The limited release Oct. 30 at New York’s Paris Theatre of Basque-language film “Loreak” (“Flowers”), Spain’s Foreign Language entry for the 88th Academy Awards, lays down a milestone for the newly burgeoning Basque cinema.
Jon Garano and Jose Mari Goenaga’s women suspense drama, released Stateside by Music Box Films, scored $7,000 box office with its only print at the Paris. This was the fourth highest-average per copy in the U.S. theaters, although during one of the weakest weekends of the year in terms of cinema attendance, which coincides with Halloween.
“Flowers” will continue its American odyssey in Washington, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Florida’s Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables.
The New York commercial release is a modest but pioneering move for a Basque-language feature, part of a film industry that only makes two Basque-language film by year.
Produced by Guipuzcoa-based outfits Irusoin and Moriarti Produkzioak and distributed in Spain by Adolfo Blanco’s A Contracorriente, “Flowers” is handled internationally by Vicente Canales’ Film Factory Ent.
World preeming at 2014’s San Sebastian Film Fest, and the first ever Basque-language film to score a main Competition slot, film is enjoying a successful festival career, which includes the Cine Latino Award at the Palm Springs Intl. Fest.
Following “Flowers” path, another Basque-language film, Asier Altuna’s “Amama” (“Grandma”), a Txintxua Films-produced rural family drama has received upbeat reactions at key international film festivals such as San Sebastian, where it world premiered, the last month’s Rome. It currently competes in Mar del Plata’s New Authors sidebar.
Released Oct. 16 by Golem Distribucion, “Amama” cumed a correct €165,959 ($183,655) B.O. in Spain after nine days.
Also, last week, Navarre helmer Raul de la Fuente’s docu-short “Minerita,” a multi-awarded production by San Sebastian’s company Kanaki Films, was selected for Oscar docu-short short list.
“The Basque cinema is on fire,” argues “Flowers” producer Xabier Berzosa at Irusoin, who perceives “a certain consolidation” of a move that started with 2014 “Flowers” release.
From the ‘90s, a high-profile generation of film talent, which included directors such as Alex de la Iglesia, Julio Medem and Imanol Uribe, which had abandon the Basque Country to pursue a film career.
“The big difference now is that there is a new generation committed to making films here,” Berzosa said.
The gamut of Basque-language films may also be broadening with “Loreak” weighing in as a film about three women’s coping with loss. The “story of three women unexpectedly brought together by floral bouquets is elegantly lensed and warm-hearted to the core, without getting sappy,” Jay Weissberg wrote in a Variety review. While grounded in a Basque reality, it could take place in many modern European locales.
Also, Basque Country film policies are paying off, Berzosa added.
The recent introduction of two new tools for film production, a 30% tax break for any Spanish film and a Basque bank loan guarantee scheme called Elkargi, are helping to dynamize the Basque film industry.
The Basque government dedicates $880,000-$1.1 million per year to backing Basque feature films; regional pubcaster ETB invests a total $5.0 million for film and TV productions. Basque film productions are also available to receive subsidies from Spain’s central government.
“We have significant support, new financing models are being consolidated, but it’s time to turn the Basque film industry into an strategic sector,” Berzosa says.
Basque film producers’ ambitions include achieving more funding to multiply the number of Basque-language films and generate infrastructures to lure a bigger number of film shoots from abroad.