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Film Series

From Zuretzako: Joaquin in his sheepwagon upon arriving in America.
From Zuretzako: Joaquin in his sheepwagon upon arriving in America.
Still frame courtesy of director Javi Zubizarreta
Basque Journeys: Stories in Film

Basque Journeys: Stories in Film is a free film series that chronicles three perspectives on the dynamic histories and cultures of the Basque Country and Basque diaspora. The films illuminate a diversity of Basque narratives, challenging visitors to explore complex issues of immigration, stereotypes, tradition, innovation, and identity.

We invite the public to engage with the rich cultural, social, and political stories of Basques worldwide, in anticipation of the 2016 Folklife Festival this summer. Each screening will include conversations with filmmakers, local Basque Americans, and scholars.

Part One

This program opens with an introduction to Basque Country and its diaspora. In the short drama Zuretzako (For You), we will explore the experiences of Basques immigrating to the United States in the 1950s through 1970s, and the conflict of leaving behind loved ones in order to provide for them. The iconic feature documentary Song of the Basques takes us to the Basque Country of today, revealing vibrant art, industry, food, drink, tradition, and creativity.

Filmmakers Javi Zubizarreta and Emily Lobsenz will present a Q&A following the screenings, discussing cinematography as expression, being Basque American, and the enchantment of innovation in tradition.

Part Two

After a brief introduction situating recent Basque history, we will present Asier ETA Biok (Asier and Me), a documentary-drama that recounts the story of two childhood friends from Basque Country. Aitor moves to Madrid and becomes a successful actor. Asier, long an antimilitary activist, ends up joining ETA, an armed Basque nationalist group. Through clever cinematography and humor, Aitor denounces violence as a political tool while exploring his conflicted relationship with Asier. In the process, Aitor casts a critical light onto the complex and deeply human process of reconciling his Basque and Spanish identities.

Following the screening, local Basque American Mark Bieter will lead a conversation with guest scholars and artists. They will challenge us to reflect upon our stereotypes, discuss representing identity through film, and explore freedom of cultural expression.

The Basque country is a region that spans borders. Located in northern Spain and southwestern France, straddling the Pyrenees Mountains, its spirit can be felt on the sheep-grazed mountains of Idaho, in fishing communities from Scotland to Newfoundland, and in towns across Mexico and Argentina.

From an early period, Basques looked beyond their borders for resources and inspiration, a trait that keeps them on the cutting edge of global economic and sustainability movements. However, their commitment to language and cultural preservation may be the key to their success. To present this intricate tension, musicians, dancers, boat makers, cooks, and other experts from the Basque country and diaspora communities shared their unique traditions and perspectives as part of the Basque: Innovation by Culture program.

Basque culture has always emphasized innovation. The Basque were among the earliest European explorers, fishermen, and whalers to venture to the Western Hemisphere, and their culture reflects this historic influence. Many iconic Basque foods have their roots in the Western Hemisphere and the seafaring heritage, including bakailao (salted cod), piperrada (pepper-based sauce), and marmitako (tuna and potato stew). Today, Basque cuisine sets the standard for farm-to-table and sea-to-table quality.

The Basque have long been leaders in industry, helping usher in the Industrial Revolution after discovering rich bands of iron ore in their mountains. They prospered during the cooperative movement of the mid-twentieth century and are now innovators in car part manufacturing, sustainable energy, transportation, and engineering.

While Basque culture is innovative and outward looking, the people maintain strong cultural roots. They constitute one of the oldest communities in Europe, and today approximately one million people worldwide speak Basque, or Euskara, a language once on the brink of extinction and now an example of successful language revitalization. To many Basques, language is a key component of their identity.

Cristina Díaz-Carrera and Mary S. Linn were Curators. In Basque Country, the Curatorial Advisory Committee included: Lorea Bilbao Ibarra, Mikel Mancisidor De la Fuente, Rikar Lamadrid Intxaurraga, Iurdana Acasuso Atutxa, and Asier Madarieta Juaristi. Valentina Pilonieta-Vera was Program Coordinator; Anne Pedersen was Research Assistant; and Greyson Harris was Community Engagement Coordinator. A Community Advisory Group included: Valerie Arrechea, Philippe Archeritogaray, Argia Beristain, Xabier Berrueta, Mark Bieter, Begoña Echeverria, Nagore Goitiandia, Roberto Guerenabarrena, Xabier Irujo, Jurdana Izagirre, David Jayo, Estebe Salgado, Ann Terese Anacabe Franzoia, Iban Ubarretxna, John Ysursa, and Sam Zengotitabengoa.

This program was co-presented and co-sponsored by the Basque Country institutions: the Basque Government and the provincial governments of Araba, Biscay, and Gipuzkoa. Participation of the Joaldunak was made possible by the Government of Navarra. Significant in-kind support was provided by the members of the North American Basque Organization.

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