AUSTIN (KXAN) - A new film, directed by British Director Marc Evans is a coming of age high school story that many will relate to, Actress Minnie Driver hopes you'll feel the same.
The movie " Hunky Dory " is set in the sweltering heat wave of 1976 Britain. It was a time of glam rock, flared trousers, long hair and platform shoes.
"1976 to a British person is the year of the drought," said Evans. "We set it in '76 because we wanted to make it the kind of a film that we saw growing up, that's sort of an American High School movie when people are half dressed and going to school in the car, with the top down and all that stuff."
The movie was filmed on the rainy coast of Wales and was shot over 35 days, trying to capture the sun when they could.
Filmmakers have called the movie a "rites-of-passage musical" and even in the trailers promoting the movie, it's touted with themes of "life" and "love."
Evans said he wanted to steer away from traditional British films about the working class and focus on teens living through music in a celebratory film.
Driver says she was influenced by unconventional teachers that inspired her in her youth, for the role she plays as Teacher Vivienne who leaves London to work as a drama teacher in the local high school of her south Wales home town. She says those teachers "formed who she is as a person," which is what attracted her to the role.
Driver's father grew up in Wales and for her the experience was surreal.
"It was actually very emotional, it was very.. it was extraordinary to feel so connected to a place I'd never been before," Driver said. "The area where he grew up hasn't changed. My dad died a few years ago so there was something, there was some reclaiming that went on that I felt really happy about. It was good, it's always good to be in a really sort of connected emotional place when you're making a film like this."
Viv sets out with ambitions to create a rock musical based on Shakespeare's "The Tempest" for the school's end of year show. Battling the summer teenage distractions of love, lust and the local lido [pool], Viv perseveres and rallies the group to express themselves through music and drama.
Welsh-born Olivier-Award-winning Aneurin Barnard co-stars in the film and he can also be seen at SXSW in "The Citadel."
The film features a 40 piece youth orchestra and twenty-six young Welsh singers all performing some of that era's greatest songs, live.
When asked what it was like working alongside such talented vocalists like Barnard, Driver said, "He's exceptionally gifted. And it's not that highly produced pop sound I think we're used to hearing."
The film debuted in America here at SXSW in Austin on Saturday. Evans said he's wanted to come to Austin and SXSW for some time.
"Hand on heart this is the festival I've sort of been hoping to have a reason to come here for a while and it seems perfect for it really. And I think it played really well last night because people really love music here. It's in the streets, it's everywhere in this festival," Evans said.
If the film is received well by audiences at SXSW it may be distributed across America.
The movie addresses real life issues including teen relationships. Driver said her dad used to say "when your heart gets broken, there's always a bit more space in it created when it gets put back together."
The actress says Hunky Dory has a real sense of childhood memories and days spent in high school. "It's part of it. And knowing that and celebrating it, knowing that your not going to die but your actually going to get stronger and go on to love more, I think it's very positive and god knows kids today need to know that it's ok. Knowing that's always a good message, it's fine, you're going to get through it and you can actually laugh along the way."
When asked about what her thoughts of Austin are, Driver said, "I love Austin a lot. I've been here a lot. I've played music here a lot, I was signed from SXSW, the music festival. I have good friends who live here and I love it."
Driver also talked about Adele who recently took the number one spot on the Billboard album chart, comparing music featured in the film to today's pop hits.
"I think what Adele is doing; first of all there is a tone in her voice. We have been bubble gummed I think in the middle of next week by completely synthetic nonsensical female and male vocalists that don't move you. I think for someone to come along and, people want to feel again, "said Driver. "I feel like we have become anesthetized by politics, by culture, everything again, the internet. Everything has become so lone-wolfish and there's this girl who comes and sings this song about having your heart broken into a million pieces by seeing someone you love with someone new and even though it's a very odd theme she connected to a pain and to a sense of living beyond that, I think she moved people."
Driver said she hopes people will be humming the songs in Hunky Dory as they leave the theater and says music is what drives
our memories of childhood. "We look at our childhoods so retrospectively, never aware of it when you're in it of what's actually happening, like the grays and sunshine and light that's going on. And I think, what this does it reminds you of being present and that freedom of being a kid. However poor or however difficult it is there is a freedom because you just don't have the experiences that weigh you down."
If you want to see the film during it's SXSW run there are still three screenings left:
Sunday, March 11th at 4:30pm - Alamo Lamar C - Public Screening
Tuesday, March 13th at 7:15pm - SXSatellite: Alamo Village - Public Screening
Thursday, March 15th at 11:00am - Alamo Lamar B - Public Screening
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