Hosting a film festival outside Cardiff ‘like pushing a dead horse uphill – but worth it’
Rarely-seen classic The Dragon Has Two Tongues will be amongst the documentaries screened when the third Wales International Documentary Festival returns to Blackwood this week.
The festival will screen over 50 documentaries between 18th-20th April.
The sessions will include a Q&A with Wales In The Movies blogger Nick Stradling, who was prevented from streaming The Dragon Has Two Tongues online by ITV last year.
The Wales International Documentary Festival is the only specialist documentary festival in Wales and the only film festival in the south Wales valleys.
The festival’s Artistic Director Dave Evans admits, however, that staging the event outside Cardiff has made it difficult to market in the past.
“It is a very hard sell, like pushing a dead horse uphill sometimes,” he said. “But I think it’s worth it because I there’s a lot of culture offered in Cardiff and as someone who comes from the valleys it’s really important to me to take it out.
“My life was transformed by seeing unusual films on terrestrial television like BBC Two, seeing New German Cinema or French New Wave and I don’t think that is the same now.
“Even though you’ve got a multiplicity of channels (and digital channels where you see a lot of product) a lot of it tends to be quite commercial.
“So I think there is a need for us to inspire people to think outside the box and to look at the rest of the world in a different way.
“That is especially acute running a festival in Caerphilly borough where the Brexit vote was very high for leave so I think creating bridges between people in Caerphilly and the rest of the world is really, really important.”
Amongst those who will have had their documentaries screened at the festival will be Bangor University Film MA graduate, Charlotte Wells.
She said that it was “really exciting” to take part in a festival for the first time and thankful for the opportunity to show a documentary, Cabbie, made while at Bangor.
“This is the first festival that I’ve entered Cabbie into so it’s very motivating to see that it’s got what it takes,” she said.
“I was extremely nervous waiting for the notification and it just makes me ask, what’s next? I can’t wait to see where this will take me and the friends who helped put Cabbie together.
“At first, I had a completely different film in mind for the project, I had another subject that I’d been planning to film, but unfortunately that fell through.
“I was at home, in Manchester, so my options were somewhat limited. Luckily, my step-dad Pete was willing to let me come along on a ride-along of sorts in his taxi one night.
“It was a very natural approach to the film, we did most of the interview that night, just talking between us and I tried to get what I felt was a real experience of what his life was like.
“I never personally understood why Pete loved his work and it was lovely to get his point of view and see why for myself.”
Charlie Wells said that her MA course at Bangor University had been a great help in developing the film.
“It was because of the MA course that I found my interest in Documentary, through the modules and projects that we were set, I was able to watch some truly great films that really inspired me and opened up my knowledge on the genre,” she said.
“It taught me so much more about film, about what goes into the process, from pre-production to post. I made new friends that helped me put the film together and shape it in a way that works, and mostly it helped me to realize that I want to be a cinematographer and gave me the tools to do so.
“If it wasn’t for the MA course, I wouldn’t have the equipment or knowledge I needed for all of the elements that went into Cabbie, so I’m incredibly grateful for the extra year I spent at Bangor University.”
Dave Evans was hoping to premiere his feature documentary My Grandfather the Spy during his hometown festival but delays in the final edit mean it won’t be ready in time.
Funded by Ffilm Cymru Wales and BBC Wales and executive produced by Oscar-nominated, Emmy award winner André Singer, the film follows his quest to discover the facts behind his grandad’s disappearance almost 40 years ago.
The search takes him on an extraordinary journey from the valleys to Cold War Bulgaria and the heart of the international jet set.
“To see my family story on the screen is really important,” he said.
“I am really conscious when doing it that you don’t often see representations of people like my family, people from the south Wales valleys on screen, so I think that’s a really important element of the festival which is to try to inspire people to tell the stories which are all around us.”
The film will be the subject of a special workshop on the final day of the festival.
The event also showcases Welsh language films and includes contributions from as far afield as Russia, Argentina and Turkey.
There are networking events and parties across the town during the festival and pop-up screenings along the High Street, Blackwood Miners Institute and at Maxime, Wales’ oldest cinema.
A ticket for all three days is just £15.00 from the box-office on 01495 227206, including access to all screenings, panel discussions, and networking events. Individual screenings are £4 on the door.