Category: Basque film (page 1 of 3)

CBS Book “The Basque Nation On-Screen” Inspires Prestigious Award

The book Creadores de sombras: ETA y el nacionalismo vasco a través del cine by Santiago de Pablo received the 2018 Muñoz Suay Prize awarded by the Spanish Arts and Film Academy. The award recognizes the best works of historical research on the Spanish film industry. A previous version of this book was published by the Center for Basque Studies in 2012 with the title The Basque Nation On-Screen: Cinema, Nationalism, and Political Violence. Professor De Pablo enjoyed the opportunity of serving as William Douglass Visiting Scholar in Reno during the academic year 2009-2010, researching on the relationship between cinema, Basque nationalism, and ETA.

Since its creation in 1997, the prestigious Muñoz Suay Award has supported research on the history of cinema in Spain. Well-known authors such as Ian Gibson, Manuel Gutiérrez-Aragón, or Vicente Sánchez-Biosca received this prize in previous years. The president of the Academy, filmmaker Mariano Barroso presented the prize to Santiago de Pablo in Madrid on November 212018.

The jury emphasized De Pablo’s “great knowledge of the subject, and his unbiased viewpoint of the very controversial subject of the representation of Basque political violence in contemporary Spanish cinema.”

Santiago de Pablo is Professor of History at the University of the Basque Country (Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea). He specializes in the history of Basque nationalism, and the relationship between history and cinema. He is author of several books, among Tierra sin paz: Guerra Civil, cine y propaganda en el País Vasco, La patria soñada: Historia del nacionalismo vasco desde su origen hasta la actualidador, and Diccionario ilustrado de símbolos del nacionalismo vasco.

https://www.academiadecine.com/2018/11/21/santiago-de-pablo-recibe-el-premio-munoz-suay-2018/

 

       

Visiting scholar Maitane Junguitu Dronda speaks about Basque animation and her work in Reno

Does Basque animation cinema exist? Sure it does. Then why don’t we know about it?

Maitane Junguitu Dronda is a PhD candidate at the department of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising at the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). She currently lives in Reno, and does her internship in the Jon Bilbao Library. Her research area is Basque animation in the cinematographic industry.

Maitane`s lecture started out with the questions above, and revisited the most important episodes and figures in the development of Basque animation, with special attention to the vulnerable position of animation among the genres of cinematography. In spite of the fact that we socialize our children on animation, by adulthood we watch less of it, which is why the genre struggles to survive in both its short and feature film formats. Maitane distinguished between two approaches. Experimental animation marked the evolution of this genre in the Basque Country, used traditional methods of painting, and its main representatives were Balerdi and Sistiaga. Commercial animation developed through the foundational work of Juanba Berasategi. Maitane highlighted that, while several analyses have been published in recent years about Basque cinema, animation is painfully neglected at best, and totally absent at worst. She emphasized the role of governmental programs such as Kimuak, initiated by the Basque Government, to select, promote and disseminate the products of Basque cinematographic industry.

 

“I visited the Center for Basque Studies of the University of Nevada in 2014 as a visiting scholar. When I left Reno, I felt that I must return in the future. The Global Training Program offered by the Basque Government and the University of the Basque Country gave me the opportunity to return to the USA, and complete my international experience. Now I´m in the Jon Bilbao Basque Library learning from the Basque Librarian Iñaki Arrieta. I help him and our students take care of the collections and the archive. I also help library users, including the international scholars that are visiting us. I am very glad I had the opportunity to share my work with UNR students and faculty. In this lecture, spoke about the bibliographical resources that I use in my PhD. In fact, there are not many publications about the topic I study, that is, commercial animation cinema made in the Basque Country. My goal is to create a specific bibliography that may help people learn about certain films that are not really known either in the Basque Country, or beyond it.”

Kimuak, of which the Center for Basque Studies will publish a monograph next year, features several animation short films, some of which have earned extraordinary success. We briefly feature here two works by Begoña Vicario and Isabel Herguera.

