This week Chapter Arts Centre plays host to the annual Cardiff Film Festival. The festival features 80 films and the variety this year is a huge dynamic of global offerings with different genres: documentaries, animation, true stories, new features from Welsh directors and some horrors to chill the bones.
There is an educational screening and interactive workshops for budding filmmakers, for both adults and children – even one with a special theme of Cardiff born Roald Dahl. Chapter offers the perfect environment to explore and experiment.
Today, Cardiff boasts a wealth of cultural venues, including the world class Wales Millennium Centre. But for the film festival, Chapter is very much a spiritual home: it embodies the same diversity and eclecticism that the festival hopes to represent.
“A meeting place of ideas” Chapter’s director, Janek Alexander, says is the best way to describe the place – “Social aspects of life are not separate from art”. He comments that Chapter is about creating the space and making links to encourage and support social and artistic trends – locally in Wales, and reaching out to embrace a growing international cultural exchange.
Mik Flood, the first director and one of Chapter’s founding members, initiated and nurtured the practice of international programming in the early 1970’s. As well as artist exchanges and exhibitions, he developed a cinema that has continuously provided a comprehensive range of culturally diverse movies.
The original Chapter One cinema had red velvet creaking seats and the old styled projector. Still today it provides a platform for new directors on the international scene, usually only found in back street or fringe London venues.
Chapter has grown tremendously over the past 35 years, thanks to the original personalities that started the idea: to create a space for arts, artists and public to merge, mingle and enjoy. It’s one of Europe’s largest and most dynamic arts centres and is used as a model, both in the success of creating public spaces and as a vibrant centre for the arts.
It has a unique kind of public space with cinema, theatre, café, gallery and bar, and a continuous stream of cultural workspaces and interactive workshops. The atmosphere is open house and the concourse, soon to be extended, is a multi-functioning social zone, where cinema goer can sometimes take cafe with the film’s director, sample the finest collection of world beers and share comment and quirks about the myriad of events that take place almost all year round.
Chapter has been described by founder member Chris Kinsey, “to be the windows on
Wales and a doorway to the world of contemporary art”. Both the International Film Festival and Chapter raise the Welsh profile, at home and abroad.
Andrew Davies, Minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Networks, recognizes the important role of the festival which “sharpens the ambitions of our filmmakers, and provides first-class opportunity for Welsh films to stand alongside the best in the world”.