Category: basque films (page 1 of 2)

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?

Premiere of Aberne, a short movie about women in pelota, on Sunday

Sunday will see the premiere of the movie Aberne, a short film that was the result of a Master’s thesis by Irati Santiago, from Villabona (Gipuzkoa), at Columbia College Chicago. It was produced by Santiago and written and directed by Emma Johnson. From the movie website:  “Aberne tells the story of a young, Basque woman struggling to be accepted amongst external societal pressures in a region where friends, family and co-workers all come together under one sport, pelota. Aberne seeks the opportunity to break free from the culture’s limitation and prove herself worthy of not only playing pelota, but of the general public’s respect.”


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165637744″>Aberne Interview H264</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19210914″>Irati Santiago</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

The film was shot in the Tolosa district of Gipuzkoa, in Basque, and with English subtitles.  It tells the story of a young woman who aspires to be a professional pelotari or Basque handball player in the face of much resistance, including on the part of her mother, who attempts to convince her to stick to the family bread-making business.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165733435″>Aberne Teaser English H264</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19210914″>Irati Santiago</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

See a report on the movie premiere by the Noticias de Gipuzkoa (in Spanish) here.

Check out Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic, by Olatz González Abrisketa, which seeks to contextualize this sport within Basque culture more generally.

Documentary about Gernika bombing posted online

In line with several other events taking place this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Gernika bombing, “Gernika: The Story,” a documentary on this crucial moment in Basque and even world history is available to watch via the Basque doc channel on YouTube.

Directed by Alberto Rojo, the documentary, according to its description on YouTube, “offers the most complete account to date of the local, national and international dimensions of the events of that fateful day” by using “dramatised reconstruction and virtual imaging of some key incidents” as well as interviews with experts on the event and first-hand accounts from survivors, including Luis Iriondo, Andone Bidaguren, Pedro Baliño, Juan Miguel Bombín, Itziar Arzanegi, and Francisco García San Román.

The 2016 Bilbao Mendi Film Festival

This year’s Bilbao Mendi Film Festival kicked off on December 9 and runs through December 18. This is an annual festival that celebrates cinematic representations of mountains, mountaineering, hiking, climbing, skiing, adventure, exploration, extreme sports, and the great outdoors in general. Check out the trailer on the main website to get a flavor of what it’s all about.

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Basque-themed work appearing at the festival this year includes Akabuko Martxea, a documentary directed by Aitor Gisasola and Fredi Paia about efforts to recreate the tradition of sheep transhumance in herding sheep from the Urbia Mountains to the Uribe Kosta coastal district.

In the fall of 2015 two Gipuzkoan shepherds, Mikel Etxezarreta and Eli Arrillaga, spent five days herding 250 sheep from Zegama in Gipuzkoa to Getxo in Bizkaia. Their aim was to recreate the tradition of transhumance, a way of life that came to an end in the early 1980s. Indeed, Etxezarreta himself last carried out such a trek in 1982.

The Basque-made documentary, Kurssuaq. La exploración del Río Grande, will also be shown. We covered this amazing kayak expedition in a previous post here. Similarly, Humla, produced and directed by Mikel Sarasola, charts the adventures of four kayakers as they attempt to negotiate the mighty Humla Karnali, the longest river in Nepal.

The documentary Common Ground, meanwhile, charts the expedition of a group of climbers, including the brothers Iker and Eneko Pou from Vitoria-Gasteiz, to the remote Chukotka region of Siberia. In a similar vein, Eñaut Izagirre’s Incognita Patagonia, produced for National Geographic, covers a climbing expedition to the Cloue Icefield on Hoste Island, at the southern tip of Latin America.

Elsewhere, Jon Herranz directs Mar Alvarez No Logo, a documentary about woman firefighter and part-time climber, Mar Alvarez.

In somewhat of a different direction, Iker Elorrieta’s film I Forgot Myself Somewhere examines the challenges faced by women in northern Pakistan to get an education.

And Xabier Zabala’s Imaginador is a biography of photographer Santi Yaniz, famed for his work in the Basque Country and the Pyrenees.

See a full list of the films on show here.

Maitia nun zira? New documentary about Basque prisoners in World War I

A short documentary titled Maitia nun zira? (Where are you, darling?) has just been presented by the Euskal Kultur Erakundea (Basque Cultural Institute) and Mondragon University (MU). Made by two  MU students, Elena Canas and Ainara Menoyo, the documentary is based on original recordings, made during World War I , of Basque prisoners of war from Iparralde being held by German forces.

The recordings were made between 1915 and 1918 by the Royal Prussian Phonographic Commission, a special body established by Kaiser Wilhelm II to record the different voices–and, indeed, languages–of prisoners of war being held by the German forces. The Royal Prussian Phonographic Commission visited more than 70 camps between 1915 and 1918, recording more than 250 languages and dialects as they attempted to draw an oral map of Europe.

