Author: mvaczi

Topeka by Asier Altuna: Of Men and Rams as Metaphors for Violence

 

We are pleased to announce that we are starting our Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and contemporary filmmakers! The short films presented here have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque Government`s distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of the CBS`s upcoming book publication Kimuak Short Films: Seeds of Basque Cinema. Enjoy!

 

Aurrera doan herria, a nation progressing, a nation on track.” Or is it?

What distinguishes the creative brand of Asier Altuna is the minimalism, visual potency, and poetic value of images strongly rooted in the Basque imaginary. The director eliminates dialogues and transmits, from a critical perspective, brief but powerful messages about society, humans, and their behaviors. Altuna uses an eminently Basque tradition, the ram fight, to speak in a metaphorical way about the duality between human beings and animals in a sick, violent and intolerant society whose members aim to destroy one another and themselves.

The film starts out with the traditional Basque ram fight. This pattern is broken by a brief shot of a man who suddenly hits the person next to him with his head, very much like the rams just did. The natural sound of the fiesta is substituted by the sound of the tambourine and the xtalaparta, Basque instruments of percussion whose beat strengthens the sensation of the blows. Altuna shows how humans have occupied the primitive place of animals; they do not only charge at the person next to them, but also foolishly hit their head against a stone wall when they can`t find another person to attack. Meanwhile, one of the rams escapes and, in a display of common sense that humans have just lost, he disappears where he belongs, nature. The duality proposed between the animal behavior of human beings and the human behavior of the animal is best visualized by the anthropomorphic sculpture ram by Ricardo Hernández.

It is almost inevitable to interpret these images as a metaphorical treatment of the Basque Country. It is particularly curious and ironic that the short film should open with an overprint that reads “Aurrera doan herria,” “a nation progressing, a nation on track,” a slogan borrowed from the Basque government at the time, whose Department of Culture sponsored part of the short film. Enjoy!

 

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/16310694″>TOPEKA</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3148570″>txintxua</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

 

“Bringing Women out of the Shadows”

Basque migration to the Americas has been widely documented. From the 15-16th century Spanish colonial pursuits to the 20th century Franco dictatorship, Basques left the home country in great numbers to escape economic hardships and political turbulence in search of a better life. In the United States, the image of the lonely Basque sheepherder has become an important figure in the iconography of the American West, and Basque bars, restaurants, and cultural centers continue to thrive as descendants of the once ubiquitous Basque boarding houses.

Women, however, are conspicuously missing from the grand narratives of Basque migration, Ph.D. student Edurne Arostegui argued at her lecture at the CBS Seminar Series. “We need to make an effort to bring female immigrant experiences out of the shadows.” Even canonical works of Basque migration suffer from this lacuna, Edurne argued, while women came in great numbers, and worked just as hard as any man: they were sheepherders, boarding house managers, cooks, translators, housewives, bar tenders, and waitresses, etc. “Basque women immigrants are not given due credit as long as they are featured as mere appendices to their husbands who came to this country with no agency of their own. They did have their own dreams and aspirations about their new lives, and worked very hard for them.” Furthermore, the lecture featured pioneering women who affected gender breakthroughs by taking up traditionally masculine jobs like sheepherding or becoming pivotal figures, as leaders, in their communities. “We need to reach out to these women before their stories get lost,” Edurne concluded.

 

Monday movies: “The Raven” by Tinieblas González

We are pleased to announce that we are starting our Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and contemporary filmmakers! The short films presented here have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque Government`s distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of the CBS`s upcoming book publication Kimuak Short Films: Seeds of Basque Cinema. Enjoy!

In a mournful midnight, the writer Edgar Allan Poe tries in vain to entertain himself reading occultist books, and he constantly remembers his beloved Leonore, who died shortly before.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

Only this and nothing more.

Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven

 

Tinieblas González and Karra Elejalde wrote the script of this short film on the basis of the American classic The Raven (1845), which catapulted its author, Edgar Allan Poe to fame. The adaptation keeps the same structure as the original poem.

The writer locks himself in his room, converted into a mausoleum, to dedicate his existence to the memory of the deceased woman. The music that evokes Leonor is associated with each of the apparitions of the beloved woman: the picture, the flashback and the hallucinations that torture Poe. This musical composition stands out for its subtleness. The room`s Baroque decoration features saturated red, resembling the iconography of the horror of Hammer Films. The cemetery evokes the suggestive imaginary of Monastery graveyard in the snow (1818-1819) by Caspar David Friedrich, the Romantic German painter, and its disturbing atmosphere is transferred to the forest that surrounds the mansion. Death transforms the woods into a sinister place where the branches of the trees reach toward the sky over a sea of snow. Poe is full of profound melancholy, and is lost outside on the fields. Leonor sends a seductive invitation to her husband so that he passes over to the other world.

