Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Cornish language film Tamara, a quick review

Image taken from http://www.cornwallfilmfestival.com/
Last year at the Cornwall Film Festival awards, Will Coleman's short Cornish language film Tamara won the Govyn Kernewek award. Thankfully it is available to watch online, which is highly commendable. For many of the films featured in the awards do not make it to the wide audiences online, which is a great shame as there is a wealth of talent in film making in Cornwall. Like many aspects of Cornish culture there is a unique view of the world and of Cornwall and the Cornish expressed very clearly and coherently, it could be said that there is an undercurrent of a sub-culture constantly simmering away in Kernow. Music has always been at the forefront of this and the influence of Cornish musicians is very evident in performances in Cornwall and further beyond. The names of people from Cornwall have carved their names into the history of music, Mick Fleetwood, Roger Taylor, Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert, the Fisherman's Friends, Sue Aston, James Morrison and Ruarri Joseph to name but a few. These people have innovated music, pushed boundaries helped create new genres and made a substantial contribution to that art form. It is therefore very encouraging to see Cornish filmakers given the opportunity to unleash their talents, to present a Cornish view on film as innovative and ambitious as their musical counterparts. We're still a long way from Cornish film makers becoming household names globally like their musical counterparts but still progress is being made and we must welcome the opportunity for Cornish people to showcase their talents in Cornwall.

Personally I am a big fan of Cornish films, one of my favourites over the last few years has been Will Coleman's excellent Daralla Jooan Chyannor (the story of John of Chyannor) which is a vivid and amusing telling of the ancient Cornish tale.

Will Coleman is a very gifted droll (story) teller and a very enthusiastic character so I was really looking forward to seeing Tamara in all it's glory and it certainly did not disappoint.

Tamara tells the tale of two Cornishmen obviously incensed by Cameron's slur of "it's the Tamar not the Amazon for Heaven's sake" keen to avenge this sleight and that of Devonwall itself, they set to work. Styling themselves as the Cornish Liberation Army they set to destroying the Tamar bridge, but life becomes more complicated and they realise their actions have consequences they never could have imagined. The film has a keen sense of humour and a keen sense of timing and suspense and in every way is very well made and professional (although I fear the special effects budget was all blown in one scene at the end!).

For me there's interesting commentary on Cornwall and Cornish politics and our language Kernewek. It exposes albeit in an exaggerated way some of the dilemmas and debates about politics and culture in Cornwall. Is direct action the answer? or is Tamara right when she proclaims: "No one has ever made the world a better place through hate and violence." Obviously in a less exaggerated way we might reframe these questions as: is confrontation and argument the right way forward? or is building consensus and agreement a better path? I think the answer is quite obvious it maybe boring and ordinary but I'd rather be like the heroine Tamara than the Laurel and Hardy-esque duo.

On the subject of the language it is interesting to note that the film frames the two nationalists as poor Cornish speakers whereas Tamara is a teacher and obviously fluent. Davey and Dawe seem to struggle with the language and use it simply to proclaim their political beliefs, in contrast Tamara uses the language to communicate and chat not to proclaim and make speeches. Certainly Tamara's use of the language is more admirable and honest than confused childlike sentences of the men that are mixed with political rhetoric.

Agree with me or not, I do hope you watch the film and feel free to leave comments below I'd love to know what other people think, maybe I read to much into it and it's simply a comedy, decide for yourself....

TAMARA from denzil monk on Vimeo.


  1. Sadly, I thought it stereotyped people of a nationalist bent as being fanatical, ignorant and stupid.
    It certainly didn't put Cornish nationalism in a good light. And I certainly didn't find it amusing. I thought it sad.

  2. Thanks for the comment Hazel, I do see your point.

  3. A good enjoyable, amusing film - what is not to like?
    Though Dalla's music worked well throughout

  4. Not at all as good as Skynt - An Ilowek.

    Though amusing the storeyline was a bit disjointed, and the characters one-dimensional.

    Constant and I reckon gratuitous use of the F word also makes it heard to promote in some circles.

  5. Cornishjim, I liked the Dalla music thought it went really well and added some atmosphere and suspense to the film. I thought it was amusing too glad you like it.

    Chris I am also a big fan of Skynt, though not normally a fan of musicals.
    Oh i quite like the storytelling and the flitting between the past and the present I thought it worked well. But it certainly was easier to understand when I watched it for the first time. Yep the f word does have a drawbacks..

    thanks for the comments