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Last Updated:  Saturday, 22 March, 2003, 15:39 GMT
Film brings out poetry of Welsh
By Nick Dermody
BBC News Online

Ioan Gruffudd
Speaking part: Ioan Gruffudd reads poetry in his first language
Welsh - it was here before the Romans arrived and is still with us now, elbowing a path of its own through the era of digital communications.

The Celtic language exists cheek-by-jowl with its larger, more dominant Indo-European cousin, English, but still remains largely in its ever-growing shadow.

Yet it has a canon of work which can be traced back to the 6th Century - half a millennia before a word of English had been spoken.

Now a host of Welsh-speaking stars and celebrities have put together a film offering a snapshot of the diversity of the language's literary, musical and poetic offerings.


Singer Cerys Matthews and actor Ioan Gruffudd are among those starring the feature-length production, Dal: Yma/Nawr.

The title translates as "Still Here Now" summing up the sentiment of many of speakers who take comfort in the language's survival through the centuries - despite many predictions of its imminent extinction.

Cerys Matthews
Folk tune: Cerys Matthews, pictured at her wedding, sings a song from her new album in the film

The production aims to highlight the breadth and depth of the language's cultural base, with the performers - many of them stars in the English-speaking showbusiness world - delighted to be working in their mother tongue.

Matthews, who is due to release a new album in April, sings a country version of a Welsh hymn.

John Cale, a founder member of the Velvet Underground, also sings an ancient Welsh tune, Ar lan y mor (By the sea).

The actress Siān Phillips gives a poetry reading as does Rhys Ifans, best known for his performance in the hit film, Notting Hill, as the Welsh lodger, Spike.

Other contributors include actors Matthew Rhys and Nia Roberts as well as a score of contemporary poets.

The film's producer is Ynyr Williams.

He said: "It's a project looking at the whole cannon of Welsh-language poetry from the 6th Century to the present day."

Siān Phillips
Word of mouth: Actress Siān Phillips reads Welsh-language poetry

"The premise is that we have an oral tradition going back over 2,000 years, from the deep, darkest past up until the digital era.

"The first National Eisteddfod was in 1176, so it is a rich and extremely diverse tradition which is not perceived to be snobby or boring.

"Wales is still primarily a non-conformist country and poetry has always been part of our life.

"More people in Wales come into contact with poetry on a daily basis than in any other country in the world.

"Lot of kids in Wales hear poetry weekly if not daily, which is not the same in England or Scotland."

The 73-minute documentary style film has been filmed in a number of formats - film, video, using computer graphics - to try and add a visual depth to match the range of works.

Williams, whose next project includes a film about Dylan Thomas' wife, Caitlin, said: "We wanted to make it a kind of visual feast - we really did look at how we could exploit these fantastic works."

Ioan Gruffudd and Matthew Rhys
Joint effort: Friends Ioan Gruffudd and Matthew Rhys both star in the film

The film, commissioned by the Welsh-language broadcaster S4C took seven months to complete and was most shot in Wales, although other locations include London, New York, Los Angeles and Nashville.

Directed by Marc Evans, whose previous work includes the horror film My Little Eye, it is tipped to do well in this year's Celtic Film and Television Festival .

He said he hoped it would put Welsh poetry on the international cultural map.

"My ambition for the film is that it should be definitive, not in the sense that it aims to provide a top 100 poems ever - after all, poetry is a subjective experience - but in the sense that it conveys the essence of the tradition."

S4C chief executive Huw Jones, S4C, said: "Not only will it be a celebration a 1,000-year-old poetic tradition, it will also celebrate the survival of a language.

"Film has the ability to express the epic quality of this narrative."

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