The Basque Spring film festival, part of the #ScotlandGoesBasque programme in collaboration with CinemaAttic, has come to a close. From May 2nd to 4th, animators Izibene Oñederra and Begoña Vicario made a visit to Glasgow and Edinburgh, who talked about their careers, and so did film director Ana Schulz, who came with her film Mudar la piel (The Spy Within). We caught up with them to ask about their experience in Scotland and this is what they had to say:
1. What part did you play in CinemaAttic’s Basque Spring?
Begoña Vicario: We addressed the topic of animation film-auteur. It’s mostly women who work in this field, and even in such a small area as the Basque Country, noteworthy work has been done. Izibene Oñederra, Isabel Herguera and I work in independent animation but there will be more creative talent in the future. We showed our work to students at the School of Art and we explained what we do in the Faculty of Fine Arts. We also talked about creating animation collaboratively: we’ve developed a working method that makes us more efficient and we wanted to let others know about it.
Izibene Oñederra: The session that Bego is referring to took place at the Edinburgh School of Art, where we learned about the resources they have, and the work done by some of the students there. We were also in Glasgow, talking to a non-specialized audience that showed a lot of interest in our work and in the colloquium that followed.
Ana Schulz: I took part in a screening after a colloquium in Glasgow and was invited to teach a master class at the Scottish Documentary Institute, a training center in the area of cinema.
2. What expectations did you have before you went to Scotland? Were they met?
B.V.: They were absolutely met. We knew what topics were of interest to the participants, so we were very clear about what to tell them. We knew that they’d understand what we were going to explain to them and that it would arouse interest. And that’s exactly what happened.
I.O.: We went there excited about gaining more exposure for our work. And for me the trip would give me the chance to talk with Bego long and hard. In that regard, it helped me to develop what I’ve been working on and I’ve come back with new energy.
A.S.: We took our film to a lot of festivals and I’d already had an idea of what it would be like. But I’d attended been to anything like CinemaAttic, both stable and itinerant, and I very pleasantly surprised. I think it contributes a lot to community life and local cinemas.
3. How was your work received by students, industry professionals and the general public?
B.V.: Everyone received us with great interest. There were several times throughout the sessions that the participants raised very valid questions, and we had the chance to offer all kinds of explanations. It was really productive.
I.O: The people who attended the meeting were familiar with our work in the context of Basque cinematography. They’d already done a project and welcomed us with open arms.
A.S.: I was involved in two presentations. In the first one was a master class. The students had seen the film, so we had a concrete example as a starting point for discussion. It went really well. The Spy Within tackles a specific political issue, but it has universal readings that can be extrapolated to other countries. So, the discussion with students and teachers turned out to be very interesting. There were also a lot of questions at the commercial screening before a film-loving audience.
4. What was the most enriching part of this experience?
B.V.: Having to rethink certain ideas in order to address certain questions. This type of experience is satisfying. While limited in scope, we’re developing a really interesting project, even without major resources. It was the first time that Izibene and I were able to show our work in chronological order and it was very nice to see it that way. Our lives, and also Isabel Herguera’s, are intertwined: Izibene was a student of both of them; and since then, we’ve been companions.
A.S.: To see that our work is understood in different contexts, the reactions of the public ... You spend years of work living in a kind of bubble while making the film, so it’s gratifying to see that people understand the meaning and that other equally valid readings emerge. Plus, I was there with Izibene and Bego, which was beautiful because you learn a lot from other filmmakers, even if they work in other areas.
5. What is the value of showing current Basque cinema abroad, particularly films made by women?
B.V.: If we hadn’t had this opportunity to show our work, nobody would know about it. Animation created by women is shown in festivals in very limited circles. We don’t usually have the chance to present such a complete body of work as what we were able to show in Scotland. And it’s really valuable to have our work shown abroad. Our productions revolve around the social and political reality of the Basque Country; they deal with the Basque language, bertsolaritza, politics, people who have disappeared, and so on. It´s our culture, our way of life and our work gives us the opportunity to talk about it.
A.S.: It’s is very important to think out loud, creating work about our past, even in faraway contexts that don’t share the same references; it’s a way of contrasting the preconceptions we have when we’re involved and it’s important for creating a story. Historians write history, but if we don’t do it through less academic means such as cinema, literature, etc., we won’t discover the nuances. As for cinema made by women, transforming the established canon is a revolution that is taking place right now. Our filmmaking is a co-direction between a man and a woman, that is, a fusion of both points of reference.