“That fertile legacy from the past century” was how Dave Berry, Wales’s much-missed film historian referred to Welsh screen culture. It is now being honoured in a completely new way – with a series of film screenings throughout Wales to promote the publication of an innovative free-to-download app, Picturing Our Past/Fframio’n Gorffennol, which will tell the story of Welsh film and television by combining text and film inserts in one free product.
The screenings, organised by the National Library of Wales Screen and Sound Archive with the support of Film Hub Wales, will pair a film from the past with a more recent production. On 27 February, at the Phoenix Cinema, Ton Pentre, the 1937 documentary Today We Live (1937), with its famous shots of miners scrabbling on a coal tip, will be shown with the heart-warming, award-winning documentary Dark Horse (2015), about the celebrated racehorse bought and trained by a Cefn Fforest syndicate. Then on 5 March at Yr Egin, Carmarthen, composer John Rea’s powerful new film Atgyfodi will be paired with Tryweryn - the Story of a Valley (1965) – made by the pupils of Friars School, Bangor.
On 23 March the Coliseum Cinema, Brecon will be screening Coming Up Roses/Rhosyn a Rhith (1987), a gentle comedy that is a joyous celebration of cinema itself, portraying the plight of the much-loved Rex in Aberdare, together with Cinema Memories, a short film recording the reminiscences of Cwm Afan residents of movie-going and working in the cinema. The star of the main film, Dafydd Hywel, will join the audience for a Q+A at the end of this showing, and also at the later screening in Theatr Twm o’r Nant, Denbigh on 3 April, where it will be paired with the award-winning documentary short Dial-a-Ride. The tour will conclude on 29 May with the new bitter-sweet Welsh comedy Denmark at Sinema Sadwrn, Llansadwrn.
The app Picturing Our Past/Fframio’n Gorffennol, supported by the Books Council of Wales, brings Dave Berry’s pioneering book Wales and Cinema up-to-date, and digital technology enables its authors, Colin Thomas and Iola Baines, to include extracts from key films from Wales’s cinematic past.
Iola Baines, Moving Image Curator at The National Library of Wales Screen and Sound Archive explains:
“Our aim in launching this app is to introduce new audiences and enthusiasts to Wales’s rich film and cinema heritage – and we are proud to include living, breathing examples to illustrate this history, in the form of moving image extracts from each era. We hope that this enhanced e-book will inspire people to delve deeper into this fascinating history, unearthing the people and stories behind the films they discover – and perhaps being moved to add to the history by creating and filming their own stories!”
Colin Thomas, a TV producer/director of who made the Welsh history series The Dragon Has Two Tongues and is three times winner of BAFTA Cymru's Best Documentary and a Prix Europa, adds:
“It’s exciting to be able to honour the Welsh filmmaking tradition to which I have tried to make a contribution, and to enable a new generation to discover how rich that tradition is."
Pedr ap Llwyd, Chief Executive and Librarian of The National Library of Wales, said:
“This new e-book is an exciting and innovative way of presenting the National Library's rich audiovisual collection, offering users a fresh and contemporary pathway to engage with this inspiring heritage. Furthermore, the film tour promoting the e-book is an excellent way to take our collection of films 'on the road', reaching out to audiences in the four corners of Wales who may never before have experienced heritage film on the big screen, or made the connection between 'the new and the old' in terms of Welsh cinema."
The app will be launched officially in May with a special event in Cardiff.
The screenings at a glance:
Friday 7 February: Neuadd Ogwen, Bethesda (Atgyfodi / Tryweryn - the Story of a Valley) (ended)
Thursday 27 February: The Phoenix, Ton Pentre (Dark Horse / Today We Live)
Wednesday 5 March: Yr Egin, Carmarthen (Atgyfodi / Tryweryn - the Story of a Valley)
Monday 23 March: Coliseum, Brecon (Coming Up Roses / Cinema Memories)
Friday 3 April: Theatr Twm o'r Nant, Denbigh (Coming Up Roses/ Dial-a-Ride)
Friday 29 May: Sinema Sadwrn, Llansadwrn, Carmarthenshire (Denmark / short film tbc)
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