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Emlyn, Endaf (1944-)

Director, Writer, Producer, Actor, Musician

Main image of Emlyn, Endaf (1944-)

Endaf Emlyn was born near Bangor, North Wales, on 31 July 1944 and grew up in Pwllheli. He worked as a musician and presenter with HTV and a television comedy scriptwriter before directing S4C youth programmes. His pop group documentary Shampw won the 1983 Spirit of the Festival award at the Celtic Film and Television Festival. Later in the 1980s he made a quirky, TV quasi-Western set in Patagonia, Gaucho (S4C, 1985), which became the name of his production company. His next drama Stormydd Awst/Storms of August, dealing with television's arrival in a North Wales community, was marred by laboured caricature and seemed regressive - but it was the first Welsh language feature to be distributed on 35mm in cinemas. His next two films, Un Nos Ola Leuad/One Full Moon and Gadael Lenin/Leaving Lenin, established him as the most important director in Wales to work in his indigenous language.

Un Nos Ola Leuad, an overtly downbeat but strangely affirmative chamber piece of great beauty and maturity, drew on a 1961 novel by Caradog Prichard and certain of Prichard's other autobiographical works. It centres on a morose man (played by Dyfan Roberts) who finds absolution in suicide. Scenes showing his inexorable moves towards oblivion are intercut with flashbacks of the incidents in his youth that created his overwhelming sense of guilt - especially his role in his mother's incarceration and treatment for insanity. The film, which made fine use of Welsh rural locations, won acclaim in Japan and Australia but failed to travel beyond art houses in Britain.

Leaving Lenin/Gadael Lenin, which won the audience award for the most popular British feature at the 1993 London Film Festival, was shot in Leningrad, and uses the comic misadventures around a secondary school trip to Russia to explore marital and homosexual relationships, culture clashes at a time of great political upheaval, and. through one character's observations on Soviet iconographic painting, the responsibilities and conflicting loyalties of the artist.

Emlyn's Mapiwr/The Making of Maps (1995) made impressive use of bucolic characters and pastoral backdrops for an absorbing, tactile, rites-of-passage film that carried interesting echoes of Andrew Birkin's adaptation of Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden (1993). Emlyn later directed one series of S4C's BAFTA Cymru award-winning contemporary serial Tair Chwaer/Three Sisters (1997-99), centring on the lives of modern working class women. In 1999 he made his English language drama debut with HTV's three-part In the Company of Strangers revolving around murder, corruption and the then newly-formed Welsh Assembly, but set in 2001.

Berry, David, Wales and the Cinema: The First 100 Years (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1994)
Dobson, Patricia: 'Profile: Endaf Emlyn', Screen International Supplement, LFF, 8 Nov. 1993, p. 5

David Berry, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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