Focus

Welsh cinema goes beyond Catherine Zeta Jones

at the 85th Annual Academy Awards

Catherine Zeta Jones at the 85th Annual Academy Awards

On last Sunday night in Hollywood, all top celebrities met for the 85th prestigious annual Academy Awards ceremony. A few of them had the honour of calling the nominees for a category and offer the Oscar to the winner of this category.

Among them, the famous Welsh actress Catherine Zeta Jones occupied the stage for two reasons. Not only was she responsible to offer one Oscar, she also performed the song All that Jazz from the musical Chicago.

But we all know about Catherine Zeta Jones. When it comes to Welsh cinema, she is often one of the only references foreigners can think of, with Anthony Hopkins.

In fact Wales has an important cinematographic history, both in Welsh and in English languages, and is represented by recognized actors and directors such as Richard Burton, Ray Miland, Jack Howells, Marc Evans, Michael Sheen, and many others.

However today, Wales seems to be a lot more famous for sport and music. On the Oscars night, world famous Welsh singer Shirley Bassey performed her hit “Goldfinger” to celebrate the 50 years of James Bond.

But what about Welsh cinema today?

Famous movies Return of the Jedi and Monty Python, who are known by most people, both had Welsh directors: Richard Marquand for the first one, Terry Jones for the second.

These directors have gained an international recognition, as well as Peter Greenway, director of Drowning by Numbers (1988) and are still pretty well known today.

Some great actors from the 2000’s come from Wales, among them Ioan Gruffudd, lead role in historical drama Amazing Grace and Michael Sheen, lead role in Blair Trilogy.

A few recent Welsh movies were a success, including comedies House! (2000) and Very Annie Mary (2000).

One movie genre at which Welsh cinema seems to be well known today is horror movies. The Dark, produced in 2005 and directed by John Fawcett in 2005 is often considered as one of the bests Welsh horror movies.

Among other famous Welsh horror movies such as The Old Dark House (1932), Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (1932), Whispers of Fear (1976), the most recent ones are Daddy’s Girl and Evil Aliens, both produced in 2006.

Today, Welsh cinema is supported by BAFTA Cymru, Welsh branch of British Academy of Film and Television Arts. In autumn 2013, The British Academy Cymru Awards Ceremony will take place in Cardiff.

On its website, BAFTA Cymru explain that “the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in Wales supports develops and promotes the art forms of the moving image, by identifying and rewarding excellence, inspiring practitioners and benefiting the public.”

Penny Skuse who manages Wales Screen Commission, which is part of the Welsh Government’s Creative Sector Team, said: “We assist productions filming throughout Wales by providing an extensive database of locations, crew and facilities.”

“We are heavily involved in the St David’s Day celebrations taking place in Los Angeles tomorrow,” she added.

However, while interviewing people in Cardiff streets, The Archer found that most people don’t know about Welsh cinema.

Generally, most middle-aged people knew about famous people like Richard Burton and Michael Sheen, but not many others. Some youngsters didn’t know anything at all about Welsh cinema history.

Becky, 20, student at Cardiff University, couldn’t think of any Welsh director or Welsh actor. “I don’t think it’s famous at all… And we don’t hear anything about it.”

When we asked Anna, 25, whether she watched any Welsh movies, she answered: “To my knowledge no, I don’t think so, but I have seen films based in Wales.”

The only actor she could think of was Michael Sheen… and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

A woman who has worked for 23 years in the BBC said: “the thing is I don’t know about any current ones… The few things that I know only come from my past experience. If you asked me if I could name a number of current Welsh movies I probably couldn’t…,” she said.

“I don’t think Welsh cinema is marketed correctly. They haven’t marketed it right. You know tomorrow is St-David’s day, why aren’t they having a show case event for a week in celebrating Welsh directors?” she asked.

Facebook page Watch Welsh Films / Gwylia Ffilmiau Cymru is trying to encourage people to watch old and recent movies from Wales, through the social media community.

This is a great way of getting people to know more about Welsh movies.

Welsh cinema is definitely worth getting known by more people and around Europe.

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Coralie N’Ch

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