Fflics festival

The Life Story of David Lloyd George

Advance notice of a festival of silent and sound film in Wales. The Fflics Festival (what a great name) will be held in Aberystwyth, 25-28 October. It advertises itself as “showcasing the history of both Welsh cinema and the Welsh on the big screen; from the earliest cinematic pioneers until the end of the nitrate film era.” Full programme details have yet to be published, but on 27 October it will feature the extraordinay bio-epic The Life Story of David Lloyd George (1918), with piano accompaniment by Neil Brand.

This life of the then prime minister was made with official co-operation, or at least blessing, by the Ideal company, with Maurice Elvey directing, but it was never shown to the public. The exact reasons why it was withdrawn from release remain a mystery, but it was thought that the film was lost until a print was rediscovered by the Wales Film and Television Archive (now the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales) in 1994. At the time, we were delighted that the film had been found again, but did not hold much hopes for it as a work of art. To our amazement and delight, the film turned out to be a masterpiece, an extraordinary mix of contemporary political biography and Griffith-inspired epic. It has many marvellous scenes – a riot outside a hall where Lloyd George gave a speech criticising the conduct of the Boer War has remarkable newsreel authenticity, and the scene where the poor, who have been released from penury by Lloyd George’s introduction of old age pensions, materialise through the walls of the workhouse is incredibly moving. It’s real living history, and there isn’t any other film quite like it. Let’s hope the Archive is eventually successful in its efforts to get this genuinely great film released on DVD.

The West in Early Cinema

The West in Early Cinema


The Bioscope returns from Amsterdam, and will regale you with a report on the Iamhist conference tomorrow. Meanwhile, thinking of that city, there’s a new publication from Amsterdam University Press which looks interesting. Nanna Verheoff’s The West in Early Cinema: After the Beginning is an investigation of the emergence of the Western as a genre in the first two decades of cinema (i.e. to 1915). The author analyses Western films, many of them little known, from archives across the world, tracing the relationships between films about the American West, and other popular media such as photography, painting, popular literature, Wild West shows and popular ethnography, as well as other popular films. Great cover too. As Jean-Luc Godard said, “All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun”.