Basque Industry Backs Female Filmmakers With Noka Mentoring Program

SAN SEBASTIAN — The Noka Mentoring program, a local initiative to support up-and-coming Basque female filmmakers, kicked off on Monday morning at this year’s 67th San Sebastian Film Festival.

The program was co-developed by the Basque Government’s Department of Culture and Language Policy and Zineuskadi, a non-profit org set up by the department and the two Basque producers associations: IBAIA and EPE-APV.

Three filmmakers will participate in this year’s program: Estibaliz Urresola, Itziar Leemans and Tamara Lucarini.

San Sebastian is just the beginning of the mentoring process, however, which offers participants a long-term combination of training sessions with individual mentors, round tables featuring established industry professionals, script development, Skype calls and more.

Urresola’s “20,000 especias de abejas,” (“20,000 Species of Bees”) follows Lucia, a 5-year-old girl born with a penis, as she looks forward to the summer months and returning to her village with her siblings. The summer isn’t as easy as Lucia might have hoped, and normally joyful places like public swimming pools come with new challenges associated with body and identity.

Lucia, in search of alternative places to pace the endless summer days, finds them in her grandmother and aunt, representations of the Christian and pagan side of traditional Basque society, and the communities of bees her aunt cares for, where Lucia can live free of judgement. Sirimiri Films and Gariza films produce.

“We’re living a historic moment in which the first generation of transsexual children have the possibility of living their childhood in a climate of acceptance,” Urresola explained to Variety before the festival.

She went on, “The socio-political and health protection provided in the Basque Country is greater than in many parts of the world and these advances must also be reflected in the cultural sector.”

Lucarini’s “El peso” (“The Weight”), the only documentary of the three, is an intimate look at the life and work of her grandfather Joaquín Lucarini, a famed anarchist sculptor before and during the time of Franco’s fascist reign over Spain.

To preserve her grandfather’s legacy and the family’s heritage, Lucarini begins an inventory of his remaining sculptures with the help of her uncle Leonardo, provoking questions about the permanency of what we leave behind. Aitor Arenas at Banatu Filmak is attached to produce.

“El peso” is also participating in San Sebastian’s Lau Haizetara Co-Production Forum, marking the first time that Lucarini will share the project publicly, having only just started development in February.

Lucarini told Variety that her film, “Was born from a restlessness and need to talk about my family’s story, to explain who my grandfather was – an anarchist sculptor who worked and was recognized during the Franco regime – and how his relatives see his legacy today.”

Leemans returns to San Sebastian with “Agurra.” Last year her short film “Bainera” screened here.

“Agurra” turns on Maika, a 16-year-old taking care of her younger sister Haize as her own child. The girls’ father Pettan is still present, though prone to fits of violence. With the arrival of All Saints festivities, Pettan decides to take a two-week hunting trip. Maika rebels and in doing so breaks the family’s fragile equilibrium.

“I know the world of hunters quite well and it strikes me as very cinematic,” she told Variety. “As a girl I would go hunting with my father, and to write this script I’ll depend on those childhood memories.”

She will also spend fifteen days with a group of hunters this fall to immerse herself in that world.

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