Tuesday, 25th October, 2022
With the support of Film Hub Wales (FHW), cinemas across Wales will explore the timeless magic of Wales on screen this winter, bringing spells, spirits and folklore to Welsh audiences, through a season of films and events about Welsh witchcraft.
Activities launch at Pontio Arts Centre in Bangor on the 28th October, where their ‘Witches Sabbath’ weekend will welcome Mari Elen Jones from Gwrachod Heddiw, an award-winning podcast which celebrates Welsh women and their connections to witchcraft. Over the weekend, guests will also include Director, Ffion Pritchard, of new short Welsh film Annwn, about a talented young witch and illustrator Efa Lois who specialises in folklore, flowers and Welsh witches. The live, Welsh language, video podcast will explore the character of the Witch in cinema, the history of witchcraft in Wales, its revival and the modern Welsh witch.
Off Y Grid, a network of seven venues across North Wales (including Pontio), that collaborate to bring the best British independent and international cinema to Welsh audiences, will host a second live podcast about horror cinema and Witches, with a screening of Gaspar Noe’s experimental horror film Lux Aeterna.
Both events will be recorded live and made available to cinemas across Wales with the support of funding from FHW’ Made in Wales (MIW) strand, which celebrates films with Welsh connections. Audiences can enjoy a series of witchcraft themed films in their local community cinema, such as Gwledd, St Maud and Rungano Nyoni’s I am not a Witch, which reaches it 5th anniversary in October.
In Wales, five people were executed for ‘crimes’ of witchcraft. Drawing on Celtic roots and a deep connection with the environment, ‘rituals’, ‘prayers’, ‘blessings’ and non-Christian religious spiritual practises were familiar to Welsh people who practised dewiniaeth or magic at that time, that it was easy to tell apart real witchcraft apart from the accusations. In the following centuries, forced assimilation into Christianity and stricter laws around speaking Welsh, pressured generations to give up more of their cultural heritage and practices of dewiniaeth slowly faded.
Radha Patel, Film Hub Wales’ Made in Wales Officer explains why FHW encourage audiences to learn about the history of witchcraft:
“Today, a new generation of young, Welsh witches are emerging and revisiting their cultural practices and heritage. Wales’ unique spiritual connection to land, community centred society and common-sense saved thousands of women from being unnecessarily killed by superstition. In the future, what life-changing moments could be inspired by this new revival in Celtic spiritualty? We believe that film can help us to explore and answer these questions.”
Emyr Williams, Cinema Coordinator at Pontio Arts Centre, Bangor continued:
‘‘Horror Cinema was never made to be watched on your own – a communal experience of terror is something we strive to offer our audiences. Our Witches themed weekend in Pontio allows us the opportunity to show brilliant horror films and engage directly with our audience’s interests, by recording two bilingual podcasts in in front of a live audience. We have invited experts to discuss Witchcraft in all its forms, from questioning cinematic representation and gender stereotyping to re-examining Welsh mythology and social history, as well as imagining how Witches are adapting to the digital age.’’
Ffion Pritchard, Director of ‘Annwn’ concluded:
“Witch’ was once a death sentence for women outside the social norms – disabled women, single women, childless women. Now, so many of us turn to its traditions. The films and conversations in this line up prove these experiences are far from rare and part of a wider movement of reclaiming womanhood and heritage in artistic and spiritual contexts in an exciting cultural moment for Wales. These stories deserve to be seen and told anew. The visual majesty of the old myths deserves a big screen experience – so where could be a better place to reinvent ancient tales, than at your local cinema?”
MIW offers a host of year-round activities in partnership with Welsh exhibitors, including a film catalogue which hosts over 600 shorts and features with Welsh connections.
MIW is made possible thanks to funding from Creative Wales, along with support of the BFI Film Audience Network, awarding funds from the National Lottery. FAN offers support to exhibitors across the whole of the UK, to boost cultural programming and engage diverse audiences. Funds in Wales are administered by FHW via Chapter as the Film Hub Lead Organisation.
More than £30M is raised each week for good causes across the UK by the National Lottery.
Download the full press release here