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!