Written by Meg Salter, the film took home the Iris Prize for Best British Short at this year’s awards
BY ELLA GAUCI, IMAGE BY ALEX RUSU
Sara Harrak’s short film F**KED opens with a lesbian couple doing a late-night shop in a supermarket in Stratford. Amongst the cereal aisle, the pair begin to talk about their open relationship. Dani (Rosalind Eleazar) wants to try sleeping with men. Jess (Meg Salter) feels blindsided by this and wants to know how her wife could have been keeping this from her. What follows is six minutes of dark comedy, interjected by a customer who just wants to buy her beans.
Written by Meg Salter and directed by Sara Harrak, the short film won big at the recent Iris Prize festival, taking home the Iris Prize Best British Short sponsored by Film4 and Pinewood Studios. We sat down with Sara Harrak to learn more about how this short film was brought to life.
Congratulations on your win at the Iris Prize Film Festival! How did that feel?
I was in shock! There were so many other amazing films. I’m ecstatic. We’re so proud of the team that helped produce this film.
Did you get to see any audiences watching it in the cinema?
Yes, as a director that was one of my favourite moments. The Iris Prize was our world premiere. It was the first time I had a room full of people that I didn’t know watching it. It was amazing. As a director, seeing people laugh at the moments when you want them to laugh is a lovely feeling. People were coming up to us after saying that they wanted more, which is the biggest compliment you can get.
What was the process of creating F**KED? How did you react when Meg Salter came to you with the script?
Me and Meg know each other from sixth form, and we used to make short films together when we were at school. We had a 10-year hiatus while we did different things. I had been away for three years (living in Bali, as you do!) and when I came back we had a catch-up.
It was important for us to tell a queer story, and since lots of queer material is often about coming out, we thought it might be fun to flip it and create a situation where someone has to “come back in”. That developed into us talking about being 30 and how it’s been so hard coming out that you almost feel like you can’t explore being with men again, which is a conversation we’d had with a number of friends. Since Meg had always been keen on writing about open relationships, we thought it would be the perfect set-up.
In East London, we have a very big queer community, and most topics of conversation end up being about having an open relationship. What was interesting is that Meg wanted to put a good spin on it, and not portray open relationships as a bad thing. Personally, during that time I was in a relationship with someone who wanted an open relationship and I didn’t, so it was really interesting to learn more about open relationships in a very positive way and how it can work for some people.
The film touches on the idea of how hard it can be to talk about sexual fluidity with a partner. What did you want to achieve with this film?
I wanted to show in the film that Jess’ problem isn’t that Dani wants to sleep with men, but that Jess feels like her partner is holding quite a big thing from her. Sexual fluidity is much more common now than it was when these two characters would have been growing up, so we wanted this to be a jumping-off point for people having these conversations, and not feeling like they have to “stick to their lane”.
In terms of location, how did you decide to film in the shop? And we need to know more about the Beans Lady played by Sally O’Leary!
Originally we were thinking about doing it in a restaurant, but there was a particular shop location in Stratford and I knew I wanted to shoot there. I feel like everyone has been in a supermarket and ended up having these deep topics of conversation that other people can hear.
In terms of the Beans Lady, we played with it a lot on the day. As we were shooting I was wondering “Is this too on the nose?” But actually, the scene with her and the sausage got the biggest laugh in the cinema. We always say that the Beans Lady is going to have her spin-off show because there is so much we can do with her.
What was really refreshing is that F**KED is really funny whilst also tackling these big issues. How important is having these conversations like this on the big screen?
One of the biggest things I want to push for as a director is having these difficult conversations whilst also bringing a bit of lightness to them. With topics like being queer, we have a tendency to draw on the difficulties of coming out. I come from a Moroccan background so I understand that completely. But as creatives, I think it’s important that we show the changes in society and we can help push the change forward. I think we need lightness in our community. Everyone needs humour. I really noticed that going to the Iris Film Festival; people want comedy. They want real life. I wanted these characters to feel like your mates.
How important is it to have a queer crew on set?
On my crew, about 95% of people were female heads of departments, queer, or people of colour. When I worked as an Assistant Director for TV and film six years ago, it was very rare to see people of colour or queer people on set. As a director, I want everyone to bring in ideas on set. To have that you need to have people who will understand the story. I think that really came across in this film.
F**KED will be available to stream on Channel 4 from 1:55 am on 3 November and will continue to be available until October 2024.
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