Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Minority Report

I was always ambivalent about the creation of a dedicated TV channel for my mother tongue, Welsh. There was a part of me that thought it was best inter-twined with the English language channels in Wales. Nevertheless S4C came into being as I finished my film studies and ended up with film makers who were lawyers, accountants and, well, anything except for film makers.

Wales had singers, writers, poets and reciters, but not film-makers, which always struck me as strange, since no country's culture turns more on the ability to spin a good narrative. But film making was an expensive business and Wales was, essentially, a third world country with a first world education system (largely paid for by dues from the miners and workers).

At this stage, I should explain to all non-Welshmen that I come from a strange nation with an even stranger tongue. Around thirty per cent of us speak (or at least understand) a language that goes back into the mists of time, well beyond Latin and Greek. Everyone else in the country resent this language despite being madly nationalistic. In Ireland and Scotland it's simple - no one uses their native languages day-to-day any more, but in Wales our language is very much alive, partially thanks to TV.

Now, television is often cited as a negative influence, but in this instance it has done its part in saving a language and a culture (the other saving grace for Welsh was having the bible translated in the 16th century by William Morgan, the mass communicator of his age), whatever you think of the culture (and the Welsh still face extreme racism in the English media).

It was therefore gratifying to see a film from the non-Welsh speaking culture in Wales earning awards and becoming an online magnet. The story of The 'Stute (a miners' institute - or a place funded by the mineworkers providing reading rooms, biliard tables, entertainment space and general community focus) can be viewed online here on ITV Local. To me, it's a sobering eulogy from young film makers to the damage Margaret Thatcher did to our country and our culture.

Now Internet TV means that any film maker can send their story to the world. And, with our storytelling tradition, the Welsh should be quite good at that.

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