Gruff Rhys, frontman of psych-rock institution Super Furry Animals, has revealed an exotic early inspiration. An idiosyncratic musician caught his eye as he watched television as a child. Rene Griffiths arrived on horseback, sang in Welsh with an odd intonation, and played guitar Latin-style – for he hailed from the Welsh diaspora in Patagonia, Argentina. Rene was a Welsh gaucho – and, Rhys's gran explained, a distant relative.
Now the musician gets to tell the story of the feud that split his family in the 19th century and the ensuing, inevitably quixotic, search for a character that enjoyed fleeting success in the Seventies. Essentially a road movie, Separado! starts out like one of the Beta Band's surreal homemade videos, develops into a Celtic Magical Mystery Tour with an actual storyline and ends up as an engaging portrait of a family and a people.
Along the way, our protagonist meets cousins several times removed and learns about the Welsh occupation of this unforgiving corner of South America and the resultant problematic relations with the indigenous people.
Rhys, a charismatic host in his shambling way, meets fascinating characters, makes wonderful music and gets persecuted by an armadillo. Does he find his man? Well, not in Patagonia; and so the film drags once we realise this portion of the mission may well fail, and we notice the producers provide subtitles for Welsh speech, but not Spanish. Despite such limitations, some obviously budgetary, Rhys's family album ends up as chaotic and colourful as his own records.
'Separado!' is released on 30 July