Begoña Vicario is a most seminal figure of Basque animation not only because of the works she produces, but also because she teaches the new generations of animation at the University of the Basque Country. Vicario`s experimental animation addresses social themes such as organ traffic or common graves. Her stories are born from personal experience that push her to tell a story. Her visual imagery is characterized by a search for constant movement, textual metamorphosis, and it is combined with intense soundtrack. The objective of her work is to explore emotions.

Her animation Ask For Me (1996) won the Goya Award (something like the “Spanish Oscar”) for Best Animation Short Film in 1997. Watch it here!

 

Isabel Herguera`s visual style recovers the spirit of the schematic era of children`s drawing. It is through this innocent imaginary that she narrates profoundly human stories about blindness, madness or AIDS, and she does so as if they were a trip to another world. Her Blindman’s Bluff  (2005) was nominated for best animation short film at the Goya Awards in 2006. Watch it at the link below!

https://vimeo.com/201257616

 

 

 

Monday Movies: “Game,” and Female Film Makers in Basque Cinema

Ione Hernández  takes inspiration from an anecdote that film maker Luiso Berdejo told her from his childhood. In this story, she reflects about the belief in the weight of destiny, and the possibility of freeing oneself from it.

Lying in bed, Laura (María Vallesteros) is writing a letter to Adrián (Daniel Grao), her former boyfiend, from London. A poetic flashback takes us back to the childhood of the main character (César de Juan) and his sister Helena (Elisa Drabben), who travel in a car with their parents. To entertain them, the father (Álex Pastor) proposes a game: the next boy or girl that they see will be their future husband or wife. Roberto approaches with his scooter and passes by the car. Helena protests angrily because she doesn`t like the boy. Adrián`s look meets with that of Laura, a girl who is older than him. The action then returns to the present.

Hernández, one of the few female film makers in the Basque cinematographic industry, says this about women and cinema:

We are a minority. There are very few female directors. Besides, it seems like men`s stories generate more interest at the structural, thematic and other levels. It is difficult to direct, whether you are a man or a woman. But for us women it is a bit more complicated. If you want to direct, become a mother, and find fulfillment in life, you must make great sacrifices because of the time it requires from you. I am essentially a defender of good cinema. When you make a film, you express something very much from within. And if you are a woman, there will be an important part of this essence or this quality that will stay in your work. It is impossible not to appreciate feminine elements in the work of a woman. Nevertheless, there are also men who have this feminine quality, and women who are very masculine. In artistic creation, you have to connect rather more with your emotional side. At the end of the day, creation takes place on the basis of emotions.

Terminal: Looking the other way

A bus driver thinks that a junkie he used to see regularly has died. He regrets not having helped her. But soon she shows up again.

Have a great Tuesday with a Kimuak short!

Aitzol Aramio`s Terminal is an unhappy love story spoiled by the prejudices of the main character, a man who works at the ticket booth of a bus company (Miguel Ángel Solá). He falls in love with a young junkie (Blanca Oteyza), whom he sees every night on the bus that takes her from work, a night club, to home. This story is full of tenderness and subtlety. It is centered on the profoundly human, kind-hearted and transparent character of the drug addict, and shows the cowardice of the man who gives more importance to the woman`s past than the possibility of a future with her.

While the masculine character does not evolve, the young woman undergoes a profound transformation throughout the story. The concept of movement, of progress is materialized through the bus trip. The vehicle represents the crossroads of everyday existence where everyone takes a direction. In case of the woman, it symbolizes the path towards redemption, and the struggle to be happy. Bilbao`s Termibus ticket booth marks the turning point of this personal pilgrimage: the initial hell, and then that of the arrival, and the man`s rejection. Fortunately, the ending makes it clear that in spite of the pain, the young woman embarks on a new journey by herself. He however is anchored to a station from which he will never move. His existence is limited to observing the journeys that other people take every day. And like everything in life, this choice has a price: loneliness and melancholy. Under the day`s light, the bus runs around the city. Taciturn, the clerk grabs the bar with both hands, and his little finger keeps searching for the woman. But it is now too late. His incapacity leads him to regret things twice.

