Government backs 'Ander'

Sabino Arana, the hawkish first ideologue of Basque nationalism, must be spinning in his grave.

Arana exalted died-in-the-wool Catholicism and Basque racial purity. A century after his death, the Berlinale Panorama welcomes “Ander,” billed by sales company Latido as the first-ever gay Basque-language movie.

What’s more, it’s set in the Arratia Valley in Biscay, an idyllic spot, where, traditionally, real men are farmers, and farmers real men.

Pushing even a larger envelope, most of “Ander’s” finance comes from the Basque government, via Berdindu, its gay-lesbian service.

And the cream of Basque politicos — including Basque government president, Lehendakari Juan Jose Ibarretxe — turned out for “Ander’s” world preem on Jan. 30, when it opened the Basque Country’s Zinegoak 09 — the 6th Bilbao Gay-Lesbo-Trans Intl. Film Festival, playing to enthusiastic auds.

Roberto Caston, its writer-director, bridles slightly at the gay tag. Pic follows fortysomething Ander, a Basque farmer-cum-factory worker who breaks a leg. He hires a Peruvian immigrant, Jose (Christian Esquivel, “Che”), who inspires in Ander feelings he didn’t know he had.

“The film’s about solitude, which most of the characters suffer,” said Caston.

“Ander” rides a new Basque cinema wave.

Energized by a 10-year-old Kimuak Basque short film movement, increased investment from regional pubcaster EITB, and a new generation of directors and producers, the Basque film industry now turns out half a dozen movies a year.

But Caston’s feature debut remains an auteur film. Outside big urban centers, specialty film distribution is limited in Spain.

Caston doesn’t fear much bovine red-neck reactions in the Basque Country; at least in terms of theatrical distribution, he fears his film may never be in a position to provoke any reactions at all.

“We need an upbeat reaction in Berlin to get good distribution,” he said.

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