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Basque Audiovisual in Focus at San Sebastian

The agency charged with the promotion and growth of Basque audiovisual sector internationally continues to look for ways to grow

SAN SEBASTIAN — Basque Audiovisual, it’s all there in the name.

A comprehensive brand encompassing companies from across the audiovisual sector of the Basque Country, Basque Audiovisual represents the international interests of local productions from the northern Spanish community.

As some of Europe’s growth is driven not by its biggest markets, but far smaller territories still growing their cinema industries, there are strong indicators that their agenda is paying off.

According to the organization’s head of communication Jara Ayucar, Basque films are not only finding homes in cinemas and on platforms abroad, but featuring in prominent positions at Europe’s most prestigious festivals.

“What we see is that more and more Basque films are competing at international festivals such as Cannes, the Berlinale, Karlovy Vary or Locarno,” she told Variety, adding: “We are showing up on the international map; the stories that our filmmakers tell are increasingly universal and exportable.”

Examples of that success aren’t hard to find. Just this year the animated feature“Another Day of Life” screened at Cannes to overwhelmingly positive reviews. “Handia,” (“Giant”), last year’s San Sebastian Special Jury Prize winner, also taking the Irizar Award for best Basque film, went on to score an extraordinary 10 Spanish Academy Goya awards from 13 nominations and was one of the finalists considered for this year’s Spanish submission to the Oscars. It played at U.S. festivals in Seattle and Cleveland and scored two nominations at the Platino Awards for Ibero-American Cinema.

A host of Basque Audiovisual-backed productions are featuring at this year’s San Sebastian festival, including: “Dantza” – the only Basque film in this year’s Official Selection; “Deer” – distributed by Golem and screening in New Directors; “Black is Beltza”- the Zinemira closing night film being sold by Film Factory: “Mudar la Piel” which opened to applause the Zinemira and is produced by Señor y Señora; “The Painter,” – distributed in Spain by Atera Films; “Gure Oritzapenak” – in the Colectiva section; as well as “Ane & Peio,” which is participating in the Co-Production Forum.

The pipeline boasts anticipated titles in development. Produced by Señor y Señora and co-produced by Morena, one of Spain’s biggest production houses, “Advantages of Traveling by Train” is a dark comedy which turns on woman who, after checking her husband into a mental hospital, is plunged into a world of conspiracies, dirty business and sexual perversion.

Dibulitoon, which has done work for Disney Channel, Spanish public broadcaster TVE and France’s Canal Plus, are working on “Bigfoot,” an animated feature set to release in 2021 which features a young autistic girl who meets Bigfoot, and the chance encounter changes her life.

Koldo Serra, who directed “The Backwoods,” with Gary Oldman, helms “Red Fjords,” about the cutthroat whaling industry of 17th century Europe and the rivalry between the Basque Country and Iceland.

“Your Family” is a documentary which promises an intimate and global exploration of the relationships between family and freedom, family and happiness and family and leading a full life. The film is being produced by Arena Comunicación.

“Fantasía,” from Aitor and Amaia Merino, documents a cruise that the siblings took with their parents from whom they had been separated since childhood. Doxa Producciones are handling production and the film is scheduled to premiere next year.

One key to the recent success enjoyed by Basque Audiovisual and the films it backs has been the agency’s willingness to learn from, and produce with other territories.

“We try to work with territories that share similarities with us, like the territories covered by the Glocal Cinema network (Iceland, Finland, Wales, Denmark, Norway, The Baltics, etc.),” Ayuca explained. “This year, we’ve organized a co-production meeting with Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia at San Sebastian, and we will continue with another meeting of similar characteristics between (domestic) producers from the Basque Country and producers from La Mancha and Catalonia at Lanza Abycine in October.”

There is however,  still plenty of room for growth in the territory.

“There is a lot of work to do in the field of co-production,” Ayuca points out, “but we believe that the work done in international markets is fundamental, and we understand that in the coming years we will continue to grow as a sector.”

Xabi Berzosa, producer of the aforementioned Basque hit “Giant,” sees huge potential for improvement in another medium.

“I think that (Basque) TV has to make a qualitative leap in the coming years,” he explains. “TV is a growing everywhere, no? We cannot fall behind.”

If the recent successes in cinema are any indication, it may not be that long before a Basque series joins the ranks of other international hits from Spain such as “Money Heist” and “Velvet.”

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