A Journey Along the River Teifi

By Jake Morris, 6.2

The River Teifi is the longest river in Wales; 73 miles in length from its source in the vast and barren Cambrian Mountains to the wide, slow flowing scenic estuary as it meets the sea just west of Cardigan. The stunning and unique locations it flows through inspired me to make a film, A Journey Along the River Teifi, as it seemed like a challenge to try and convey its beauty onto film. I co-wrote and co-produced the film with my father, Old Bedalian Gyles Morris, as we had started to make a river documentary a couple of years ago. That project didn’t go the way we wanted it to, so we re-approached the film with a new set of ideas. Instead of just making it with the idea of people and history, I wanted to make sure we followed some of the natural occurrences on the river as well as balancing the ‘people’ element of the film, which provided the perfect storyline to follow.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of making this film, visiting the beautiful locations and trying to portray the beauty of the River Teifi and those who live in and around it, as well as the editing and choosing different music to highlight different emotions one might feel when watching a particular sequence of imagery.

A day which stood out for me in particular was filming water buffalos. The initial reaction for that is: “What?! There are Water Buffalos in Wales?!” and indeed there are. Cattle cannot graze on marshy ground partly because they don’t want to but also they can suffer from red water fever, so to keep the Teifi Marshes intact, water buffalos are brought in for a couple of months in the summer from a nearby farm. When filming big animals, you always have to be careful. We had achieved the drone shots successfully, but I wanted to make sure we also got some close up/intimate shots of the animals. The field they were in stretched a couple of acres and we could only see two buffalo out of the three who were in the field. As we tiptoed around the corner of this mound, in the middle of the field – 400 metres away – two females we looking at us down their noses. But where was the third male? Suddenly a metre or two in front of the females, the male erupted out of the foliage. We knew instantly that our presence was not wanted! Slowly they began to walk towards us, I stopped filmed for 30 seconds and then quickly rushed back and repeated the same as before. Finally, I got the shots I needed, but what an incredible experience. Looking deep into its eyes, it felt like I could be somewhere in Africa filming this amazing animal.  

The most challenging aspect of the film was the sound recording and balancing it to the imagery. A lot of inspiration came from the major BBC shows of Blue Planet 2, Planet Earth 2 or Seven Worlds, One Planet.  

The hardest thing about making this film was noticing the effects we are having on the river. Increasing intensification of agriculture has resulted in three major slurry spillages and poisonings in the last five years. We searched for the dead fish because I felt it was important for the story to be told and put the reality of the river into perspective. As we turned a corner, a cloud of flies engulfed the air around us and when they cleared, the true devastation was revealed. Around 60-70 fish were on the stones next to the river with around 10 which were visible on the surface. This was only a small river, the incidents on the river Teifi have killed over 1,000 fish. That was the most difficult aspect to film because it was heart breaking to see this had happened.  

This film was such a joy to make and I’m looking forward to see what I can do for my next project.

Watch Jake’s film, A Journey Along the River Teifi on YouTube here.