Handia (Giant), San Sebastián’s 2017 flagship Basque movie, says much about the film ambitions of the Basque Country and why the Basque Country should grow as a shoot locale for films from Europe and beyond.
Set down the decades from 1836, the tale of two brothers’ deep affectve bonds, warped but never destroyed by grinding poverty, romantic rivalry and the carnage of the 1833-40 Carlist War, begins with shots of the Basque Country and a voiceover: “Change is the only thing that is not changing.”
One of the biggest attractions of shooting in the Basque Country is the Basque country. Handia’s prologue captures rolling pine-clad hills seen in pale dawn light, steep cliffs, and scrub-desert expanses.
As Game of Thrones showed, tur- ning Bizkaia’s islet of San Juan de Gaz- telugatxe into Season 7’s Dragonstone, one large lure of the Basque Country is simply the singularity of its lo- cations, ranging from Frank Gehry’s titanium Museo Guggenheim in Bil- bao to its wild coast, crag-topped hills and steep-buffed mountains.
Another is the Basque Country in- dustry itself. From around 2004, the Kimuak shorts program, consolidated Basque government and TV backing, via pubcaster ETB and the breakout hit of Aupa Extxebeste! a light – if spot-on - social satire and the first Basque-lan- guage feature in years, laid the foun- dations of a modern Basque cinema. “With Basque Government and ETB aid, producers are in a favora- ble position to take their project to a national or international level,” said producer Koldo Zuazua.
Basque Country production volume may not have risen much in very recent years, said Dioxin Muñoz, the Basque government’s deputy culture minister. It makes an average score of features a year.
But priorities have changed. “For a film industry with such a sma- ll domestic market, it’s important to make movies which can interest international partners and reach markets overseas,” Muñoz argued.
That looks to be happening. Pit- ched Sunday at San Sebastian’s Eu- rope-Latin America Co-production Forum, Pablo Aguëro’s Akelarre has two French co-producers, La Fidèle and Tita Productions and has been acquired for world sales by Film Factory Ent., in a deal announced Sun- day. One day later, Film Factory Ent. revealed it has also boarded Fermín Muguruza’s awaited animation fea- ture Black is Beitza.