Firstly, a huge thanks to Dr. Kate Woodward, Lecturer at the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, at Aberystwyth University, who provided an detailed introduction to Welsh Cinema and the feature film The Library Suicides (Euros Lyn, 2016). Once again, thank you to all who attended the evening event and for the discussions that took place after the two screenings.
The evening commenced with the screening of the short film Hiraeth (Jacob Roy), which was selected from the 256 film submissions to the Welsh film category on Film Freeway for the event. The selection process for the Welsh category was particularly complex to evaluate given that there were submissions from Welsh filmmakers that dealt with universal themes and narratives, submissions from Welsh filmmakers whose films were set in England, and finally English/ British filmmakers whose films set in Wales, with Welsh characters. None were submitted in the Welsh language (in contrast to the curated film of the week, The Library Suicides). This was also the same for the week pertaining to Scottish cinema and the discernible absence of Scottish Gaelic. As a consequence, this opens up questions in relation to audience, viewership and perhaps the desire to appeal to larger audiences through the short film form.
Roy's short film Hiraeth is a documentary that primarily centres on questions on home. The film considers the notion of return to one’s home, and draws on the changes that have taken place in a local area (in this case in the South of Wales in a former mining communities). The untranslatable word Hiraeth included in the short film's title pertains to a sense of longing and/or yearning for a home/ sense of home. This short indirectly deals with the changing economy and the altering in a sense of community. To this end, it feels like the central character Toni occupies an interstitial position.
Kate's introduction to The Library Suicides contextualised Welsh cinema, viewing The Library Suicides as part of a larger Welsh cinema. It also highlighted the cultural and economic film policy that encourages a turn towards Welsh language filmmaking in Wales. For instance, as outlined on the advertising and promotional material for the event, The Library Suicides was supported by Film Hub Wales' emerging talent scheme. In clear contrast to Scottish cinema and Scottish Gaelic, Welsh cinema has a certain heritage and emerging support schemes to try and further Welsh cinema and television (as Kate outlined Hinterland has been produced in both English and Welsh). The Library Suicides is completely articulated in Welsh, and it is located in the iconic building, The National Library (hence the film's title) in the Westerly Welsh town of Aberystwyth. The film appears to draw on an emerging tradition of the 'noir' aesthetic and a crime thriller predilection in contemporary audiences with the international success of television shows such as The Killing and The Bridge. There is much discourse around Scandi Noir at the present time of writing (as since at least 2010). To this end, reviews of The Library Suicides have drawn on the 'noir' label and combined it with the local articulation of Cardi (pertaining to Cardigan bay in which the film is set) to define this film as a Cardi Noir.
Overall, the two films, Kate's introduction and the positive reception by the audience all combined for a positive celebration of the diversity of British cinema, foregrounding the often overlooked languages of the United Kingdom (in this case Welsh). Next week, we'll be journeying North to consider and contemplate Scottish Gaelic filmmaking.