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 The exact reasons why it was withdrawn from release remain a mystery, but it was thought that the film was lost until a print was rediscovered by the Wales Film and Television Archive (now the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.