Cardiff Castle stands in the middle of the city of Cardiff, just North of the city centre (I’ll use British spelling), quite easy to get to if you’re out on the town, just remember that they close at 6 and stop letting people in at 5. Definitely go see it if you’re traveling in the area.
From what I remember from watching Secrets of Great British Castles, Cardiff Castle stands on the ruins of an old Roman fort, and was originally constructed during the reign of Edward I. Talking with an Englishman at the bar one night, evidently castles of this sort are called “war castles,” built during either the Norman Invasion or the English conquest of Wales under Edward Longshanks. As you can see, it’s a motte-and-bailey style, but of course the original structure would have been made of wood.
Cardiff Castle is sort of looked down upon by locals specifically because it isn’t all original, though I don’t know why, if they were already building it in stone by the 1200s. The main problem is that the Marquesses of Bute started their own “restorations” in the 1800s cashing in on the gothic revival fad of the time (many wealthy noblemen of the time tore down castles built in the 14th and 15th centuries to make something more in keeping with what was considered a castle at the time). I believe there was rather a large stink raised about the demolition of the medieval inner bailey wall along with other buildings dating from at least the 1300s. The grounds of the bailey would have held extensive gardens, but now are just lawn.
There was a rather impressive collection of buildings on the outer bailey wall built (or restored) during the 1800s and containing rather impressive living quarters, said to be kept as close as possible to medieval dwelling conditions. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to take the tour, preferring to wander the castle grounds by myself and only leaving right when they closed. I’m still impressed with what I saw, and coming from a country where something built in the 1850s is considered old, Cardiff Castle is still properly ancient.
Rock Chapel, Blackwood. A converted church that is now a private residence as well as a B&B, the husband and wife team who own it are big supporters of the Wales International Documentary Festival. The chapel was my base of operations, and the graveyard outside provided much photographic inspiration over the two days of the festival.
As the chapel itself has been renovated and repurposed, so too has the cemetery outside. I’d make a joke about the neighbors being quiet, but actually they weren’t, especially at feeding time in the morning. I never knew sheep could be so excited over breakfast, but what they lack in facial expressions they make up for in the height that they can jump. I thought for sure I had more pictures with the sheep in the graveyard, so maybe they’re there and I’m not looking hard enough…maybe they’re lying in wait, ready to pounce…
I already started posting pics from Wales, but before delving into more of those rather bigger posts, I’ll share a few miscellaneous pictures with you.
I grew up watching British television, and though it wasn’t my goal while I was in Wales, I did get to catch a few episodes of Father Ted actually being broadcast on Channel 4 reruns (RIP Dermot Morgan, and now Frank Kelly). On my walk around Cardiff I went past the Doctor Who Experience, but was unfortunately too late to take the tour. I snapped a few pics of the exhibitions in the lobby, and of course you have to get one of the daleks! John Hurt was one of my favorite actors and I was looking forward to see him star in Terry Gilliam’s newest film before he was diagnosed with cancer. I always thought he’d make a good regular Doctor, but sadly that dream, like so many others, will never come about now. Since coming back from Wales I’ve learned that the Doctor Who Experience will be closing at the end of the summer, so I’m really disappointed that I wasn’t able to get further than the lobby.
I never would have considered traveling to Wales for a film festival if not for some generous offers of funding when I had just learned that Overwhelming Majority had been accepted. Unfortunately that funding fell through and I cancelled my plans, then decided very last minute that the opportunity to go was too good to pass up, even if it meant paying out of pocket for my plane flight. It was a gigantic leap of faith my part and I am currently accepting donations to recoup this expense, as well as help me get to festivals further on down the road.
Though only at the festival in Blackwood for two days, I was able to get to know some cool filmmakers from Britain, Scandinavia, and Belgium, as well as see some interesting documentary films. Probably the best part of the festival though, was being able to share my experiences with the interns, mostly film and journalism students from Cardiff University. They were all cool people and I found that I fit in pretty well there. I hope I’ll be able to get back to the UK before too long.
I brought the Canon 7 and the Olympus Trip 35, loaded with some classic black & white and slide films, shooting 4 rolls total. There is much more to be posted from my first overseas trip.
I’ve read a bit about people’s experiences taking film into/out of the UK, though usually most people are going through London. My flight in the beginning of April was Denver to Detroit to Amsterdam to Cardiff (back was the same except switch Salt Lake City for Detroit). I’m not a stranger to taking film on an airplane, but this was my first-ever trip overseas. As an old hand, I’ll echo what others have said before, in that you want to:
-show up early, when there are less people and you’re not in a hurry
-always be polite
-if possible, try to find a line being looked over by someone older, in their 40s or 50s: they’ll actually remember film
-have your film ready to hand over and don’t take up extra time getting it out (I keep mine in a separate ziploc bag in the outside pocket of my carry-on)
Now I’ve heard that the security in the London airports are rude and will never accommodate requests for film to be hand-checked. Thankfully, it was not a problem to or from Cardiff at all…the Delta terminal in Amsterdam, that’s another story, but that was mostly due to my transatlantic flight being delayed and terribly long lines waiting to get to my plane. When flying out of Cardiff, I asked them to be hand-checked and they did seem slightly put out by it, but did acquiesce. There was the standard “the new scanners don’t damage film” spiel, but like I’ve read I just told them politely that I’m still unsure about that and that I preferred them to be hand-checked. They were under the impression that taking the film out of its plastic containers would do more damage than the x-ray scanner, so there is that to deal with, but ultimately it turned out fine.
While not having to go through customs in Amsterdam, I did have to when I reentered the US in Salt Lake City before catching my connecting flight, no problems with hand-checking the film there.
I was able to take a train ride while attending the Durango Independent Film Festival in the beginning of March. Being winter, the line was only open for the bottom half, so it made a nice morning trip and something to do before attending my first screening at the festival.
While the scenery was nice, I was of course more interested in the steam locomotive itself.
Hey guys, I started a Gofundme.com page. I’m about to go to Wales for a film festival and I’d appreciate any help you can give me to cover expenses, and help me get to further festivals in the future. If you can donate anything, I’d be grateful. The only reward I can give is to continue to post updates from my travels, as I’ve done so far. Please click here to help me out.
Overwhelming Majority is an experimental documentary short dealing with issues of loneliness, alienation, and social anxiety. A young woman recounts a suicide attempt, muses on the nature of connectedness, and ultimately yearns for understanding.