I first saw Cwch Deilen (Leaf Boat) at an open-air screening during a film and food festival, where it may not have received the level of attention it deserved. This Welsh animation is far better suited to the quiet intimacy of the cinema. It was then screened in Cardiff as part of the Iris Prize LGBT+ film festival, alongside four other shorts, grouped together based on their power to make people smile – and the audience certainly did chuckle aloud at times, although the film is also very moving, despite its brevity.
Its story is a relatable one, full of the highly charged emotions felt when you meet somebody new. The beginning of a relationship can be daunting for anyone, and an LGBT+ relationship brings unique challenges and worries. For those who have experienced the ruminating thought-patterns of anxiety or the heartbreak of a failed relationship, the phrase “what if,” repeated throughout the film, is all too familiar.
Efa Blosse-Mason, the film’s director, does a beautiful job capturing the fear and self-doubt of someone who is worried about starting a new relationship, before she lets go and learns to befriend her personal demons. The character’s love interest is less afraid to jump into unknown waters, facing life with humour and an infectious sense of adventure. Heledd and Celyn weather the storm together and overcome their differing personalities, with many moments of shared joy in between. The two characters are illustrated in a two-dimensional style in Cwch Deilen, but are animated with a lot of movement and expression.
Blosse-Mason also illustrated the backgrounds in the film with paint and oil pastels, taking inspiration from the shores of west Wales and using bright blues and oranges; Cwch Deilen could be a children’s book brought to life. On the surface, it is magical tale of two women who embark on a journey in their leaf boat; the more serious themes are woven into the subtext. The narrative is told through visual and verbal metaphors but never feels overly clichéd.
Spirited, Welsh language voice acting is provided by Catrin Stewart and Sara Gregory, and Casi Wyn’s mystical music is a fitting backdrop to the seaside setting, evocative of many small villages in Wales. A little slice of art, which I will return to in the future.
Cwch Deilen was shown as part of the Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival 2021, held in Cardiff for its 15th year from Tue 5-Sun 10 Oct. It’s available to watch online until the end of the month. More info: here.
The film is also available on BBC iPlayer.
Dir: Efa Blosse-Mason (no rating, 8 mins)
words ROSANNA LEWIS for BUZZ CULTURE
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