Exploring a shared Celtic heritage in Patagonia.
Marc Evans’ Patagonia, a selection in the New British Cinema section of this year’s BFI London Film Festival, is about the journey of two women, one looking for her past and the other for her future.
It stars Matthew Rhys and Grammy Award winning singer Duffy, in her acting debut. With dialogue, from a script by Laurence Coriat, spoken in both Spanish and Welsh, the international cast also includes Nia Roberts, Nahaul Perez Biscayart and Marta Lubos.
In May 1865, the 447-ton Mimosa sailed from Liverpool to Argentina. On board were 163 Welsh men, women, and children who were fleeing the poverty of their hill farms and the low wages of the coalfields. They hoped to find a promised land where they could be free to speak their own language, exercise their own culture, and generally prosper.
Two months later they came ashore in Patagonia, a far-off territory in the Southernmost region of South America and inhabited only by small tribes of nomadic Tehuelche. The Welsh settlement endured years of hardship, starvation, and near failure, but survives to this day. Set 150 years later and incorporating the culture and countryside of both Wales and Patagonia, Evans’ film is a lyrical exploration of the parallel journeys of two women at very different stages of their lives. Cutting between their stories, in which one travels South to North through the Welsh springtime and the other East to West through the Argentine autumn, Patagonia is a film of intimate moments that play out against the sweeping panoramic landscapes.
It was photographed by Robbie Ryan BSC, who has now started shooting a new big screen version of Wuthering Heights, also on Fujifilm, for director Andrea Arnold with whom he made Fish Tank and Red Road. Patagonia was shot over seven weeks, starting with four weeks in Patagonia followed by three weeks in Wales. Local crews were employed in each country, but with heads of department covering both shoots.
After the extraordinary landscapes of Patagonia, the filmmakers were worried that Wales might look like the poor relation. Producer Rebekah Gilbertson explains.
“The landscapes are so majestic in Patagonia, you go from the dust and the desert to the Andes and snow-capped mountains.
“We wanted Wales to look as impressive. I grew up in Snowdonia and we shot part of the film there and it is absolutely breathtaking. The dusty landscapes of Patagonia and the industrial towns of Wales going up to the mountains of the Andes and Snowdonia are both fantastic.”
Notes Evans (My Little Eye, Trauma):“This is a film of big landscapes and intimate portraits. Wide shots of the two countries show the contrasts between them - the parched and withered Patagonian wilderness of autumn and the damp verdant hills of spring in Wales.
“The two landscapes reflect Cerys and Gwen’s stories. Although the two women never meet, the camera brings them together through imagery including the parallels and connections between them. Gwen’s journey toward an uncertain future and Cerys’ quest to understand her unresolved past.”
According to one internet critic: “The photography is exquisite… Robbie Ryan is fast becoming the best cinematographer working in the UK film industry.”
Patagonia was originated on 16mm Fujicolor ETERNA Vivid 160T 8643, Reala 500D 8692, ETERNA 400T 8683 and ETERNA 250T 8653
THE DP VIEW
ROBBIE RYAN BSC
The sunsets are amazing in Patagonia, I’ve never seen sunsets like it - the sun never dies. It’s always there, going down. They’re just glorious. I think because it’s a huge expanse. The sun sets behind the Andes, and you get these glorious pink skies at the end of the night.
We shot half of the film first in Patagonia, then the second half in Wales, and we were blessed with the weather there as well. That was unbelievable. We were all saying to the Argentinian crew: ‘wait till you get to Wales, it’ll be miserable’.
The whole script speaks of gloomy, dark, wet Wales but then when we got there I think we had two exterior days of rain and those happened on scenes where we really wanted it to be a bit gloomy and dark. But when the Welsh countryside is basking in sunshine, it’s amazing, because it’s green as anything, so vivid. We were thinking, ‘Patagonia was really going to shine compared to Wales’, but when you watch the film, hopefully you’ll go ‘bloody hell, Wales is beautiful as well’.