Gruff Rhys on Penguins, Patagonia and Folk Rock

0

Comments

Add +

Gruff Rhys is the lead singer of Welsh indie band Super Furry Animals. ‘Separado!’ is his debut film feature, a rambling documentary travelogue of the 40 year old’s time spent tracking down enigmatic folk troubadour René Griffiths in Welsh-speaking Patagonia.

We hear that ‘Separado!’ has been in the pipeline for ten years.
‘Yeah, it was going to be a photo story and somewhere along the way it turned into a film. We didn’t know how to make a film and we had no money, so it took us a while to work out what to do.’

Isn’t the Welsh Film Board involved?
‘They came in after we shot it. They saved our ass, as it were. We had £15,000 from a benevolent record company and two video cameras, so we shot the film for that amount. And then a penguin destroyed one of the cameras on the second day of filming. So then we had one video camera.’

How did a penguin destroy a camera?
‘We left it on a tripod just filming shots of penguins. We weren’t looking after it properly and we watched in horror as this penguin attacked the camera. He punched it to the floor with his wing. We’ve still got the shots. It’s the last thing that was captured.’

Were you inspired by any presenters of travelogues on TV?
‘Yeah, but the difference is that these people are some kind of authority on what they’re doing, whereas with this one, you’re following a delirious musician who doesn’t know anything about wildlife. We just wanted to project the newness of the situation and the fact that we felt pretty displaced. And not necessarily comfortable.’

You look at ease on camera.
‘For a lot of it I was just spending time with Welsh speakers, so you felt like you were in a relative’s house. We were interviewing people in Welsh-speaking Patagonia and people in Wales and they had the same free calendars you get from takeaways on the wall.’

Are you still in contact with people you met on the trip?
‘Yes, I made everyone aware of what I’ve done with the footage. I didn’t want to exploit anyone or make them feel uncomfortable. That was a new thing for us: the crazy responsibility you have when capturing people on film and trying not to screw them over.’

The film is based around your search for folk singer René Griffiths…
‘Yes, he’s an incredibly charismatic man and I was really taken by all his early Welsh-language EPs as a child. One thing we regret in the film is not subtitling all of his lyrics. Right at the end of the film, he sings a song called “It’s Raining Beer” and it’s an amazing party song.’

In the film you appear very passionate about preserving your culture, learning about it and observing how it has spread across the world.
‘Culture is like an ecosystem: if one thing collapses, it causes a whole world of problems. So it’s maybe not about my culture necessarily. I’d be happy to be anything. A Martian even. It’s just a real shame when people aren’t allowed to practise being who they think they are. I sing in Welsh because it’s natural for me to sing in Welsh, but when I’m songwriting, I don’t do it to make a political statement: it’s very personal. Sometimes, people turn up to a Super Furry Animals gig and want us to sing Max Boyce songs. That’s the downside of being associated too strongly with a particular place.’

Were there any problems or hiccups along the way?
‘We had a stuntman in the film and in the beginning he has to fall off a horse. In order to do so, I had to give him my life savings – which wasn’t a lot – in cash, in a carrier bag, because we couldn’t afford the insurance. He was fine, so I lost all the money.’

Read our review of ‘Separado!

Author: Interview: David Jenkins



Users say

0 comments


Top Stories

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.

Oscar predictions

Oscar predictions

The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards

January film highlights 2013

January film highlights 2013

Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow

October film highlights

October film highlights

Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.

Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'

Martin Freeman interview

Martin Freeman interview

'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.

Sam Mendes interview

Sam Mendes interview

Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.

Ang Lee interview

Ang Lee interview

The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'

Michael Haneke interview

Michael Haneke interview

The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.

Read our interview with Michael Haneke

Thomas Vinterberg interview

Thomas Vinterberg interview

The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.

Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.

Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us

On the set of 'Sightseers'

On the set of 'Sightseers'

Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.

Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set

Tim Burton interview

Tim Burton interview

The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.

Read our interview with Tim burton

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.

Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'

What's your film guilty pleasure?

What's your film guilty pleasure?

Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.

Read 'Film guilty pleasures'

When teen stars turn serious

When teen stars turn serious

Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.

Read 'When teen stars turn serious'

50 years of James Bond

50 years of James Bond

From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.

Read '50 years of James Bond'

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.

Read the interview

Hilarious horror films

Hilarious horror films


Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.

Read 'Hilarious horror films'

Martin McDonagh interview

Martin McDonagh interview

The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.

Read the interview

Autumn horror films

Autumn horror films

We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.

Read about this Autumn's best horror movies

On the set of Skyfall

On the set of Skyfall

Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.

Read 'On the set of Skyfall'

Bond: then and now

Bond: then and now

Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?

Sally Potter interview

Sally Potter interview

The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.

Daniel Craig interview

Daniel Craig interview

'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’