In 2014, recordings of soldiers speaking and even singing in Basque were passed on by the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and Humboldt University in Berlin to the Basque Cultural Institute in Iparralde. This amazing fragment of an important part of Basque history is available online and we encourage you all to take a look. Even if you don’t know any Basque, it’s still an incredibly moving testament. The documentary includes both the original recordings themselves as well as a number of well-known Basque figures reading out transcripts of the soldiers’ thoughts and wishes, and reflecting on what they have read.

For more information on the project click here (Basque) or here (French).

Amazing Footage of Basque Kayak Expedition to Greenland

A trailer has just been released for a forthcoming documentary on a Basque kayak expedition to the Kurssuaq River (meaning “Big River” in the local Greenlandic Inuit language) in Greenland. Aitor Goikoetxea and Mikel Sarasola from Gipuzkoa, together with Fermín Pérez and Edu Sola from Navarre,  spent August and part of September this year in the little visited southwest corner of Greenland in search of challenging river descents.

This is, apparently, the first time such a descent has been attempted on this river by kayak. What’s more, following an unusually dry, mild, and warm spring and summer, water levels were particularly high with glacial run-off. Despite the potential hazards, the team opted for the biggest river of all, the Kurssuaq, and filmed the results for their forthcoming documentary. The actual descent involved a 12-day trek upriver before setting off.

Check out the amazing footage here:

The documentary will be released in 2017. Check out the team’s website here.

Ni ez naiz hemengoa

When my grandmother started losing her memory due to Alzheimer disease, she first forgot where her keys were, then the path to home or even where her home was. Later, she forgot that she lived in Hernani, the Basque town where she had been living since leaving her hometown in Spain sixty years ago. In the end, she thought that my siblings and I were her sisters and brothers, and she started talking more and more about her parents, who were, in her mind, waiting for her at home. This is exactly what happened to Josebe.

Josebe left her hometown of Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Country for Chile. There she married, had children, and lived a fulfilling life. But then Alzheimer’s disease started erasing all these memories, bringing her back to her childhood.

I’m not from here is a documentary by Maite Alberdi and Giedre Zickyte, published by The New York Times. It tells the story of Josebe living in a retirement home in Chile. A story of thousands, it is a touching reflection on migration and identity, memory and disease.

For the full article, please visit:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/opinion/im-not-from-here.html?_r=0

May 6, 1924: Cultural icon Nestor Basterretxea born

One of the towering figures–both literally and figuratively–of the Basque cultural world, Nestor Basterretxea, was born in Bermeo, Bizkaia, on May 6, 1924. Although renowned for his work in sculpture, alongside the two Basque giants of the art form, Jorge Oteiza (1908-2003) and Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002), Basterretxea distinguished himself in the Basque cultural arena for his wide and varied work in a number of different fields from painting and design to film making, as well as carving out a major commercial name for himself as an entrepreneur, and with his death at age 90 in 2014 he left a major legacy for Basque culture as a whole.

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Nestor Basterretxea at work. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although born in Bermeo, he was forced to flee the Basque Country with his family during the Spanish Civil War. Finding refuge initially in France, the outbreak of World War II once more forced the family to flee, this time to Argentina. As a young man in Argentina, alongside his studies in industrial design he also took an interest in painting and worked initially in the advertising industry, drawing up designs for publicity campaigns as well as exhibiting some of his own paintings as well.

In 1951 he married Basque-Argentinian Maria Isabel Irurzun, and the couple went to live initially in Madrid. He became involved in the European cultural avant-garde of the 1950s, a member of the Equipo 57 (Team 57) experimental painters’ group, and eventually settled in Gipuzkoa in 1958. Thereafter, without giving up painting, he also began to study sculpture as he found in this a better means to express the concept of space.

In 1966, he was a founding member of the Gaur (Today) an avant-garde artistic group also including (among others) Oteiza, Chillida, Remigio Mendiburu (1931-1990), Jose Antonio Sistiaga (b. 1932), and Jose Luis Zumeta (b. 1939), which in its short but highly productive existence became a leading force for cultural change in the Basque Country, challenging entrenched ideas about art and aesthetics.

Ama_Lur1

Poster for the film Ama Lur (1968).

At the same time, Basterretxea was also taking an interest in film as another significant means of artistic expression. Together with filmmaker Fernando Larruquert (b. 1934) he made the documentaries Operación H (Operation H, 1963), Pelotari (1964), and Alquézar (1965). The two of them also later made their key work: Ama Lur (Mother Earth, 1968); a documentary film intended to celebrate the strength and resilience of Basque culture that faced multiple hurdles in overcoming the predominant censorship of the time in Franco’s dictatorship in Spain; and, incredibly, the first feature length film production produced and shot in the Basque Country since the Spanish Civil War.

