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For me, 2018 is a very special year. That is due to three important reasons: the first is that the Bilbao City Council has trusted me to direct this new phase of ZINEBI, the second is that the festival is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and the third is that I am the first woman to have directed this extremely young institution in all of its years of history. This makes me feel equally humbled, respectful and conscious of the great responsibility I am assuming. I know that I have an excellent team behind me and I am convinced that we are going to do things well.

I was a member of the audience at this festival during my teenage years and later when I went to university to study Audio-visual Communications at UPV/EHU – those decisive years when we believe that we are going to take the world by storm. In fact, watching those shorts and those documentaries seemed a great way to start as—before our eyes, just like nowadays—those films constituted an explosive blend of formal originality, of aesthetic work, of ethical radicality and of a desire to make a change – just what was rarely seen (again: just like nowadays) at commercial cinemas, what could only be seen at ZINEBI. An unmissable event.

For my first event as the festival director, I am very aware that ZINEBI—like any other festival in its category—has acquired certain obligations to citizens, to the surroundings where it takes place, especially when it is—and has been since 1981—one of the most significant expressions of the council’s commitment to culture, in general, and to the development of Bilbao’s audio-visual industry, in particular. I am also aware that ZINEBI did not just appear out of thin air, that—like any other festival around the world—it is the result of a lengthy history and, in our case, a way to shine a little light amidst the darkness of a dictatorship that, according to my parents and their friends, seemed like it would never end.

This year we are celebrating our anniversary: our sixtieth anniversary. So, we have to take a look back and vindicate the value of all the people who have made the art of cinematography possible in our city and offer them a cordial tribute. We are going to do this in two ways: firstly, by showing our gratitude for the cultural and civic value of their work; secondly, by gradually setting the stage for the future of the festival with new lines of programming, with a fresh image and with our decisive commitment to independent cinema and to emerging young talent from all around the world.

In general terms, this means—as regards ZINEBI—paying attention to the times we live in through our particular, annual interpretation of the past, present and future of cinema, both locally and globally, permanently pursuing excellence in the selection of the content that we present at each festival because, if we talk about independent films, we do so because we are convinced that a festival like ours is a key instrument for disseminating and raising awareness about this kind of cinema.

For all of these reasons, modern festivals are obliged to offer our audiences an open window onto the world, our peculiar way of inviting them to leave their individual comfort zone, to share public spaces, to meet the others in a dark room and to contemplate the secret magic hidden in moving images and later get the chance to chat about them with their creators and with all the people—men and women—who form part of the cinematographic experience. By the way, I said women because I am a woman and because I know that we have yet a lot to do in cinema.

As I have already mentioned, I am ready to humbly and respectfully take on my task – and I am also excited about it.

Very excited.

Vanesa Fernández Guerra