Stories of trans woman overcoming bigotry and young man in Direct Provision share top prize at short film competition

'Punch Line' joined 'Water Under The Bridge' as the two winners of the Virgin Media Discovers short film competition.

a split screen of a womankind a man posing for a headshot

Artistic team Allie O’Rourke and Becky Cheatle joined with Rehan Ali to be announced as the winners of the Virgin Media Discovers Short Film Competition on March 14th during a special episode of Virgin Media’s Television Box Office Show. As the prize for their separate projects, Punch Line and Water Under the Bridge, these talented young filmmakers will share €60,000 to help make their films a reality.

Allie O’Rourke and Becky Cheatle’s short film pitch Punch Line explored the competition’s themes of diversity and inclusion by taking the perspective of a transgender woman who rises above repeated victimisation and owns her experience. Both of the team worked as co-writers on the project, while Cheatle will direct and O’Rourke act in the production. Amo Ado worked as the producer on the project. Based on real-life events, this story describes a transgender stand-up comic who reframes her experience of a transphobic attack in her comedy routine.

Rehan Ali’s coming of age film Water Under the Bridge also deals with issues of inclusion and diversity, while addressing LGBTQ+ identity and mental health. Rehan Ali is the writer and director of the project, while Ronan Cassidy and Greg Burrows are the producers of the film. The story is told from the perspective of someone who has lived in a Direct Provision Centre from the age of six to 16 and portrays a character traumatised by the loss of his father and his experiences as a refugee.

The winners of the Virgin Media Discovers Short Film Competition had to compete with eight other talented filmmakers and pitch their project in front of an established host of judges. These 10 finalists were selected from over 600 entries and were each awarded €9,000 to develop their ideas for a short film with a scriptwriter before two projects were chosen by the judging panel as winners.

These judges included award-winning director and screenwriter Lenny Abrahamson; creator of the hit series Derry Girls, Lisa McGee; star of the series Raised by Wolves, Niamh Algar; screenwriter and executive producer Ursula Rani Srama and members of Virgin Media Television, Screen Ireland and the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival. 

The judges lauded the two winning projects for their “visionary storytelling and how they both address the theme of the competition to ‘discover different’. The stories being portrayed in both projects are more important than ever and need to be told”.

The winners’ short films will be shown on Virgin Media Television and on Virgin Media’s on Demand. Further, a preview screening in collaboration with the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival will take place later this year. Interested in watching some other LGBTQ+ short films in the meantime? Check out our list of top LGBTQ+ short films here.

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