Gurpilla

The iconic “Gurpilla” (Wheel) chair designed by Basterretxea in the 1960s.

Besides this artistic work in the fields of painting, sculpture, and film making, somewhat remarkably Basterretxea also found the time to create a business empire, designing tables, offices, chairs, couches, lamps, chimneys, bar furniture, and even a chess set for his company BIOK. He had actually been designing furniture since the late 1950s, first for the H Muebles company owned by a great Basque patron of the arts, Juan Huarte. Seeing a gap in the market for contemporary designed and Basque-made furniture, Basterretxea later set up BIOK and its showcase store Espiral with a group of investors, introducing, for example, the bestselling “Gurpilla” chair, based on a curved wooden design, in the mid-1960s.

Thereafter, he returned once more to strictly artistic pursuits, presenting arguably his most famous work, the Serie Cosmogonica Vasca (Basque Cosmogonic Series) in 1973. This was made up of 19 works, made in wood, showcasing Basque Mythology and included individual pieces like the goddess-like figure of Mari and Akelarre (Witches’ Coven). This collection is today housed in the Bilbao Fine arts Museum.

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Olatua (The Wave) in the port of Bermeo, Bizkaia. Photo by Telle. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After a brief spell as an art adviser to the newly implemented Basque government in the early 1980s, he continued to produce emblematic sculptures throughout that decade and into the 1990s and 2000s: these included the Bakearen Usoa (Dove of Peace) in Donostia; Solitude, the National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder in Reno; the monument to the Basque saint, Francis Xavier,  in Tokyo;  Goldea (The Plow) in Tolosa, Gipuzkoa; and the monument to the memory of the Basque sailors who died in the Battle of Matxitxako (near his home town of Bermeo) against Franco’s forces in March 1937.

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Monument to the fallen Basque sailors at the Battle of Matxitxako. Photo by Telle. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He won numerous prizes and awards throughout his long life and will be remembered fondly here at UNR, where his Orreaga held pride of place in the old Getchell Library before being rehoused in the new Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, as reported in an earlier post here.

Basterretxea’s work is discussed in both Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives by William Douglass and Joseba Zulaika (available free to download here) and Beyond Guernica and the Guggenheim: Art and Politics from a Comparative Perspective, edited by Zoe Bray. Be sure to check out, too, a couple of other publications by the Etxepare Basque Institute that talk about the influence of Basterretxea in different fields: Architecture and Design by Peio Aguirre (free to download here) and Basque Cinema by Joxean Fernández (available free to download here).

 

 

 

Jai Alai Blues: A New Documentary Film

Check out this teaser for the new documentary film Jai Alai Blues (2015), directed by Gorka Bilbao for Berde Produkzioak and released by Atera Films, which traces the rise and fall of jai alai in Miami and beyond.

Jai Alai Blues official website here.

Read a review for the film by Neil Young for The Hollywood Reporter here. In Young’s words, “As a lively slice of offbeat, exotic social history — whose second half concentrates squarely on the game’s checkered history in the United States — it appeals beyond the usual sports-doc demographic and should be checked out by festivals and channels specializing in non-fiction fare.”

If you’re interested in this subject, see, too, Michael J. Mooney’s in-depth article “Whatever Happened to Jai Alai?

And the Center has also published a couple of books that may be of interest:

Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic, by Olatz González Abrisketa. While more about the handball version of the sport than jai alai per se, this work does survey the different versions of pelota, as well as demonstrating just how intrinsic it is to Basque culture.

Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi. This multi-authored study offers a wide-ranging series of perspectives on numerous sports, pelota included.

 

New Documentary Film on Traditional Basque Sports

Rogue Fitness, and independent fitness equipment sales company, recently produced this interesting documentary about traditional Basque sports (also known as rural sports) based on feats of strength and rooted in rural labor such as farm chores and quarrying. These sports include stone lifting, wood chopping, anvil lifting, tug-of-war, weight carrying, and stone dragging.

As well as explaining what Basque traditional sports are, through the direct testimonies of their most famous exponents, the film also reveals much about Basque culture in general and includes some beautiful cinematography of the Basque Country. Most of the focus of the film is given over to the harrijasotzaileak or stone lifters, with detailed explanations of how the stones themselves are cut, how the stone lifters approach their task, and so on.

For a great introduction to Basque culture in general, click here to download Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives by William A. Douglass and Joseba Zulaika for free.

You may also be interested in Basque Pelota: A Ritual, an Aesthetic by Olatz González Abrisketa, which is the most comprehensive introduction in English to this most Basque of sports, which famously took root in the US in the form of Jai alai.

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