Australian films continue to win big at the Iris Prize, which offers the world's biggest cash award for LGBT-themed films.
Stephen A. Russell

18 Oct 2013 - 10:44 AM  UPDATED 18 Oct 2013 - 10:44 AM

Australian filmmaker Tim Marshall has picked up the top gong for his short, Gorilla, at the annual Iris Prize Festival in Cardiff. The international festival recognises queer filmmakers from all corners of the globe, with the top prize £25,000 in funding and professional support to shoot a new short in the Welsh city.

Basically, this means the gay Oscar.

“Winning the Iris Prize has come at the perfect time in my career,” Marshall, 28, says. “Basically, this means the gay Oscar. With my feature film script currently being written, the opportunity to make a funded short gives me the chance to work on a project with a similar tone and use it as a selling point. It's very exciting and career-launching.”

Gorilla throws an unexpected curveball when a mysterious woman confronts a new gay couple, posing complicated questions with no easy answers. “I chose to give my character his answers in a way that would terrify and bewilder him,” Marshall says. “It was important to me that I took the narrative in a bold direction.”

The short's inventiveness caught the eye of this year's judging panel, including last year's winner, Melbourne-based Grant Scicluna. “Gorilla stood out for its inventiveness and playfulness with the short form,” Scicluna says. “It is operating on its own weird set of rules that makes you want to watch it over again to grasp. The performances are brilliant and it says something deep about randomness in our lives.”

Two further Australian directors were highly commended by this year's jury - Nick Verso, for The Last Time I Saw Richard, and Laura Scrivano, for The Language of Love, recognised by the youth jury. “The standard of Australian LGBT short filmmaking is world-class and turning heads,” Scicluna says.

Scicluna returned to Cardiff to shoot his new short, Hurt's Rescue, based on a short story by American writer Todd Grimson. “It's an unsettling and scary story about the many ways in which we embrace servitude in our lives,' Scicluna says. His winning short from last year, The Wilding, about a relationship between two boys in a juvenile detention centre, also scored the SBS Television Award at the 2012 St Kilda Film Festival (The film screened in SOS earlier this year).

“Winning was unexpected and overwhelming,” he says. “I felt incredibly proud of everyone's work on The Wilding. What the Iris Prize does for LGBT film worldwide is amazing and I feel honoured to be a part of it.”

Marshall says he can't wait to return to Cardiff next year and start work on a new short with the prize fund. “Queer film that is bold, brave and challenging needs to be made and needs to continue being recognised. The Iris Prize gives a vital voice to queer filmmakers who are pioneering new and innovative stories.”

He's looking forward to donning the judge's cap next year. “I am already so excited about what fantastic queer films are out there, waiting to be seen. I will be looking out for filmmakers who aren't afraid of their own voice and can step away from the crowd."