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    History of the Festival

    ZINEBI – International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao

    ZINEBI is the only Class A international festival in the documentary and short film category in Spain. It is accredited by the Hollywood Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a qualifier for the Oscars, for the European Film Academy’s awards, for the British BAFTAs and for the Spanish Academy’s Goyas.
    Created in 1959 by the Basque Institute of Hispanic Culture, attached to the Spanish Foreign Ministry, the International Ibero-American and Filipino International Documentary Film Contest (its original name) was devised to follow in the steps of San Sebastián, which had been set up six years earlier. It is the third oldest festival in the Spanish State, after San Sebastián and Valladolid, and the first amongst those in its field. Between 1972 and 1981, it became a platform to discuss Spanish short films and a space for the dissemination of productions from all over the world, and particularly Latin America. In 1974, it was recognised by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF) as a contest of the highest international competitive category. Between 1975 and 1980, it was the ideal forum to discuss the arrival of what would be known as Basque cinema.

    In 1981, the festival passed to the hands of Bilbao City Council. Since the year 2000, it embarked on a new era under the ZINEBI brand, when it would consolidate its position as one of the most important international festivals in its speciality. It has strived to be a platform for Spanish and Basque producers and directors and has contributed, as one of its fundamental goals, to internationally promoting the quality and independent films made around the world: films whose creative ambition is not exhausted by merely repeating hackneyed stylistic characteristics. Thanks to these very free and exceptional works, ZINEBI continues to renew its commitment each year to formal experimentation, to the interdisciplinary and hybrid of the new audiovisual productions, to support for the up-and-coming producers, and to filmmakers’ aesthetic and ethical scrutiny of the increasingly more complex realities of our contemporary world.

    Throughout its long history, the festival has welcomed to Bilbao some of the most prestigious professionals of independent filmmaking worldwide. The accolades of ZINEBI include the names of Jacques Demy, Richard Lester, Pierre Pérrault, Claude Lelouch, Gian Vittorio Baldi, Carroll Ballard, Fernando Birri, Estela Bravo, Santiago Álvarez, Valeria Sarmiento, Robert L. Drew, Felipe Cazals, Peter Watkins, Peter Mullan, Lourdes Portillo, Avi Mograbi, Sergei Loznitsa, Lászsló Nemes, Nele Wohlatz and Luise Donschen. Thanks to its critical debate and specialisation, the festival has been a test bed for the new trends of contemporary cinema and a useful platform for the most daring filmmakers.

    A similar headcount of the ranks of Spanish cinema reveals that the Bilbao Festival has been the launchpad of several generations of filmmakers: 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 and Natalia Marín.

    The festival’s guests, international jury members and winners of the Mikeldi of Honour, its top annual award, include Peter Greenaway, Ennio Morricone, Jean Rouch, Dino Risi, Luis García Berlanga, Hanna Schygulla, Anna Karina, Jane Birkin, Arturo Ripstein, Elías Querejeta, Richard Lester, Pavel Paulikowski, Márta Mészáros, Jeanne Moreau, Anthony Hopkins, 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 Llinás, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Wang Bing, Claire Simon, Márta Mészáros, Agnieszka Holland, Albert Serra, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, Margarethe von Trotta, Rita Azevedo Gomes or Frederick Wiseman.

    The different ZINEBI directors down through the years have been: 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 Executive Committee made up byr José Julián Bakedano, Ernesto del Río, José Antonio Mingolarra y Santos Zunzunegui (1985-1987), Iñaki Acarregui (1987-1988), Luis Iturri (1988-1998) and Ernesto del Río (1999-2017). Vanesa Fernández Guerra has been the director since 2018.

    The festival is currently sponsored and institutionally funded by Bilbao City Council – through the Arriaga Theatre – as the organiser, by the Basque Government’s Department of Culture, by the Spanish Ministry of Culture – through the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA)-, and by Bizkaia Provincial Council. ZINEBI is also supported by private and public entities including Basque Public Television (ETB), Azkuna Zentroa, Golem-Alhóndiga Cinemas, the Fine Arts Museum, Guggenheim Museum, the Sala BBK, the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), the French Institute, the Goethe Institute and the FAS Film Club.