Dave Evans is a Cardiff-based film director, producer and writer. With a list of titles to his name, Dave’s projects have been varied both in content and genre, spilling across countries and languages. His latest documentary, Pretty Village, which pictures the realities of a Bosnian Village 20 years after the Bosnian War, had its Welsh première at Chapter last Wednesday.
Despite the serious subject matter of the film, Dave is a genial character and conversation flows easily, punctuated by the melodic notes of his Welsh accent. But he has an intense dedication to his projects that becomes apparent from the passion with which he discusses his work over an espresso on a Saturday morning.
With no prior connection to the area, Pretty Village has left Dave enamoured with the Balkans. In the three years spent filming the documentary he picked up Serbo-Croatian, and he is currently working on several new projects in the region, having started a production company called Shoot From The Hip Films. He wants to create artistic links there with the UK to offer local talent more creative opportunities.
But Dave shows equal enthusiasm in his appraisal of the Cardiff film scene. “I know lots of people that are doing more abstract things… working with stories in a different way, outside of the traditional drama or documentary format. It’s just amazing. It feels like it’s a very particular moment in time, and there’s enough talent out there to transform the city. It’s a good time to be here.”
Dave talks at length about identity and the baggage that comes with being a Welsh filmmaker. He went to film school in New York, back when “it was still accessible… still a bit rough and ready,” but he is sceptical about the gentrification of the world capitals. “There’s a general lack of credibility around Welsh filmmakers in London. It’s difficult to break through this idea that exists in the UK at the moment: that you have to be in London to do anything. I’m not sure that’s healthy, but it’s a fact.”
The sense of difference that exists between England and Wales as cultural players has made it easier to identify with communities in the Balkans, he says. “Maybe part of it is to do with being on the margins of a European project, you know, not feeling part of that UK-Franco-German-Benelux core. We’re a little bit marginalised. We’ve all got a bit of a chip on our shoulder.”
This idea of humanity and community working across political and national lines drives much of the discourse in Pretty Village, where neighbours and friends turn against each other. “You feel like it’s almost unimaginable, yet for me it’s an area that looks pretty much like where I grew up, in a little mining village,” Dave says, his clear blue eyes sincere in their contemplation of human behaviour. “The kind of disputes that go on in the village and the resentments that are carried… for me it’s entirely believable that these petty resentments can become murderous in the right circumstances. When people are allowed to kill, some people will.”