The Iris Prize Festival is the largest LGBT short film prize in the world, and takes place every year in Cardiff, Wales.

Launched in 2006 by filmmaker and festival director Berwyn Rowlands, the prize now draws film professionals and fans from all over the world. The winner receives a prize of £30,000 to make a new short film, produced by Iris. In this short interview, Berwyn tells us more about the festival and prize.

The Iris Prize is the only prize in the world that allows the winner to make a second film. Why did you feel it was important to provide this follow-on opportunity and funding for the winning filmmaker?

There are thousands of film festivals doing great work in sharing stories all over the world. When I was developing the Iris Prize I was determined not to add to the already crowded festival sector; it was important to me to offer something new. As a filmmaker myself I knew that one of the main issues was finding new projects. So it was only natural that Iris would focus on production – and we did that by creating the Iris Prize – the rest is history.

How does the selection process work? How is the prize judged, and by whom?

35 short films compete for the Iris Prize. 25 are nominations from our partner festivals located in 17 countries, and the remaining 10 places are filled from the pre-selection process. In 2016 we received 300 submissions for the remaining 10 places! We invite an independent jury to view the films and decide on a winner. The jury view the films with the public during the festival – they appear like a character in a play, walking in and out of screening with their clipboards and notebooks.

Tell us about some of the entries for this year's prize.

Many of the films this year deal with the issue of ageing. This is an area of gay life that remains very much in the dark, so I'm delighted that we can start a conversation – we are all getting older whether we are gay or straight! We also have a selection of horror films this year. It's clear that many of the young directors are attracted to the genre, and for us the films might attract a new audience for LGBT content.

How did the link-up with Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival come about?

We are determined to make sure that the Iris Prize is open to all LGBT filmmakers on this planet of ours. This is why we have partners in 17 countries, so it was only natural that India should have a direct relationship with Iris. The relationship with Kashish is particularly important to Iris. I enjoyed my time in Mumbai attending the festival in 2013 and getting to meet so many talented film makers.

Berwyn Rowlands ©

Iris

THE PRIZE HAS JUST BEEN PROMOTED BY BAFTA TO 'A' LIST FESTIVAL STATUS – CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT MEANS, AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS FOR THE PRIZE AND THE FILMMAKERS WHOSE FILMS FEATURE IN THE FESTIVAL?

This was amazing news for Iris, especially in our 10th anniversary year. For the festival it means we are recognised by Bafta in the same category as Cannes and Sundance. For the 15 short films from the UK shortlisted for the Iris Prize Best British Award, it means they will now be considered for a BAFTA Award. This is great news for the filmmakers and for Iris.

YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS AN INTERNATIONALIST – AND THE FESTIVAL BRINGS TOGETHER WORK BY FILMMAKERS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. HOW HAS THE PRIZE IMPROVED CARDIFF'S INTERNATIONAL LINKS OVER THE YEARS?

Cardiff is now seen as a significant player in the LGBT film community. You can attend any LGBT film festival in the world and they will know about Iris and that Cardiff is her home. Each year the number of international guests attending the 5 day festival just gets bigger, and they all seem to enjoy everything Cardiff has to offer. As the chair of the 2016 International Jury Cheryl Dunye said, "Being at the Iris Prize is like being at the queer UN of filmmaking."

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