(Y Sŵn film (with English subtitles) review, by Ffion Clwyd Edwards, Groes)

The road for Welsh film has been a long and arduous one, but after many years of waiting… at last a Welsh film is released. ‘Y Sŵn’ created by Roger Williams, directed by Lee Haven Jones opened in the Vale of Clwyd to a full house.

Denbigh town was one of a privileged few chosen to showcase the film in our community run theatre, Theatr Twm o’r Nant. And we were in good company with larger theatres across the border in in Manchester, London, Liverpool and Edinburgh showing the film, in addition to the other Welsh theatres privileged enough to present, for the first time, this long awaited Welsh film.

“We have a gem here in Denbigh,” explains Ruth Williams, Menter Iaith Sir Ddinbych’s Chief Officer.
“We have, not only a quality community space within the town, but we also have an enthusiastic group of volunteers from Theatr Twm o’r Nant and Denbigh Film Club working hard to run this monthly Film Club.
“It is their vision, as a local community run group, that has ensured we’re in good company at Theatr Twm o’r Nant to share this brand new film, ‘Y Sŵn,’ with an audience from the Vale of Clwyd. And in reality, it’s quite exclusive, as the rest of the nation had to wait until Easter Sunday to watch the film on S4C!”
Since re-establishing Denbigh Film Club following the pandemic, it is going from strength to strength, and has recently closed the books on registering new members, due to its popularity.
“There’s an opportunity for non member to attend our films, and they are proving to be very popular events,” explains Edwina Stephen, one of the group of volunteers.
“It’s wonderful to bring people together to watch films of all kinds here on their doorstep, in Denbigh.
“We are extremely grateful to Menter Iaith Sir Ddinbych, who are always willing to support us by helping to promote our Welsh films. They have the network to reach people digitally and they support us in facilitating quality Welsh productions to our core audience.”
Y Sŵn, a joint project between S4C and Joio production company, shares the history of our nation at the turn of the 1980s. This was the period where struggles ensued to promote the Welsh language, secured a platform for the language within broadcasting and the establishment of the Welsh language as an official language, in the face of London based Thatcherism.
But don’t think for one moment that this is a dry traditional historical film. It buzzes with the theatrical, it is colourful and vibrant offering a contemporary take to a historical subject matter. From the costumes and prosthetics, the accents and characterisation, the flow of the narrative is enhanced through the use of contemporary graphic headings in between scenes that are a sure appeal to the younger generation living in their Instagram world.
For me, the characterisation was the masterpiece and a chunk of that credit needs to go to the costume and makeup maestros. There was no emphasis from the director to create close imitations of the historical characters, according to Daniel Lloyd, who took part in a question and answer session, following the performance at Twm o’r Nant. But rather, to create impressionistic portraits of them. And almost every single Welsh actor succeeded in reaching those dizzying heights.
It was great to hear first-hand, from Daniel, who portrayed the beloved folk singer, editor and historian, Meredydd Evans and Steffan Wilson Jones, an actor-producer from Ruthin, who served his apprenticeship on Y Sŵn. As a Production Assistant for Joio, it was brilliant to see Steff, one of the talented youngsters of Theatr Ieuenctid Dyffryn Clwyd during my era working with the late Eirwyn Evans, continue in the arts world. The session added extra depth to the film for us lucky Denbigh audience members.
Another added bonus to the film was the soundtracks which complimented the mood of the narrative and added to the atmosphere, with detailed research and a polished understanding of contemporary Welsh music it ensured that each track suited a scene or a specific time period.
As one of the generation who did not receive Welsh History as part of our educational curriculum at school, this is a film that sets out those details. It teaches the next generation of our tradition and heritage and portrays the sacrifice made by so many of that generation to establish our Welsh channel, our language and our culture.
There were huge challenges facing Gwynfor Evans, local people, Cymdeithas yr Iaith and Plaid Cymru during that period. Challenges which, despite 40 years, continue to face many of us even today.
But this is a film that lays the infrastructure, records the sacrifice, and reminds the children and young people of today that we must continue to fight and more importantly to appreciate all that has been achieved. And the most important way to do that is to use the language in every nook and cranny of our technological crazed digital lives.
Readers, encourage the next generation to sit and relax one evening, search for Y Sŵn on S4C Clic; BBC iPlayer or other platforms (Welsh and English subtitles vailable on demand) and enjoy.
Huge congratulations to the cast, the production crew, to S4C and Joio for giving an excellent start to the second wave of quality Welsh films of our future, I sincerely hope!