Watch Part 1 and 2 here:

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Tinieblas González said this about about making The Raven:

The Raven had a design of excellent production, it was a short film that had a presence. I spent more than 19 million pesetas on it, and received a lot of criticism on part of some short film makers. They said that it was more like a feature film rather than a short film. Apparently, The Raven lacked the aesthetics of a short film. It was an accusation that did not at all correspond to reality. I had seen many short films at an endless number of festivals all over the world, and I knew that it was not the case. In spite of the criticism, people started to become enthusiastic, and invest more money in their short films. Nevertheless, all of this disappeared. The design of production is fundamental in a short film, but in the past years it has been rather neglected. Depending on the story it tells, cinema can be poor. But there are films that need to offer a spectacle. Because at the end of the day, for me, cinema has always been about entertainment. I don`t consider myself an artist, I consider myself a creator. A creator of ideas. I make films because I like entertaining. In fact, I think that cinema is first of all entertainment. And later, if a film stays in the annals of history, it may become a work of art.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Movies: “One Too Many” by Borja Cobeaga

We are starting the Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and contemporary cinema! Most of these short films have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of our upcoming book Kimuak Short Films: Seeds of Basque Cinema. Enjoy!

“And she left just like that?”

“Looks like it.”

“Without leaving a note?”

“I don`t know.”

What is a man to do when his wife has had enough and left? Joaquín and his son Fernando seek out the long-forgotten grandma in a nursing home with an ulterior motive. Gran is a marvelous cook, and the two men are more than pleased to have found another woman who takes care of them. But is granny really who they think she is? And if not, does it really matter, once she makes the finest chuletas and tortilla patatas?

To watch the video, click on the link to open it on Vimeo:

 

 

One Too Many by Borja Cobeaga, co-screen writer of the 2014 box office hit Ocho Appelidos Vascos (Spanish Affair) is a portrait of extreme selfishness when men see themselves overcome by loneliness. From the moment of her arrival, grandma takes charge of cleaning the house, which by now is a pigsty, and prepares exquisite meals for the two slackers who do not lift a finger to help her. One day, however, during a phone conversation with his estranged wife, Joaquín discovers that the woman who lives with them is in fact not Lourdes. She is an elderly woman who was so desperate to leave the nursing home that she was ready to become slave to these two egoistic idlers in order to escape her reclusion. Joaquín is at the point of confessing the truth to his son, Fernando, but when he seas the T-bone steaks the impostor has just brought for lunch, he decides to let the sham continue. Grandma, sensing that she was about to be discovered, shots a look full of fear and uncertainty towards the men, and holds up a succulent steak, the only weapon of seduction she has. One Too Many is a bitter sweet comedy about selfishness and the vulnerability of the elderly

 

Borja Cobeaga said this about how he first thought of making this short film:

“I was a little disillusioned, I was never happy with what I was doing, which is why I decided to apply the typical formula of writing about what you know. I grew up with a 70-year-old person, Agustina, the family cook all our lives. She was part of the family; she nourished me! I found a lot of inspiration in her. Elderly people can be very extreme persons with childish behaviors, like jumping the line in supermarkets, but in turn, they are also people with experience. These extremes seemed very good for a comedy. In the end, contrast is the most important element of comedy. Since I decided to write about what I know and started to do things that I most liked, I felt more identified, and I realized that the cliché was true. All the persons that Mariví Bilbao plays in my short films are inspired in Agustina. In conclusion, it`s about taking a real situation, exaggerating it, and putting forth a question: and what if this happened to this character? For example, the question that we formed in One too many was: What would happen if a father and a son were abandoned by the mother?”

 

 

Monday Movies: “Syntony”

 

We are pleased to announce that we are starting our Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and showcase contemporary filmmakers. The short films presented here have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque Government`s distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of the CBS`s upcoming book publication Kimuak Short Films: Buds of Basque Cinema. Enjoy!

“Shall I be honest? I think I`ve fallen in love.”

“Come on María, you barely know him.”

“It doesn`t matter. You just feel it. I think we have tuned in to each other, and that`s it!”

Sometimes it`s not a question of long conversations, or living together. Sometimes a particular situation or encounter is enough to connect with someone. “Syntony” (Sintonía) by Jose Mari Goneaga is a romantic comedy where a Basque man, stuck in a traffic jam on the highway, tries to call the attention of a woman sitting in another car. He wants to warn her that her scarf is stuck outside of the door. She doesn`t see him, however; she is absorbed, singing. He starts to tune in to radio channels, until the music`s lyrics finally match those on the woman`s lips. He calls the radio program to warn her about her scarf.

The man, timid and incapable of dealing with the woman face to face, lacks the social skills to approach her in person, but he finds a way to connect with her over the radio. The fear of failure, of rejection, paralyzes our spontaneity, and “Syntony” is about taking risks when we stand before the unexpected opportunities that life offers us. Watch the short film, only available in Spanish for now:

Goneaga, who has directed well-known feature films such as 80 Days and Flowers, said this about his short film:

I am not a great friend of metaphors but, when I structured the script, I considered the cars on the highway as metaphors for people. And the people who are inside are like our real “I.” Even though we live surrounded by people, we have difficulty connecting, tuning in with someone, and to reach their interior. We see people talking on the radio and the phone, but we don’t see anyone directly approaching another person. Also, there is a reflection on the incapacity that we sometimes have to open ourselves towards others. This shyness… I didn’t intend this as something specifically cultural, but I have been repeatedly told that the male character is very “Basque.” What happens is that in the end you are Basque, you put your personality into your character in a certain way, and the result is that they tell you that it is very “Basque.”

 

(source: www.kimuak.com)