Iris Education Day 2016

On 12th October, Ffilm Cymru Wales attended Iris Outreach's Education Day at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff. The Iris Film Prize has been described as “the queer U.N. of film making” by seminal LGBT film maker Cheryl Dunye. The education and outreach programme is a huge core part of Iris.

While social attitudes have moved considerably from 1966 (when it was still illegal to be a gay man in the United Kingdom), we’ve still got a long way to go in the United Kingdom. Over half of LGBT children experience homophobic bullying in schools according to the School Report, released by Stonewall.  It's in this pronounced climate that Iris Education Outreach work is undertaken in schools across Wales. Classes are shown LGBT short films, and then create their own anti-bullying films in English and Welsh to raise awareness of topics around gender and sexuality.

The day was started by a showing of the film Closets, a film about growing up, mental health and sexuality: but with its own very special sci-fi twist. In 2015 it won both the Best of British prize and the Youth Award at the 2015 Iris Prize. Q+A was held afterwards with director Lloyd Morgan-Eyre, who expressed his desire to turn the short into a much longer piece.

Director Carys Lewis and Iris outreach co-ordinator Mark Williams 12th October was also the premier of short films made by the education cohort of Iris, including the BiStander made at Fitzalan High School. There was a Q and A with creative professionals including actor Mathew David and filmmakers Carys Lewis, Lloyd Morgan-Eyre and Adam Wachter that discussed the film industry, Welsh identity and the barriers faced by LGBT people and women.

We watched the premier of ground-breaking Welsh short Charlie and Ashford made by Iris Outreach and Mencap Cymru POW.  Mencap Cymru Play Our Way (POW) is an initiative aimed at the empowerment of young people with disabilities and removing barriers to activities. Charlie and Ashford looks at the gay relationship between two men with learning difficulties. It isn’t often that we are presented with representation of disability or LGBT culture: but when we are, it rarely looks at the experience of both.

In the afternoon, we watched some more LGBT short films. A group of young students from Fitzalan High School commented that the films were “beautiful and eye-opening”. A particular highlight was Wachter’s short film, "Sign", exploring a relationship between a hearing man and a deaf man. After watching the films, the young people voted for what film should be awarded the Iris Youth Jury Prize. Watch this space- the results will be announced across the weekend! In the mean time, follow Iris Outreach and Iris Prize on Twitter.

Iris Prize is the world's largest LGBT short film prize and it's based in Cardiff, Wales. The festival is running from the 12-14th October 2016.

Photo credit Adrian Naik from Naik Media.

Yasmin Begum is the Education and Communications Assistant at Ffilm Cymru Wales.