The latest in the endless string of film premieres to which I get invited was a BAFTA Cymru screening of “Pride”, at Chapter. The film shines a light on the little-known story of the London–based gay liberation movement’s involvement in the 1984-1985 Miners’ Strike, especially in South Wales. Co-sponsors on the night were film/TV craft union BECTU, and the evening turned into something of a celebration of local official David Donovan (who was a guest of honour), and his former role with the National Union of Mineworkers.
The film’s plot sees a group of activists, operating out of the Gay’s The Word bookshop, making contact with Donovan, beautifully played by Paddy Considine, and setting up a number of fund-raising activities, inspired by the two groups’ shared experience of persecution by the Thatcherite establishment. A cast of familiar Welsh faces (Menna Trussler, Rhodri Meilir, Nia Gwynne, Jams Thomas) is rounded out by trusty (and box-office friendly) international stars Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton, who effortlessly carry much of the emotional weight. Lisa Palfrey is equally impressive as the staunch face of small-town negativism.
Director Matthew Warchus makes excellent use of the Valleys landscapes, as well as moody suburban interiors; and Stephen Beresford’s script moves things along by cleverly shifting focus from individual to individual – Ben Schnetzer’s fiery activist, George MacKay’s initially closeted "Bromley", Jessica Gunning’s blossoming housewife, Dominic West’s flamboyant thespian. It also ticks the requisite number of boxes (gay-bashing, AIDS, lesbian feminism, Elton John) without seeming overly schematic. Outbreaks of sentimentality (such as the miners’ welfare club singalong) are wittily undercut by moments of cynicism.
And, yes, the miners were defeated, but a relationship between the trades union and gay equality movements was forged, to the lasting benefit of both. The tone of “Pride”, therefore, is upbeat and celebratory.
In the post-screening Q and A, Beresford noted that one of the producers had come on board in part to atone for their role in bringing “The Iron Lady” to the big screen. He also pointed out that the fictionalisation process involved exaggerating the amount of adverse reaction suffered by the activists, and Donovan was careful to play up the roles of real-life individuals who were missing from the narrative.