In recent years, the Spanish Basque Country has emerged as a hub for new talent, something directors Mikel Gurrea (“Suro”), Estibaliz Urresola (“Cuerdas”) and Irati Gorostidi (“Contadores”) owed to robust mentoring programs, government funding campaigns and increasingly mature manufacturing and distribution initiatives, as well as a tight-knit network of professionals intertwined with local industry.
It’s an enthusiastic approach that fervently encourages new talent by investing heavily in strong local stories with universal appeal. Short films by emerging directors have gained popularity: “Cuerdas” won a Rails d’Or at this year’s Cannes Critics Week, while the feature film ECAM Incubator Selection “Lullaby”, directed by Alauda Ruiz de Azúa, won this year’s Malaga Film Festival , with rave reviews from critics and industry heavyweights.
Public sector development initiatives such as the Ikusmira Berriak residence are integral to the emergence, creating tremendous opportunities by providing mentorship, resources and space to refine nascent concepts.
“’Cuerdas’ was financed by the Diputación de Álava, where I have my production company. With help from Álava, the Basque government and the ICAA of Spain,” Urresola noted. on
She continued: ‘In the case of the Basque Country, there is also the part of Basque public TV and, in the case of short film broadcasts, the Kimuak catalogue. I believe these are different lines of action that: [lead to] an ecosystem that promotes the creation of this talent.”
“Another resource is anything related to Kimuak, the short film distribution program. They’ve done a great job for so many people in terms of distribution, making it possible to see short films,” Gurrea said.
Managed by the Basque Film Archive with support from Zineuskadi, Kimuak is an integral part of championing the new generation, with a focus on the presentation of Basque short films, the often preferred introductory route of new directors.
Cataloging is a hallmark of distinction that Gurrea, Urresola and Gorostidi share. The name, which translates as ‘sprout’, suits an outfit that forges these projects through hard ground into the widespread cinematic atmosphere.
Part credit to the San Sebastian Film Festival, as it acts as “a launch pad where the movies are seen, something I grew up with and that has given me insight into world cinema from a very young age and made it approachable to me”, Gurrea noticed. The new directors part is a critical fest sidebar, with a focus on budding creators.
The importance of close relationships within harmonious circles is equally crucial. “It’s been very important to generate networks, to get to know other people who may be from different disciplines,” says Gorostidi.
“My network is mainly in the Basque Country, including Navarra because Navarra is very important to me, I was born there and a large part of my colleagues and collaborators are from Navarra. There is the Punto de Vista festival, which has been very important in my career as a filmmaker. It’s a place where I discovered a kind of cinema that inspired me a lot, a lot of like-minded people,” Gorostidi added.
Perhaps the most obvious reason for the recent Basque buzz? The regional talent itself, who makes enormously appealing and ambitious cinema. To ensure their forward trajectory, directors point to the maintenance of these programs and a push toward fixed and durable models for filmmaking. A call for continued support and enthusiasm long after their debut hit the festival circuit, allowing them to hone their craft without losing reception.
“You make a first film once, but then it has to be sustainable to be able to make a second, a third. You give it your all in every aspect of making your first movie. That’s nice, but not very durable. The rules of the game should allow us to settle down and grow,” said Gurrea.
Urresola concluded: “Ultimately it’s like sowing seeds, like an ecosystem, the forest, in the forest seeds germinate all the time. Talent has always been on the rise, but if it doesn’t have enough light, if the soil doesn’t have enough nutrients, if it doesn’t rain, it can’t thrive.”