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“Cowboy” Wins the International Iris Prize 2008 for Gay, Lesbian Short Films



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■ A scene from German filmmaker Till Kleinert’s Cowboy which scooped the coveted Iris Prize award.
still courtesy Iris Prize

CARDIFF, October 5, 2008  (Iris Prize)–  A haunting film about a city dweller and country lad who pay a terrible price for love was named last night as the 2008 winner of the Iris Prize with its £25,000 award.

At a glittering awards evening at Cardiff’s Cineworld, Torchwood creator Russell T Davies announced that the international jury had selected German filmmaker Till Kleinert’s Cowboy to scoop the coveted award.

Accepting the award, Till said taking part in the competition and attending the three-day festival in Cardiff had been an incredible experience.

He urged the Iris Prize organisers, Cardiff-based The Festivals Company, that while the competition inevitably grew even larger in future years the unique way international film makers, the judges and the people of Cardiff are brought together must be retained.

Till also receives the £500 Goleudy Travel award to help them return to the UK to make their next film.

“This year Cardiff demonstrated to the world that with the support of Iris the city could become a significant force for the world’s lesbian and gay film community, said festival organiser Berwyn Rowlands.

“The closing night awards show was totally amazing, with guests from Germany, Israel, Australia, Canada and the US all enjoying our Welsh hospitality.  Everyone involved should be very proud of what has been achieved.

“We’ve already started working on next year’s festival and believe that even bigger and better things are expected of Iris and her friends in 2009.

Cowboy is a fantastic film that captured the imagination of the jury and the general public.  Till Kleinert is a huge talent.  I’m so excited that he will return to Wales to make a new film with his prize.”

Chair of the international jury Elan Closs Stephens said it had been an extremely difficult decision to make with long and passionate debate as to who should win the competition for the world’s best gay and lesbian short film.

Speaking before the awards evening Dr Who, Torchwood and Queer as Folk writer and director Davies said that he was very excited to have been involved with the festival.

“It’s a fantastic prize, which allows one lucky winner to make a short film.  This year’s shortlist includes work from an astonishing 11 countries, which confirms that gay and lesbian film making is alive and kicking around the world.”

All the film makers who travel to Wales for the festival are hosted by Friends of Iris, individuals who open their homes to the makers of the 30 short listed films from as far afield as Australia, Canada, and the United States at their own cost to attend.

The 35 minute film, which Till had introduced at its screening, tells the story of city dweller Christian, working for a real estate agent, comes to a deserted village where he meets country lad Cowboy.  They spend the day and night together.  When harvest starts at dawn the village shows its real face and the two men are forced to pay a terrible price in order to leave.

The films competing for the Iris Prize are the crème of the international gay and lesbian film industry with many having been entered for them by film festivals around the globe including new partner festivals in Germany, Brazil and Israel.

Mr Gay UK, Cardiff-based Dino Gamecho, announced that the competition’s new award for best feature film was won by American James Bolton for Dream Boy, a love story between teenagers in the American South in the 1970s.

The feature film award carries a £1,000 cash prize donated by Independent Financial Adviser Martin Briggs from Cardiff and is selected by the Friends of Iris.

2007 Iris Prize winner Dee Rees announced that the Skillset Best UK Short was won by Northern Ireland director Conor Clements for his film James.  He receives £1,000 from Skillset towards training.

The awards evening also included screening of BBC Wales Week In Week Out programme presented by Ian Watkins about growing up gay in the Valleys which was followed by a lively and heated debate during with Russell T Davies urged broadcasters to use their authority not to provide a platform for homophobic religious zealots with extremist views as they were clearly mentally ill.

Almost half the of the film makers travelled to Wales for the three day festival which also included six of the latest gay and lesbian feature films, with several enjoying their UK or European premieres.

The international jury included last year’s winner Dee Rees from the United States, actor Simon Russell Beale, director Nia Dryhurst and film makers , actors and industry experts from across the continents.

At an earlier screening of last year’s winning film Pariah, Dee Rees revealed her family had still not come to terms with her daughter being gay and had not seen the film which they regarded as “the devil’s work.”

Ms. Rees said the importance of the Iris Prize was that it gave new directors what they really need – the £25,000 resource to continuing making films.  She also revealed Pariah is now being made as a feature film and that she plans to travel back to Wales to make a new short film set in Cardiff’s Somali community.

■ Russell T Davies makes the short trip from Cardiff to appear at The Time Cheltenham Festival of Literature which gets underway on Friday (October 10).  He is appearing with John Barrowman in a discussion chaired by Caitlin Moran of The Times on Sunday October 12 at The Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse.  Details of this event are HERE.




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Posted: 5 October 2008 at 15:00 (UK time)


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