Since its onset, cinema has always been present in the Basque Autonomous Community. El mayorazgo de Basterretxe (The Basterretxe Estate, 1929) and Edurne, modistilla de Bilbao (Edurne, Bilbao Dressmaker, 1924) are some of the most pioneering Basque films. But it was not until the 1960s or 1970s that a group of filmmakers (Eceiza, Uribe, etc.) would think about creating Basque National Cinema. That was when cinema became part of public, social, and political life in the region.
Later, in the 1990s, there would be a new group of well-known directors who, taking the television and the world of comics as their references, brought us some very important movies. Urbizu, Calparsoro, Medem… they are all a fundamental part of the history of Basque National Cinema. Nevertheless, the majority of them had to leave our region, especially going to Madrid, as it was impossible for them to produce their films here and reach the technical and artistic levels that they desired.
Twenty-two years ago, the Basque Government created Kimuak, a program for the international promotion and distribution of Basque short films. Some of the filmmakers who have participated in that project include Altuna, Esnal, Marian Fernández, Cobeaga, Zuazua, Bermejo, Almandoz, Goenaga, Garaño, and Arregi, among others. Filmmakers who are now making history have come out of that group, and they are taking our films around the world with them.
Along the way, there have been significant changes. While Loreak (Flowers, 2014) led international critics to fix their gaze on our cinema, Handia (The Giant, 2017), which won 10 Goya awards, proved that the Basque Country is now able to produce great movies. And the success with audiences and critics of La trinchera infinita (The Endless Trench) at the San Sebastián International Film Festival has yet again gone to show that our region’s cinematic success is not something transient but, instead, it is something that is here to stay. What’s more, as time goes on, the people of the Basque Country feel increasingly prouder of their regional films and they are beginning to go more assiduously to watch those films on the screens of our movie theaters.
José Luis Rebordinos
Director of the San Sebastian International Film Festival