Today in my little country we’re celebrating Dydd Gwyl Dewi. Dydd Gwyl Dewi (Saint David’s Day) is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on the first day of March, chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David. Tradition holds that he died on that day in 601. On Dydd Gwyl Dewi, children wear traditional Welsh costumes and adults wear a daffodil or a leek (fake of course) on our clothes and we indulge in Welsh Cakes, Bara Brith, and some nice warm cawl. In celebration of this Welsh tradition here are a list of welsh-speaking films as well as films set in Wales you need to watch. I hope you all enjoy!
Release Date: 1997
IMdb Rating: 6.7/10
Plot: Julian and Jeremy, two brothers known as the “Lewis Twins”, prefer to spend their time on drugs and joyriding. When their father, Fatty Lewis, breaks his leg working for local bigwig Bryn Cartwright, they show up demanding compensation. Underestimating the vicious humour of the twins, Bryn brusquely refuses to pay for the uninsured Fatty and unleashes a ferocious feud.
Opinion: Twin Town is probably one of the most popular movies from Wales and one of my all time favourites! Both our male protagonists are actually brothers in real life and they have a great chemistry. The film has the creme de la creme of Welsh actors all of whom give an outstanding performance. The sequel is only just been written and is being filmed in my hometown Llanelli! Though the accent is thick so you may require subtitles!
Very Annie Mary
Release Date: 2001
IMdb Rating: 6.7/10
Plot: When Annie Mary was 16, she was offered a scholarship to sing in Milan, but was never allowed to go because her mother was dying. Now Annie Mary is 33 and no longer sings. She lives under the shadow of her chapel-strict father, known to all as The Voice of the Valleys, who sees himself as a budding Pavarotti. She wants to break free, but her father has a stroke and demands even more of her. When she finally rebels, the whole village becomes involved in a competition to raise money and get Annie’s terminally ill best friend, 16-year-old, Bethan Bevan to Disneyland.
Opinion: Very Annie Mary not only has Ioan Gruffudd but also Matthew Rhys as well! It’s heart-warming but also quite sad. Annie Mary is such a relatable character too, she is quite a ditz. You’ll root for her throughout the whole film and you always hope for her happy ending!
Release Date: 1992
IMdb Rating: 7.2/10
Plot: A young poet living in the North Wales countryside competes for the most coveted prize of all in Welsh Poetry – that of the chair of the National Eisteddfod, a tradition dating back a hundred years. Before the winner is announced Hedd Wyn gets sent to fight with the English in the trenches of the First World War
Opinion: Hedd Wyn was a film that we had to watch as part of the Welsh curriculum in secondary school. Here is a brief on the Eisteddfod. The National Eisteddfod is still a very important festival in Welsh culture and the Chairing of the Bard is still the main event of the whole festival. A new bardic chair is specially designed and made for each eisteddfod and is awarded to the winning entrant in the competition for the “awdl”, poetry written in a strict metre form known as cynghanedd.
The National Eisteddfod ceremony is presided over by the Archdruid, who reads the judges’ comments before announcing the identity of the bard, using only the nom de plume that the winner has used to submit the work. Up to this point, no one knows the true identity of the bard, who is asked to stand and is then escorted to the stage. Local children perform a dance to honour the new bard.
Hedd Wyn’s sad tale is still taught in Welsh speaking schools while the film itself was nominated for an Oscar.
Release Date: 2016
IMdb Rating: 6.5/10
Plot: At a national library in Wales, a dead author and her demons may be behind some mysterious occurrences affecting the library’s staff.
First Impressions: It’s a Welsh speaking film hence the Welsh title, but the English title is actually called ‘The Library Suicides’ while the Welsh title just says ‘The Library’. It’s been a while since a Welsh speaking film has really caught my fancy and with Welsh being my first language, it’s great way for me to not lose it. It looks really spooky and really weird. It looks completely different from any other Welsh speaking film I’ve seen, so I’m dying to watch it!
Release Date: 2010
IMdb Rating: 7.3/10
Plot: 15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: to lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life
Opinion: I saw this in the cinema years ago. Unfortunately I haven’t watched it since, so I’ll be honest with you, I barely remember the plot or any emotion I had towards it. I remember the cast being some of Welsh’ heavyweights including Craig Roberts who you may know from 22 Jump Street and Neighbours. I decided to rewatch the trailer to jog my memory and I do remember it being a very funny film with that dry Welsh wit!
House of America
Release Date: 1997
IMdb Rating: 6.2/10
Plot: Boyo lives with his brother Sid, his sister Gwenny, and their elderly mother Marlene in an economically depressed area of South-West Wales. Their father has vanished when they were small children, apparently headed for America. The leather-jacketed, motorbike-riding Sid has grown up obsessed with American culture and dreams of joining his father in the States.
First Impressions: I watched the trailer and it gave nothing away, actually the trailer left me slightly confused. I watched the intro and again doesn’t give much in terms of plot but the casting, again is phenomenal! We have Sian Phillips and Matthew Rhys!! It also has an edgy punk vibe which I wouldn’t have expected to see in a Welsh film. What has convinced me to watch the film is the soundtrack. The best that Wales has to offer! Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia, and Tom Jones to name a few!
Release Date: 2014
IMdb Rating: 7.8/10
Plot: U.K. gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984.
First Impressions: The Coal Mining Strikes in the 1980’s were a horrible and dark time in Welsh History. Wales was famous for its coal mining (and still is), in the Rhondda Valley, the South Wales Valleys, and throughout the South Wales coalfield, and by 1913 Barry had become the largest coal exporting port in the world, with Cardiff as second, as coal was transported down by rail. The film made me feel so proud to be Welsh, cheesy I know but I love how it touched upon our ‘you help us we help you’ spirit that us Welsh seem to have! The filmed showed what an awful time our boys went through in a delicate, careful, and touching way.
Release Date: 2003
IMdb Rating: 5.8/10
Plot: Whilst celebrating Lleu’s 18th birthday, Lleu and two friends go for a boat ride, when they discover beneath the water the golden doorway to the Mabinogi (the Otherworld). They swim down and are transported back in time many centuries to the Mabinogi. There they encounter some problems with medieval life, and they have to deal with the conflict between fate, personal choice, and magic.
Opinion: Again, like Hedd Wyn, it was compulsory for us to learn about Ancient Welsh tales and Y Mabinogi combines them into one. I remember the film being a stunning piece of animation with some live-action also added to the mix. The producers and animators did an amazing job breathing new life into these folk tales. It’s out in both Welsh and English but personally I prefer the Welsh version. Suits it more, obviously.
And there you have some of the best movies us Welsh have to offer! Dydd Gwyl Dewi dda I chi gyd. Gobeithio y byddwch yn cael ddiwrnod bendigedig a braf!