'Duffy's a Real Discovery' A Road Movie Set in Both Patagonia and Wales Marks Duffy's Acting Debut. Rob Driscoll Finds out How She Got into Character and What Director Marc Evans, below, Thinks of His New Film Star

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FOR her film acting debut, Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Duffy may not have had to travel far from her North Wales roots - but she did have to play the ukulele, speak Spanish and play almost all of her scenes opposite two Argentinean actors.

"I can't play an instrument, so I had to teach myself to play the ukulele," reveals the 26-year-old star about her first acting role. "Music is part of our culture in Wales, we're very musical, so it didn't feel as if I was going back to my roots as a singer.

"It just feels like a kid from Wales would be able to sing a hymn and play the ukulele, so I happily took that on."

The film is Patagonia, director Marc Evans' eagerly-awaited exploration of the cultures and mythical bonds shared by Wales and the eponymous South American region, the "promised land" where 163 Welsh people emigrated to in 1865, fleeing the poverty of their hill farms and low wages of the coalfields.

Yet Patagonia the movie is no stodgy history lesson, but a vibrant, contemporary road movie, taking in the parallel journeys of two women thousands of miles apart - one looking for her past, the other for her future.

Duffy takes on the supporting yet vital role of Sissy, a free-spirited Welsh student who seduces a young Argentinean boy travelling through Wales with his elderly aunt, herself on a secret pilgrimage to visit her ancestral homeland before she dies.

"I feel as though Sissy's character was very close to who I used to be," says the Bangor-born, Nefyn-raised singer, who became the first Welsh female in 25 years to achieve number one in the UK singles chart with Mercy.

"I'm not saying I've changed dramatically, but there are elements of her that I think I've left behind, so that's also what made me feel compelled to do this film. The little girl lost looking slightly out of place, I remember being that person. She resembled something that I had experienced growing up in Nefyn."

As far as director Evans is concerned, Duffy is a natural in her first acting role.

"Duffy is a real discovery as an actress - she looks comfortable and she does amazingly well in the film," says the Cardiff-born film-maker whose previous successes include My Little Eye, Trauma, House of America and Snow Cake.

"She was keen not to be 'Duffy the singer' in something. She's very busy, as she's so successful, so we thought it was far better for her to take a smaller part in something where the whole film doesn't rest on her being in it, than to expose herself in something bigger.

"Welsh is her first language, but most of her lines are in Spanish, she can act and be herself on camera - and I think we captured that girl from a small town in Wales."

As well as Duffy, Patagonia's cast also features established Welsh actors Matthew Rhys (of The Edge of Love and Brothers & Sisters fame) and Nia Roberts (Solomon & Gaenor). Incorporating the culture and countryside of both Wales and Patagonia, Evans' truly original film - with dialogue spoken in both Spanish and Welsh - is a lyrical exploration of the parallel journeys of two women at very different stages of their lives.

Cutting between their stories, in which one travels South to North through the Welsh springtime and the other East to West through the Argentine autumn, Patagonia is a film of intimate moments played out against sweeping panoramic landscapes, complemented by a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack.

In Cardiff, Gwen (Nia Roberts) and her boyfriend Rhys (Matthew Gravelle) are feeling a significant strain on their relationship since discovering they are unable to conceive. …