Film Reviews

REVIEW: American Interior

Hot Docs 2014

American Interior
UK, 90 min.
Directed by Gruff Rhys & Dylan Goch
Programme: Mystery, Myth & Legend (Canadian Premiere)

In American Interior, Welsh musician Gruff Rhys (former frontman for the psychedelic rock band Super Furry Animals) suggests that the mythical dragon on the flag of his homeland “tells you a bit about the character of the people. They like big stories that aren’t always true.”

The Welsh love of myth and the fantastical pervade this creative documentary, which follows Rhys as he sets out on an “Investigative Concert Tour” to recreate the journey taken in the late 18th century by his distant ancestor, John Evans. Inspired by the tale of the Welsh prince Madoc—who some claim discovered the New World—Evans set out on a harrowing expedition through the American interior to find a legendary tribe of Welsh-speaking Native Americans.

Through interviews with local historians, archival documents and images, Rhys retraces Evans’ epic voyage, hosting multimedia concerts along the way that combine his research with storytelling and musical performance. Despite the fact that little is known about his ancestor—one character in the film calls Evans “the Welsh Crazy Horse” because of the obscurity of the details surrounding his life—Rhys’s enthusiasm infuses the film with an almost childlike glee, as evidenced by Rhys’s traveling companion, a felt doll representing Evans.

While American Interior occasionally veers towards the silly (for example, at one point the doll is handcuffed and “arrested” by police), the filmmakers exhibit a keen awareness of the importance of myth to self-understanding, a point that is reinforced by the colourful characters that Rhys encounters throughout his journey. Combining original songwriting, dry humour, and creative storytelling, American Interior is a unique tale that is sure to leave audiences smiling.

Screenings:
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Sat May 3 at 11:30 pm

Visit POV’s Hot Docs Hub for more reviews and features on the 2014 festival.