Top Welsh directors: Marc Evans

Photograph of Marc Evans © Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Last updated: 23 October 2009

Marc Evans (1963-)

Cardiff-born Marc Evans is the most successful and arresting of Welsh film directors to gain recognition in the 1990s.

He attracted most attention with My Little Eye (2004), a discomforting but terrifyingly plausible film using the techniques of reality TV such as Big Brother and more refined technology.

Five youthful victims, isolated in a mansion, gradually realise they've been lured into a murderous show with no barriers, and Evans, while leaving identities of prime culprits tantalisingly ambiguous, carries the 'show' to an unnerving and nihilistic conclusion. The film, reaching the top three in British box office charts, revealed a deep cynicism about the motivations for such shows, with Evans revealing a mastery of new digital formats and composition.

He consolidated the grasp of mainstream cinema demands he revealed in Resurrection Man (1998), a violently graphic exploration of northern Ireland's troubles. It was pilloried by a section of the press almost before release, which affected its box office prospects.

Evans' Snowcake (2006) was an impressive film of a different stamp, a psychological, intense study of a remorseful man (Alan Rickman) who befriends the mother (Sigourney Weaver) of a youthful passenger he has driven to her death. Scenes of the lead couple's sometimes fretful and volatile relationship in this harrowing film are laced with gentle interludes of love and tranquillity. It's a film of subtle feeling, with an outstanding performance from Rickman.

The film was less fractured, more appealingly emotive than Evans' Trauma (2004), an exploration of the disintegration of the central character (Colin Firth) that rarely involved its audience.

In 2007 Evans landed a Sundance Festival Grand Jury prize nomination for In Prison My Whole Life, a study of Black Panther member Mumia Abu-Jamal, imprisoned in the US in the early 1980s after the killing of a Philadelphia policeman, and on Death Row for nearly three decades.

Perhaps the finest work of this eclectic director remains the Welsh drama House of America (1997) from the imaginative, multi-layered stage play by the film's screenwriter Edward Thomas. It examines the impact of American and English colonising culture on the Welsh psyche and the need for the Welsh to find their own mythology. The central device is the obsession of a pair of incestuous siblings in west Wales for the literature of Jack Kerouac and his relationship with lover Joyce Johnson.

In the last decade Evans has skilfully wisely mixed TV and film work in his home country with cinema features. He directed S4C's 2004 Dal Yma/Nawr (Still Here/Now) a ruminative, intelligent documentary examination of Wales' poetry and culture, and the influence of its landscape.

His Beautiful Mistake (2000), shot in Cardiff Bay and the famous Docks Exchange building, was an enterprising showcase for the Welsh pop groups revitalising British music around that time. Ex-Velvet Underground musical maestro, John Cale, long exiled from Wales, scored the film and performed with artists such as Cerys Matthews (Catatonia) and James Dean Bradfield (Manic Street Preachers).

The movie provided a strong flavour of the groups' music and interesting sidelights on the musicians' personalities and philosophy. Promising local filmmaker Chris Forster directed impressively evocative shots of the Bay's industrial landscape.

Marc Evans made his screen debut with the Welsh Arts Council-backed Johnny Be Good (1985), a raw but likeable study of youthful yearnings built around the arrival of the first juke box at a village in the shadow of the Preseli Mountains.

Later he honed skills with the Stephen Bayly/Linda James company Red Rooster in London making TV serial dramas Friday On My Mind (1992) and Thicker Than Water (1993).


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