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categorised as Class A by:

History of the Festival


International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao

ZINEBI is the only Class-A international festival in Spain that has been acknowledged by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producer Associations) under the documentary and short film category since 1974. ZINEBI has also been accredited by the Hollywood Academy as a qualifier for the Oscars and is a qualifier for the BAFTAs awarded by the British cinema industry and for the Spanish Goyas.

Every year, the ZINEBI programme finds room for all kinds of stylistic formats, the most creative, innovative and suggestive audiovisual formats, and emerging directors of contemporary film from all around the world, so that each new festival renews its commitment to exploring new film territories, formal experimentation, the hybrid and interdisciplinary condition of new cinematographic productions and film-makers’ ethical and aesthetic investigation into the complex realities of the world in which we live.

The ZINEBI programme line-up (documentary, animation and fiction) is the main symbol of its identity and marks its differential value through its meticulous and thorough international competition sections, extremely free and committed cinema that is a real novelty for the audience and that helps to build critical thought in the midst of the cultural complexity of contemporary artistic expression.

As of 1981, the festival was taken over by the Bilbao City Council and with the newly created ZINEBI trademark, it entered into a new era in 2000, where it has gradually consolidated its place as one of the most important international festivals in its field and on a national level it has served as a platform for new Spanish and Basque directors. As one of its main goals, it has contributed to the international promotion of independent and quality filmmaking from all five continents, presenting films whose creative ambition does not wear itself thin with the repetition of stereotypical stylistic traits but truly free films exhibiting singular works of art, which allow ZINEBI yearly renew its commitment to formal experimentation, to the hybrid, interdisciplinary condition of new audio-visual productions, supporting emerging producers and the ethical and aesthetic investigation of film-makers in ever more complex realities of our contemporary world.

Throughout the festival’s extensive history, some of the most prestigious independent film producers and professionals in the world have passed through ZINEBl. Some of the most noteworthy international producers to be awarded in Bilbao include Jacques Demy, Richard Lester, Pierre Pérrault, Claude Lelouch, Gian Vittorio Baldi, Carol Dalard, Fernando Birri, Estela Bravo, Santiago Álvarez, Valeria Sarmiento, Robert L. Drew, Maia Bousinova, Felipe Cazals, Mónica Maurer, Peter Watkins, Peter Mullan, Lourdes Portillo, Avi Mograbi or Làzslo Nemes. In this regard, we should state that the festival has been a testing ground for new trends in contemporary cinema and a useful platform for the riskiest film-makers against a backdrop of criticism, debate and specialisation.

A similar look among the ranks of Spanish cinema allows us to see that producers from several different generations have emerged at the Bilbao Festival: Carlos Saura, Basilio M. Patino, Pío Caro Baroja, José Val del Omar, Javier Aguirre, Jaime Chávarri, Francesc Betriu, Nadia Werba, Imanol Uribe, Montxo Armendáriz, Pedro Almodóvar, Julio Medem, Fernando León de Aranoa, Juanma Bajo Ulloa, Javier Rebollo, Santiago Segura, Begoña Vicario, Jon Garaño, José María Goenaga, Virginia García del Pino, Neus Ballús, Koldo Almandoz, Isabel Herguera, Asier Altuna, Izibene Oñederra or Natalia Marín.

Invited guests, members of the international jury and winners of the Mikeldi of Honour—the festival’s top award—include Roman Polanski, Peter Greenaway, Ennio Morricone, Jean Rouch, Dino Risi, Luis G. Berlanga, Hanna Schygulla, Anna Karina, Jane Birkin, Arturo Ripstein, Elías Querejeta, Richard Lester, Pavel Paulikowski, Márta Mészáros, Jeanne Moreau, Vannessa Redgrave, Emir Kusturica, Liliana Cavani, Carlos Saura, Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón, Jean-Claude Carrière, Patrice Chéreau, Cecilia Roth, Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Juan Ruiz Anchía, Aki Kaurismäki, Marco Bellocchio, Mariano Linás, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Wang Bing, Claire Simon and Márta Mészáros.

The festival programme currently comprises the following two competition sections: Official Section–International Short Film Competition (animation, fiction and documentary) and ZINEBI FIRST FILM (ZIFF) International Competition for first feature-length works.

The festival also has the following parallel sections of a non-competitive nature: BEAUTIFUL DOCS–a panorama of international feature-length documentaries directed by well-known documentary-makers, and Bertoko Begiradak–Views from the Basque Country, a section dedicated to Basque feature-length documentaries. It is also worth noting the programming especially for a children’s audience, in the ZINEBITXIKI section, along with the different forums, retrospectives and special screenings relating to specific subject areas or film-makers.

In addition, during ZINEBI, under the name of ZINEBI–Meetings, the festival organises meetings with directors, round tables, workshops and masterclasses, in addition to performances and parties with live music.

As of 2018 and created as part of the festival’s 60th anniversary with the collaboration of the Association of Basque Producers (EPE-APV), Euskal Telebista (ETB), the Basque government, the Biscay regional government (BEAZ), Bilbao Ekintza and Europa Creativa Desk MEDIA Euskadi, ZINEBI now hosts a professional networking event called ZINEBI–Networking. Dokumentalen Sorgunea (A Professional Forum on Documentary Cinema in Bilbao), which aims to drive local talent and audiovisual production in the Basque Country by providing financial support for the development of feature-length documentary projects.

Since its foundation, ZINEBI has had the following directors: Pedro de Ybarra (1959–1968), José Ignacio Uruñuela (1968–1970), Felipe Alfonso Araico and Adolfo Lafarga (1970–1972), Roberto Negro (1972–1981), Manu Pagola (1981–1985), the management committee formed by José Julián Bakedano, Ernesto del Río, José Antonio Mingolarra and Santos Zunzunegui (1985–1987), Iñaki Acarregui (1987–1988), Luis Iturri (1988–1998) and Ernesto del Río (1999– 2017). As of 2018, the director is now Vanesa Fernández Guerra, the first woman to fill the role.

The International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao (ZINEBI) is now—sixty years on—an international festival that is a qualifier for the Oscars, BAFTA and Goya Awards and, locally, it is the main vehicle for municipal activity in the audio-visual sector in Bilbao and the Basque Country: companies and professionals that are now in unshakeable condition as an essential factor of economic activity during Bilbao’s transition from its former industrial era to its current position as a city with advanced services.

The festival currently has institutional financing and sponsorship from Bilbao City Council through the C.A.C. Teatro Arriaga, which organises it, the Basque Government Department of Culture, the Ministry for Culture through ICAA (Institute of Cinematography and Audio-visual Arts), the Biscay Regional Government and the Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa (BBK). Besides, public and private entities such as ETB (Basque public television), Azkuna Zentroa, Golem-Alhóndiga cinemas, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, Sala BBK, Teatro Campos Elíseos, UPV (University of the Basque Country), l’Institut français Bilbao, SGAE (the Spanish society of authors and publishers) – Basque Council and the Cineclub FAS, amongst others, also collaborate with ZINEBI.

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