“The diaspora shows us that dance is the language of the global Basque community”

Euskara. Kultura. Mundura.

2019-05-27

Filmmaker Telmo Esnal and dancer Gari Otamendi were on tour in Argentina and USA in April and May presenting their latest film, Dantza. The filmmaker continues to promote his 3rd feature film worldwide, spreading Basque culture through the universal language of dance. Now that they’re back, we took time to ask them about the experience.

Filmmaker Telmo Esnal and dancer Gari Otamendi were on tour in Argentina and USA in April and May presenting their latest film, Dantza. The filmmaker continues to promote his 3rd feature film worldwide, spreading Basque culture through the universal language of dance. Now that they’re back, we took time to ask them about the experience.

The first stop on the tour was the city of Posadas, in the Misiones province of Argentina. The film took part in the Co-Cine Entre Fronteras film and gastronomy festival. “The audience in that festival was perhaps the least connected to Basque culture among all the stops on our tour,” explained Esnal, “and still, the film was a success there. The people were pleased.” Afterwards, they travelled to La Plata to premiere the film in a much more Basque environment. “Both experiences were very enriching,” said the director.

Overall, the audience at the shows in the United States had a closer relationship to Basque culture. Otamendi and Esnal visited Seattle, Ontario, Boise, San Francisco, Chino, Los Angeles, Reno, New York and Washington D.C. to screen the film. The experience allowed Otamendi to “reunite with old friends”, since he has repeatedly been in the USA in the past, “as well as to make new ones”. Esnal, on the other hand, had curious insight regarding the connection with the Basque Country to the public in different cities: “The audience in the Western cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Ontario) were second-generation Basques, while the ones in the Eastern cities, such as New York or Washington D.C., were Basques who were born here and migrated there. Both communities experience Basqueness in a different way, but all of them watched the film with great interest.”

The events in each place were dependent on the resources available, and the audiences varied in size. “Boise was the only place where the film was screened in an actual cinema,” said Esnal,  “but in Chino, for instance, even if the event was small, the audience started singing Uxo Zuria (White Dove, a traditional Basque song) at the end of the screening, and that was very touching.”

A tour rarely provides enough time to do things in an unhurried fashion. “The truth is that we’ve been running from one place to another; maybe with a little more time we could have shared more experiences with people there,” Esnal admitted. Otamendi agreed: “We’ve been in a lot of places in a very short time, and that kept me from taking it all in and digesting the experience until I got back.”

Nevertheless, both think that the experience was worth it. “I’d say it’s even more satisfying for them than for us,” Esnal said; “the diaspora deeply appreciates all the Basque culture that comes from the Basque Country, because it takes them to their roots.” Otamendi, however, referred to the capacity of dance as an art form to strengthen bonds between communities: “Dance is the basis of my relationship with most of them, and Dantza is what has taken me back there again in this case. The diaspora shows us that dance is the language of the global Basque community.”

This tour was made possible thanks to collaboration between the Etxepare Basque Institute and the Euskal Etxeak Basque Centers in the USA and Argentina.

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