A documentary about bertsolaritza by filmmaker Asier Altuna is one of several films by Basques or about the Basque Country that will be screened at the Donostia Zinemaldia, or 59th San Sebastian Film Festival.
Each year, the international festival attracts Hollywood celebrities and aficionados from around the world to the seaside city of Donostia, or San Sebastian, to celebrate an eclectic offering of films. This year’s festival runs from Sept. 16 to the 24th.
“Bertsolaritza,” which examines the art of creating impromptu Basque poetry, will be screened out-of-competition in the festival’s Official Selection category, event organizers said.
Altuna said he was inspired to produce the documentary after seeing grown men and women in tears at the end of bertsolari competitions in the Basque Country.
“Sometimes we cry at a movie. But we always cry at the end of a bertsolaritza,” Altuna told Euskal Kazeta last year. “I think this is a good reason to dedicate my time to the project,” he said.
In a bertsolari competition, the singers are each given different topics and then have to quickly belt out a bertso, or improvised poem. The Basque txapelketa, or championship, typically attracts thousands of spectators. The tradition dates back hundreds of years to countryside villages.
Altuna and his production team visited the San Francisco area last year to to film Basque bertsolaritza champion Maialen Lujanbio and four-time champion Andoni Egaña at an event sponsored by the San Francisco Basque Club as part of its 50-year anniversary celebration.
The Basque Country has a tradition of vibrant independent film making, a fact that is underscored by this year’s festival offerings.
Enrique Urbizu, who hails from Bilbao, will be competing in the Official Selection category with his gripping thriller “No Habrá Paz Para Los Malvados” (No Rest for the Wicked). An accomplished filmmaker, Urbizu’s “La Vida Mancha” (Life Marks) won the Best Film prize at the Nantes Spanish Film Festival.
In the Zabaltegii, or new directors category, Telmo Esnal relies of elements of black humor to portray the misfortunes of a couple forced to care for the wife’s elderly mother in “Urte Berri On, Amona!” The film stars Josean Bengoetxea, Nagore Aramburu and Montserrat Carulla.
The Zabaltegi Specials category will feature “A Light At the End of the Tunnel of the Basque Country,” which is a documentary directed by Eterio Orgeta. The film investigates what it describes as the end of terrorism by ETA and looks at the organization’s roots in Basque nationalism.
Visit the San Francisco Basque Club’s website on the Bertso Jaialdia to see more videos of the Basque Country bertsolariak.
For a history of the tradition of bertsolaritza, you can visit the NABO website.
The web page Bertsozale Elkartea is also a useful resource for history and other valuable information.