You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Spanish Producer Elias Querejeta Dead at 78

He produced many of Spain’s modern classics including 'Raise Ravens,' 'The Hunt,' 'Deprisa, deprisa'

MADRID – Elias Querejeta, the producer of many of the greatest modern classics made by Spain’s most distinguished directors under and after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, died Sunday at his Madrid home. He was 78.

Querejeta was born in 1934 into a well-heeled family, living in the Basque Country’s Hernani, a small town a half-hour train ride from San Sebastian.

As a child he ran wild. In adulthood, during long lunches, swilled down by whisky or, in later years, Marques de Riscal Sauvignon white, he would still remember the escapades of his childhood.

Franco’s bloody, cruel dictatorship, imposed on Spain from 1939 through a Civil War, blighted Querejeta’s youth and ran completely contrary to his liberal upbringing and temperament.

A First Division professional soccer player for San Sebastian’s Real Sociedad – no long lunch with Querejeta was complete with his fond remembrance of the goal he scored in 1955 against Real Madrid – Querejeta stopped playing at 24 when, he said, he found himself running around a training field without realizing he was running.

A member of San Sebastian’s cine-club, a bastion of nascent rebellion against Franco, Querejeta directed two documentaries – “A traves de San Sebastian” and “A traves del futbol” with Anton Eceiza – before moving to Madrid and into production in 1963; two years later, Querejeta produced Carlos Saura’s “The Hunt,” a flagship of the so-called New Spanish Cinema, a move towards a more modern cinema made by young directors and subsidized by the more liberal wing of Franco’s government.

The start of a long collaboration with Carlos Saura, which produced Cannes Special Jury Prize winner “Raise Ravens” (1975) and “Deprisa, deprisa” (1981), with “The Hunt,” a Berlin Festival Silver Bear winner, Querejeta established a modus operandi which he maintained throughout his career: a close-knit team of top tech collaborators, such as, on “The Hunt,” cinematographer Luis Cuadrado, editor Pablo G. del Amo and composer Luis de Pablo; a large work of documentation and insistence on development; the casting of famous stars, often playing against their star personas, here Alfredo Mayo, star of an adaptation of Francisco Franco’s own novel; the creation of near chamber piece with larger social resonance, casting judgment on the Spain.

“The Hunt” was a political parable about three old friends, all of whom fought for Franco, who go off to shoot rabbits and end up shooting each other.

Querejeta went on to produce films that again questioned Spaniards’ seemingly atavistic propensity towards internecine violence (Ricardo Franco’s 1975 “Pascual Duarte,”), plumbed the traumas of the Spanish Civil War (Victor Erice’s 1973 masterpiece “The Spirit of the Beehive”) and questioned Spaniard’s ability to shrug off the past (Jaime Chavarri’s trenchant 1976-1980 trilogy of “The Disenchantment,” “To a Unknown God” and “Dedicated To…” ).

Long after Franco’s death in 1975, in Montxo Armendariz’s “Tasio” (1984), about a charcoal-burner who refuses to give up his way of life, Fernando Leon’s unemployment-themed “Mondays in the Sun” (2002) or Eterio Ortega’s docu-feature “Asesinato en febrero” (2002), about the victims of ETA, Querejeta continued producing movies which questioned Spain’s much-trumpeted modernization and the extent of its real achievements in democracy.

As Spain’s economy boomed from the 1990s, Querejeta’s liberal skepticism and social-issue preoccupations were written-off by some critics as old-hat. Crisis from 2008, mass unemployment, rampant corruption scandals and bitter political in-fighting have only served, however, to underscore their relevance.

Querejeta is survived by a daughter, Gracia Querejeta, a film director in her own right, for whom Elias Querejeta produced three notable family dramas, the last his last fiction feature production, 2007’s “Seven Billard Tables,” plus a rare venture for Querejeta into English: “Robert Ryland’s Last Journey,” with Ben Cross and Gary Piquer.

(Emiliano de Pablos contributed to this article.)

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Bob IgerSimon Weisenthal Gala honoring Bob

    Bob Iger Would Have Combined Disney With Apple if Steve Jobs Were Still Alive

    Disney and Apple are both launching their own streaming services come November, but Disney CEO Bob Iger says the two companies weren’t always on competing paths. In an excerpt from his autobiography published Wednesday in “Vanity Fair,” Iger revealed that Disney and Apple likely would have merged if Steve Jobs hadn’t died in 2011. “I [...]

  • Aaron Janus Lionsgate

    Lionsgate Hires 'A Quiet Place' Producer Aaron Janus as Senior VP of Production

    Lionsgate has hired Aaron Janus as its new senior vice president of production and promoted Meredith Wieck to the post of vice president of production.  Prior to Lionsgate, Janus served as Platinum Dunes’ head of development, where he oversaw filmmakers Brad Fuller, Andrew Form and Michael Bane. There, he brought in “A Quiet Place,” on [...]

  • Ang Lee Reveals First Look at

    Ang Lee on 'Gemini Man' and De-Aging Will Smith

    On paper, Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” is a standard-issue, shoot ’em up with Will Smith playing a deadly assassin who must battle a younger clone of himself. The explosions and gun battles aren’t what drew Lee to the project, even if they’re the reason that most people will show up at theaters when it opens [...]

  • Hopper Reserve

    Dennis Hopper's Dying Wish: His Own Strain of Marijuana

    Even as celebrity brands are starting to flood the emerging Cannabis market, Hopper Reserve stands out. The brand was launched by Marin Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s daughter from his marriage to Brooke Hayward. Hopper Reserve is a gram of California indoor-grown flower, two packs of rolling papers, a pair of matches and a trading card either [...]

  • Sean Clarke Aardman Staff Photography Bristol.Pic

    Aardman Appoints Sean Clarke as New Managing Director

    Aardman, the Oscar-winning animation studio behind “Chicken Run” and “Early Man,” has appointed Sean Clarke as its new managing director, replacing co-founder David Sproxton, who is stepping down after 43 years. Clarke has worked at the British studio for more than 20 years, including heading the international rights and marketing department for over a decade. [...]

  • The Antenna

    Toronto Film Review: 'The Antenna'

    Jump scares, creepy noises and the tease of hidden-from-view dangers are all fine. But a truly frightening horror film unsettles with more than its crafts, but instead through the vulnerability of defenseless people stuck with bad options only. First-time writer-director Orçun Behram’s highly stylized and mildly disturbing “The Antenna,” a metaphor on Turkey’s current ruling [...]

  • Ad Astra Box Office

    Box Office Battle: 'Ad Astra' Takes on 'Rambo: Last Blood' and 'Downton Abbey'

    “Hustlers” and “Good Boys” proved that even in the age of Marvel dominance and remake mania, movies that don’t exist within an established franchise can still be box office draws. Can “Ad Astra” continue that trend? The space drama — starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray — arrives on the big screen this [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content