Wales on Film

Still from Pride
Still from Pride

Wales has a rich history in film, from the natural landscapes, lyrical songs and fierce communities through to the celebrated actors such as Richard Burton, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jonathan Pryce. Here we look at some of the most significant films which celebrate Welsh culture and heritage, and the ideas, themes and discussion points which they may provoke.

Elen

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration15 mins

Elen(2018)

A creative young girl with epilepsy hopes to make friends with the new pupil in school.

This 15 minute short – available on both DVD and online – explores the world of a ten year-old girl who suffers from epilepsy. Set in rural north Wales, Elen must find the strength to overcome her fears when a new girl joins her school. This short explores themes of disability, friendship, and creativity, using animation to depict events from the perspective of its protagonist.

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Dad

CertUnclassified

Age group7–14

Duration14 mins

Dad(2015)

A lonely Welsh boy discovers a refugee on his local beach, and in trying to help begins to heal the effects of war on his own family.

This powerful Welsh language short film is a way of starting discussions about topics including refugees and immigration, language and communication, trauma, and war. It also features a gentle friendship at its centre and also speaks about the impact of family relationships.

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Under Milk Wood (Dan y Wenallt)

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration87 mins

Under Milk Wood (Dan y Wenallt)(2015)

Adapted from Dylan Thomas’ seminal radio play, a number of residents within a fictional Welsh community share stories and poems of their lives.

Narrated with a lyrical lilt from Rhys Ifans, this key Welsh text tells the various stories of a single community as they express their guilts, dreams and desires in funny fashion. Beautifully shot, this adaptation of Under Milk Wood is available separately in both English and Welsh (search for Dan y Wenallt to order the DVD in Welsh).

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Set Fire to the Stars

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration97 mins

Set Fire to the Stars(2014)

Stylish black and white biopic focusing on a brief moment in the life and career of esteemed Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas.

From a film based on one of Dylan Thomas’ works to a biopic of the man himself in which he’s played by Into Film ambassador Celyn Jones. Set Fire to the Stars looks at the moment Thomas arrived in the US in the early 1950s, focusing on his incredible poetry, his way with words, and the struggles he faced throughout his life, most notably with alcoholism.

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Pride

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration115 mins

Pride (2014)

Uplifting comedy about an unlikely moment in recent British history, when in 1984, gay rights activists offered to support the striking miners.

A superb example of a British feel-good film which encapsulates so much of Welsh culture and history: miners, singing, protests and community spirit. Pride is a joyous retelling of an extraordinary moment in history which brought together two seemingly separate and very different groups, and is very much a film about building bridges and coming together.

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The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration91 mins

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain(1995)

An English mapmaker makes a nuisance of himself by discovering that the perceived Welsh mountain of Ffynnon Garw is actually a hill!

How do you talk about Wales without referencing their relationship to their noisy neighbours, the English? Set in 1917, during World War One, this comedy-drama does just that as an English cartographer manages to offend an entire Welsh community. However, this is also a film about bringing people together and enjoying the thing we have in common rather than our differences.

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Howl's Moving Castle

CertU

Age group5–16

Duration119 mins

Howl's Moving Castle(2004)

Japanese animated epic about a crotchety wizard living in a strange castle who saves a young hat-maker, who is then cursed by a jealous witch.

Though it doesn’t reference Wales quite as explicitly as the source material – from British author Diana Wynne Jones (who spent some of her childhood in Wales) – the film is still plainly set there in part. Director Hayao Miyazaki was very fond of British culture, locations and texts, and it’s lovely to see the Welsh countryside make an appearance in this Studio Ghibli fantasy.

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Submarine

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration93 mins

Submarine(2010)

Coming-of-age comedy following Welsh schoolboy Oliver, who has two objectives; to lose his virginity and to stop his mother from leaving his father.

Though it is for older audiences, Submarine is also based on a novel, from Welsh author Joe Dunthorne. The adventures of 15 year-old Oliver are adapted for the screen by funnyman Richard Ayoade who applies a Wes Anderson-esque tone to this often dark comedy, set in south Wales.

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How Green Was My Valley

CertU

Age group11+

Duration114 mins

How Green Was My Valley(1941)

Set in the early 20th century, this is the story of a close-knit family living in tough conditions in a small mining village in the Welsh valleys.

From acclaimed director John Ford, How Green Was My Valley was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five of them (including Best Picture)! Also adapted from a novel, this film documents the lives of a coal-mining family and their difficulties seen through the eyes of their youngest, Huw. An extraordinary slice-of-life drama about making a better life for your children.

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Patagonia

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration114 mins

Patagonia(2010)

Intriguing drama which introduces themes of identity, tradition, language and culture while probing what it means to be Welsh.

The Welsh colony of Patagonia, based in Argentina which has been inhabited by a Welsh speaking community since the mid-19th century, serves as the inspiration for this story. Following two women at different stages of their lives – one Spanish-speaking – as one of them leaves home and one of them returns to Wales to trace her past.

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Last Summer

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration94 mins

Last Summer(2018)

Four young boys have their idyllic summer disrupted by a sudden tragedy in the Welsh countryside of the 1970s.

Written and directed by Jon Jones, this coming-of-age tale – clearly influenced by films such as Stand by Me – takes in a wealth of themes, from community and family to mental health and friendships overcoming grief. After a tragic incident, two sets of brothers are separated but attempt to find each other again in this powerful rural drama.

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Gwen

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration82 mins

Gwen(2018)

A dark folk tale set in 19th century Snowdonia which sees a teenage girl attempting to protect her family from various threats.

The newest film on this list, Gwen is a ghost story/industrial revolution hybrid. Set in the mountains of 19th century Snowdonia, a teenage girl attempts to look after her mother and younger sister with her father away at war. With her mother ill and Gwen seeing ethereal visions of her own, the local mining community attempt to turf them out of their home in this dark folk tale

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