Ultimately, beyond the tender story of impossible love, the short film reflects about the distinctive positions people take before life. It criticizes a society where those who are stagnant look at the world from behind a watchtower, from a moral high ground, and do nothing to help others in their transformative journeys. Their inaction turns them into an example of virtue, when in fact they are cowards and egoists who feel nothing, and suffer nothing.

You can watch the silent short here:

https://youtu.be/nUnHIN4-tgM

Monday Movies: Duck Crossing

The passage of ducks is a recurring image in the history of cinema. Suffice it to mention such canonical films like The Circus (Charles Chaplin, 1928), Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978), Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974), Black Cat, White Cat (Emir Kusturica, 1998), Five (Abbas Kiarostami, 2003), etc., all of which have a shot where a group of ducks cross the scene. Basque short film maker Koldo Almandoz uncovers this mystery in his ingenious work Duck Crossing.

Koldo Almadoz`s short film Duck Crossing is a fake documentary, a subgenre that became very popular through This is Spinal Tap65 (Rob Reiner, 1984), and which was inspired to a great degree by the first films of Peter Watkins. Almandoz uses the mockumentary genre to show his fine irony in Duck Crossing, and uses many false documentary elements like irony, intrigue, false characters, and the use of archived material. In this work, he reflects about the curiously recurring shot that he calls the passage of ducks. The narrator`s voice over tells us about the significant role that ducks have played in the history of cinema, which lends the story a certain verisimilitude. The illustrating images, a group of black and white photographs of important films seem to verify his words.

A little later, we hear the testimonies of some of the directors who made these films, such as Michael Winterbottom, Emir Kusturica, David Fincher, Roman Polanski or Abbas Kiarostami. All of them praise the quality of the ducks as actors. Besides, the film unites the opinions of Tomás Sarasola, manager of the leading role duck, and the veterinary surgeon Jone Landaribar. Finally, the narrator recovers the thread of the plot to praise the acting talent of the ducks, and the technique of the passage of ducks.

Nevertheless, not everything is false in Duck Crossing. Although the approach and the development of the mockumentary may be absurd, its premise is very real. It is absolutely true that since the most remote beginnings of cinema until today, film directors all over the world have included in their movies a shot where a group of ducks emerges in the scene. The enormous work of research that the director has done—which is the most outstanding and amazing part of the short film—attests to that. It is this unquestionable reality, precisely, which incites the curiosity of the viewer, and captures them in the plot of the director. Once again, suspense defines the short film. But, just as with the most captivating mysteries, in this one there is no answer either. It doesn`t matter. Because what mattered was the road travelled. Almandoz summarizes it perfectly with the last phrases of the voice over of the narrator:

“The absence of a logical explanation disturbs us. But it is, in the end, part of the magic of cinema, which continues to hypnotize us with these small details.”

 

 

Almandoz said this about how he first thought about making this short film:

I was watching A very long engagement by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2004) in the movie theater. I watched the scene where the postman comes, and some ducks cross the screen. I thought that I had just seen the same recently in Así en el cielo como en la tierra by José Luis Cuerda (1995). Then, I came to the conclusion that the world is full of the passage of ducks. In fact, the scene where a group of ducks cross the screen appears in many films. That`s how the idea came. Nevertheless, it took me time to figure out what I would do with this discovery.

 

Duck Crossing (2009) is part of Kimuak, the Basque Government’s program for the distribution and promotion of Basque short films worldwide. Koldo Almandoz is a short film maker based Donostia-San Sebastian, whose short films have gained national, state level and international acclaim.

 

The Basque film HANDIA is nominated for 13 Goya Awards

 

handia pelicula bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

The Basque movie Handia (Giant) has been nominated for 13 Goya awards, including best film, best director, and best script. The Goya Awards are granted annually by the Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences of Spain.

handia pelicula bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

The film appears to be quite interesting as it is based on a true story.  The film begins after one of the protagonists, Martin, returns to his family farmhouse in Gipuzkoa after fighting in the First Carlist War. There he discovers that his younger brother, Miguel Joaquín, is much taller than usual. Convinced that everyone will want to pay to see the greatest man on Earth, both brothers embark on a long journey through Europe in which ambition, money, and fame will forever change the destiny of the family.  

handia pelicula bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

The film Handia tells the true story of Miguel Joaquin Eleizegi Arteaga, a character who in the mid-nineteenth century was known as the Giant of Alzo. Born in 1819 in the Gipuzkoan town of Alzo, he suffered from acromegaly, a disease caused by a defect in the pituitary gland that causes excessive secretion of growth hormones. Miguel Joaquin came to weigh 467 pounds and measured 7’4 feet tall. Unfortunately, Miguel Joaquin died very young at the age of 43 from tuberculosis.

Gigante de Alzo bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

If you want to know more about  Basque Cinema you might like to read the following books: The Basque Nation on Screen: Cinema, Nationalism, and  Political Violence Basque Cinema.

 

 

Monday Movies: “The Great Zambini” by Igor Legarreta and Emilio Pérez

“The Great Zambini is a story that has a touch of sadness but, in the end, we can see some hope in the relationship between father and son.” Emilio Pérez

 

Situated in the middle of the desert, in an almost lunar landscape, a rickety roulette serves as home for a family that lives among the abandoned remains of an old circus. The son (Aníbal Tártalo) is ashamed of the father (Emilio Gavira) because he is a dwarf, and suffers the mockery of the other children. One day the father observes his son`s fascination with an image of the man stepping on the moon for the first time on television. He designs a plan to win his son`s admiration. The difficult relations between the central characters are articulated through their expressive looks that rarely cross, but perfectly condense the emotions that live within each one of them: the son`s shame, the father’s pain, and the mother’s sadness (Esperanza de la Vega), who is torn between the two.

One day the father is waiting for his son at the exit of the school and notices that, in front of him, a little girl is holding on to her mother`s hand, and watches him fixedly. The dwarf man winks, provoking a timid smile from the little one. His own son, however, is incapable of showing any sign of love for his father. He hides in the bathroom until the rest of the students leave because he is ashamed of showing with his dwarf father in public.

The father doesn`t tolerate his disrespect and punishes him by not allowing him to have dinner. The mother, however, who divides her love and understanding between them, brings him a sandwich to the canon, where the child once again hides from his father. The father observes the scene from the door of the mobile home and understands that he must do something in order to recover the love of his son. At this very moment, a fabulous plan is born, and magic erupts into the story, evoking with the magic of the old circus. Zambini relocates and re-furbishes the canon that, until then, served as the hiding place of the embarrassed child. With exquisite subtleness and narrative economy, the filmmakers reveal the father`s plan: resuscitate the old days in the circus, once again light the fuse of the marvelous scene where children`s hopes and dreams become reality, and thus replace the child`s embarrassment with fascination and admiration for his father.

Monday Movies presents 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.

Click on the link below to watch the film. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Monday Movies: “The First Time” at 70

Let me explain. Imagine my situation. 70 years passed, and nothing… I had a boyfriend here and there, but… what I always knew is that I didn`t want to die like this. And since everyone says it`s a wonderful, fantastic thing, the truth is that… it intrigues you. And I told myself: Begoña, if this is something so nice, you can`t lose out on it.

Begoña is an elderly woman—and a virgin. Convinced that death is close, she decides to hire a male prostitute, Daniel, to satisfy her curiosity about the thing that everyone says is so beautiful and marvelous. However, this will not be an easy task for Daniel. The First Time is Cobeaga`s first short film, which he made before he would become a household name behind such box office hits like Ocho Apellidos Vascos, Pagafantas, the weekly comedy series Vaya Semanita, or his Oscar-nominated One Too Many.

