The major difference is one of intimacy, I think. In the best short films, the focus is sharp. Sexuality and gender identity are intensely personal things, and short films offer an opportunity for the filmmaker to home in on an individual character with more intensity than a feature film.
Mother Knows Best (Mamma vet bäst), which won the Iris Prize, is about a mother and son's conversation as she drives him home from a date with his boyfriend. It stands out because again, there's that sense of focusing in on something intimate. Most of the film is done in one take, with the mother slightly out of focus in the background, so we're really judging everything by the son's reactions to what his mother says. It's all subtle gestures, and it does a brilliant job of hinting at a world outside the car.
We Love Moses won the prize for Best British Short. It's rare enough to see a film with a young black girl as the protagonist, as our point of view in a film, so that feels unique enough. Also, childhood and adolescence are common themes in LGBT+ movies, for obvious reasons, but portraying it convincingly takes a huge amount of skill and empathy, not to mention good performances from young actors, and We Love Moses had all three.
There are certain genres that, for whatever reason, don't tend to pick up the big prizes. Animation, documentaries and comedies, mainly, and that’s a shame. Leroy (a comedy, shortlisted for Best British) and Half a Life (which had the double whammy of being an animated documentary) were two of my favourites this year. Maybe one day we'll have prizes for Best Documentary, Best Animation etc. And as a writer, I'd like to see some focus on screenwriting further down the line.
I'd love to see more films from communities and parts of the world that are still underrepresented. More films from Asia and Eastern Europe, more films from the Middle East outside of Israel (we're already partnered with a festival in Tel Aviv), more films from people of colour, and most glaringly of all, more films from women filmmakers. The majority of filmmakers on the Best British shortlist were women, but that was a first, and internationally we still have a gender imbalance. How you resolve that, I'm not sure.
Our focus has always been excellence in storytelling - we don't have any other criteria, and though the juries are independent, we don't want it to be an exercise in box-ticking. It's a personal opinion, but I tend to think that if you focus on excellence, diversity and representation happen organically, but we're still dependent on a wide range of films being nominated or submitted, and that's an area where there's still plenty of room for improvement.
Cover photo: Still from We Love Moses, winner of Best British Short. Director: Dionne Edwards.
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