Category: basque films (page 1 of 3)

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>

 

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:

“>

 

“>

 

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)

 

Harpo Marx the Basque?

Too Many Kisses  is a 1925 movie directed by Paul Sloane and based on John Monk Saunders’s story, “A Maker of Gestures.” It is notable for being the earliest surviving film to feature Harpo Marx, but also for its setting: Iparralde or the Basque Country in France. The plot concerns a father who sends his Lothario son to Iparralde in the belief that he will not be able to leave a trail of broken hearts behind him there because Basques only marry among themselves (!) Harpo Marx plays a minor role as the Village Peter Pan. See a full description of the film, for a long time thought to have been lost, here.

As the above clip demonstrates, the movie makers were fairly liberal in their interpretation of Basque culture but it’s an interesting testament, nonetheless, to showing that the Basque Country was known in the US in the 1920s as somewhere singular and different. What do you think? Does Harpo make a convincing Basque?

Older posts