The short film was nominated for the 2002 Goya Awards, and received more than 30 awards in Spain and at international festivals. In his trademark mood of bitter sweet comedy, Cobeaga presents a completely anomalous situation that is nevertheless based on a range of familiar clichés: prostitution delivered to home. What is different here is that the client is not a man, but an elderly woman played by a splendid Mariví Bilbao. After the initial surprise about his client, the young gigolo (Aitor Beltrán) finds himself before an unprecedented query.

Cobeaga said this about the film, and the dark side of being an Oscar nominee from the perspective of creativity:

I like to pick diverse and different actors. I like this mixture. This has been present since The First Time, and also in the feature films there is this contrast: theater actors, humorists who work in television, actors who come from TV series…I think that 80% of the work of actor direction is about the choice of the actors. Sometimes I write with a particular actor on mind, other times no, but the election is always very scrupulous. When it comes to facing the direction of actors, I feel very confident, and I like it to be an intellectual process; I am not at all sensory when I talk with the actors. I intend to be very logical with what each character would do in each moment, and my behavior is the same in the dialogue with the actor. It is fundamental that they read the script from beginning to end, and transform the dialogues. From the perspective of dialogue, the script is never closed, and this gives tranquility. It generates good atmosphere, and the actors feel comfortable.

At a more personal or mental level, an Oscar nomination has its dark sides. The impression that you arrived at the Oscar when you barely even started yet… I developed a certain obsession with not believeing it too much, and this lead to self-confidence issues. Besides, a week after the Oscars I shot Río Puerco,  the short film that I am least happy with.  It was a tough blow psychologically. I started to think that the Oscar was tremendously accidental, that it happened to me, but it could have happened to any other person. It caused me insecurity. I was of low morale until the first script of Pagafantas came out.

The Monday Movies series presents 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!

CBS Seminar Series: “The Basque Swastika”

CBS Seminar Series Presents Santi de Pablo`s “The Basque Swastika”

Santi de Pablo is professor of Contemporary History at the University of the Basque Country. He specializes in history of the Basque Country and in film history. His last book is Creadores de sombras: ETA y el nacionalismo vasco a través del cine (Originally published in English by the CBS as The Basque Nation on Screen: Cinema, Nationalism and Political Violence in the Basque Country). He enjoyed the opportunity of being William Douglass visiting scholar at our Center in 2009-2010, and now he is researching in the CBS thanks to a USAC grant.

On October 17th he presented in the Center the documentary The Basque Swastika (Una esvástica sobre el Bidasoa), a film produced in 2013 by the Basque film-company EsRec Productions, and directed by Javier Barajas and Javier de Andrés. Santi himself worked as historical advisor to the film, along with professor Ludger Mees.

He explained that the origin of the movie was an academic paper he wrote in 2008 together with a professor of the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. One day he received a phone-call at his University office from the aforementioned film-company proposing to make a movie about the topic of the paper. Two years later, the film premiered in the San Sebastian Film Festival, one of the most prestigious cinema festivals in Europe.

It’s quite unusual for an academic paper to become a film, but in this case the topic of the article inspired curiosity. The authors had discovered in the Berlin Film Archive a German Nazi documentary from 1944 about the Basque Country (Im Lande der basken), which nobody knew of until that moment. This discovery was stunning because it disclosed the interest of Nazis in Basque culture during the Second World War.

On the one hand, The Basque Swastika is cinema about cinema, as it uncovers the story of Im Lande der basken. On the other hand, it’s a film about the history of the Basques, the Nazis and the Second World War. The documentary recalls that the Basque Government and its president Aguirre and the Basque Nationalist Party fought for the Allies and against the Nazis during World War Two, but also that there were some contacts with occupation forces in France. Both the filmmakers and the historical advisers were aware of the controversy surrounding this topic, but they attempted to explain it in an unbiased way. Actually, both Spanish and Basque public televisions co-produced the film, which was well received, and obtained awards at such international documentary film festivals as Nantes (France) and Guadalajara (México).

The screening inspired a fruitful and interesting debate with the audience. Many thanks, Santi, and zorionak!

 

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>

 

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