5  
dir Paul Metz, David Chester; scr David Chester with Cynthia Cheston, Jun Matsuo 11/Japan 15m
cheston and matsuo
The Lesson Shot in a simple, almost old-fashioned way, this film puts its two characters into a plain office (with panoramic views over grey-skied Tokyo) accompanied by a gentle, emotive piano score. And even the dialog is also subdued and minimalistic. The lesson is a one-on-one English conversation tutorial between teacher Angela (Cheston) and businessman Sato, who is clearly very disturbed about something. She carries on teaching, but doesn't really pay any attention to his distress until he starts talking about his yearning to be able to discuss his situation freely like Americans. He also mentions his wife in Kyoto and his boyfriend in Tokyo. Finally she realises that he's in real pain about what to do with his life, but he can't express it openly because of the constraints of Japanese language and culture. The film's quiet, static camerawork reflect the setting nicely, and it's astutely edited together with haunting performances from both actors. In the end, it starts feeling rather overdramatic, but also cathartic as Angela begins to open up about her own personal life as well.
Change   3.5/5
dir Melissa Osborne, Jeff McCutcheon
scr Melissa Osborne
with Sean McClam, Preston Douglass, Jesse James Rice, Nick Ryan, H Chris Brown, Brooklyn Lowe, Quentin Miles, Brent Wise
11/US 24m
Change This film is intriguingly set in an African-American subculture on that fateful election day in November 2008 when California's black voters took a stand against racism by electing Obama to the White House while simultaneously voting for bigotry by passing Proposition 8, outlawing gay marriage. Shot in close-ups with hand-held cameras, the film looks like a documentary, opening with students too young to vote discussing these issues in a classroom. Homophobia is rampant in the school, both overtly and more perniciously, and as the kids spill into the streets, we begin to focus on Jamie (McClam). He's a thoughtful, smart, popular guy who is clearly disturbed by the Yes on 8 protesters and wants to support his gay friend. But this means standing up in the face of potentially violent peer-pressure. The film really captures both his internal dilemma and the mixed emotions in California that day, celebrating Obama's victory that "all men are created equal" even as California voters said they weren't. In the end, the events take a very serious turn that's a little preachy. But it's a tender story very nicely told.
Ishihara   4/5
dir-scr Yoav Brill
10/Israel 7m
Ishihara Israeli animator Brill cleverly uses the dot patterns from the Ishihara test for colour blindness to tell a larger story about peer pressure. And even though all we see on screen are dots forming into colourful patterns, the story is vividly involving as the narrator talks about what it's like being one of a minority of people in the world who can't properly distinguish colours. He talks about experiences from his life in the kibbutz, and how being treated as a "freak" made him so angry that he decided to become grey and fade into the crowd. This is a warm, hugely inventive film that's packed with wit and resonant emotion. It's rather oblique, only hinting at the much bigger issues at stake here. But that's part of its charm.
William Yang: The Art of Seduction   3.5/5
dir Craig Boreham
with William Yang
10/Australia 9m
William Yang: The Art of Seduction
William Yang: The Art of Seduction This documentary short explores the work of Australian-Chinese artist Yang, who works with photographs and projections to explore human interaction, generally by taking photos of near naked men and then adding script on or around them, touching on issues of sexuality, ethnicity and Aids. The film is vividly captures his belief that photographs are a first-person artform: you have to be present to snap the picture. As he flirts with his subjects, he's exploring that spark of attraction, drawing on the negotiation he makes with the model to produce something original. The film is extremely well-assembled, even though it's very brief. But it's refreshing that it never pushes any of the big issues it raises, merely opening up this artist's work and letting us enjoy it on our own terms.
Fourplay: San Francisco   4/5
dir Kyle Henry
scr Carlos Trevino
with Paul Soileau, Gary Chason, Cyndi Williams
10/US 26m
chason and soileau
Fourplay: San Francisco Shot and edited in a rather sombre style, this bold film (which is one episode in a four-part exploration of sexual intimacy) tells a little story that's bound to unsettle audiences with its frank depiction of a realistic situation. Aliya (Soileau) is a cross-dressing prostitute who's hired to spend some time with Tom (Chason), a quadriplegic. Even though he's straight and can only speak with a blink, Tom is specific about wanting a cross-dresser, and his wife (Williams) has organised this for him. So Aliya tries out a few slinky moves, watching carefully for a blink or a nod of encouragement while looking for a sense of feeling somewhere. She finds this in his toes, and proceeds to explore the possibilities. Yes, there's a strong yuck-factor with this film, but it's actually rather important in the way it so frankly depicts such an honest situation. On the other hand, while there are moments of humour, the film lacks energy, drags on and is accompanied by an intrusively moody musical score. This makes it feel rather dull, even though what's happening on screen would be considered shocking by many viewers. An intriguing, although flawed, approach to a genuinely relevant situation.


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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall