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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 21:16 GMT
Film festival off to racing start
Ioan Gruffudd
Ioan Gruffudd stars in the festival's launch screening
A homegrown double-bill of films kicks off Wales's eight-day international cinema festival held in Cardiff.

The main feature, Happy Now?, stars the city's own movie idol, Ioan Gruffudd, and is set in a remote Welsh village.

He plays Sergeant Max Bracchi, who uncovers the truth behind the accidental death of a local girl 14 years earlier.
Ioan Gruffudd
Cardiff star Ioan Gruffudd

It has elements of a western, comedy films, thrillers and a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

The film's director, Phillipa Collie-Cousins, said: "Festivals are vital for a film like this as they breathe life into it and give it a platform to be released from.

"I am particularly keen for the film to do well at Cardiff and, if it does, I think we know we have something that other people will want to see."

But Gruffudd fans hoping to catch a glimpse of him at the screening are likely to be disappointed - the actor is busy filming in London.

Yet his absence may go unnoticed on the night in the presence of another more curvaceous film star who has plenty of poses for the cameras.

This performer is called Babs and she has held on to her looks despite her age.
Film director Phillipa Collie-Cousins
Phillipa Collie-Cousins: Keen for festival to succeed

For she is the 27-litre supercharged racing car which shot driver Parry Davis into the record books when he broke the world land-speed record Pendine in west Wales in 1926.

Bab's fame turned to notoriety the following year however when Davis was killed while attempting to better his record.

Overland, a short film based on these events and reprising Babs in her racy role, is premiered at the festival's opening night.

The film was made by Chris Forster, 1999 winner of the DM Davies Award for new talent.

Babs will be on display at UGC cinemas in Cardiff before the screening.

Of the 50 films that are to be screened during the festival, seven have strong Welsh connections.
UGC Cinema, Cardiff
The UGC is jointly hosting the festival

However, festival producer Mari Beynon is keen to stress the international status of the event.

She said: "We've got films from New Zealand, Spain, America, Bosnia, Canada.

"We really have a fantastic choice of new work," she said.

Two such foreign films feature Welsh talent.

The Boy Who Saw The Wind is a Japanese animated feature based on the book of the same title by C.W. Nichols who has lived in Japan for 40 years. He was born in Neath in 1940.

"It is fitting that as it was written by a native born Welshman it should receive its European premier in Wales," said Ms Beynon-Owen.

Culture capital

Fellow Welshman John Williams hails from Llantrisant, but now also lives in Japan, where he shot Firefly Dreams

"While we were filming, the sounds, sights and smells took me back to my childhood in Wales," said Mr Williams

The Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Councillor Russell Goodway, said the festival should reinforce Cardiff's bid to become European Capital of Culture 2008.

Last year the event attracted 6,000 visitors.

This is the first year that the event has been held at the UGC cinema, as well as at Chapter Arts Centre.

It is hoped that the city centre location will help to encourage more young people to the festival.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Jon Gower
"One of the many debut films at the festival..."
BBC Wales's Carwyn Jones reports.
"Audiences can get up close and personal with the star of the evening's premiere."
See also:

12 May 01 | Wales
Zeta Jones makes 'home' movie
06 Dec 00 | Wales
Debutant wins film award
27 Mar 00 | Wales
Welsh movie misses Oscar glory
20 Sep 00 | UK
Premièring the Rhyl thing
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