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    It is well known that, in comparison with classical American film —from the big producers, the large studios and the star system, modern European film, which for its part dragged along the heavy inheritance of melodramatic literature and the old theatre from the end of the 19th century, began to forge its identity along paths that were very distant to all of the above. One of the keys involved, above all since the end of World War Il and the spiritual crisis that resulted from it, was to proceed to certain introspection, to an emptying of argumentative material that intended to induce the viewer to reflect on the questions that those narrative gaps left in the air. Film where it seemed that nothing happened. A second key was that this leaning towards existential interrogation and narrative fragmentation found one of its most recurring stylistic characteristics in the face of woman. The faces of certain famous actresses, carefully modelled by their directors using unusual settings and lighting, thus became the epitome of all human experience, of the pain and joy of living —a characteristically European phenomenon which gave rise to a new relationship between filmmakers and their actresses. This was the case of Dreyer and María Falconetti; of Rossellini and Anna Magnani, and Ingrid Bergman; of Antonioni and Mónica Vitti; of Bergman and Ingrid Thulin, and Liv Ullmann; of Godard and Anna Karina; and, amongst us, of Saura and Geraldine Chaplin.

    ZINEBI 56 is awarding the Mikeldi of Honour this year to an eminent actress of modern film, a woman who has done much work and constitutes a living testimony to the continuity throughout time of a great European tradition, in the wake of the eminent actresses I mentioned above: the Argentinian Cecilia Roth.

    Born in Buenos Aires into a family of intellectuals of Central European Jewish origin, Cecilia Roth possesses an extensive filmography, for which her extraordinary acting talent has won her important national and international awards. She arrived in Spain in 1976, fleeing with her family from the fierce repression unleashed by the Military Council that took power after a bloody coup d’état. Two of our great film directors immediately spotted the exceptional traits and infinite posibilities of a very personal —and therefore recognisable— face, eyes, voice and range as an actress, between drama and comedy: the first of them was Iván Zulueta in 1980, who asked her to play the lead in his unforgettable Arrebato —an unclassifiable and still considered cult film, which turned the director and the actress into two icons of what was then beginning to emerge as a new paradigm for Spanish film, the so-called Cinema of the Transition; the second was Pedro Almodóvar, with whom she worked on two of the most emblematic films of those times of change and rupture at all levels of Spanish life —genuine expressions of the very iconoclastic and jubilant Madrilenian scene: Laberinto de pasiones (Labyrinth of Passion,1982) and Entre tinieblas (Dark Habits, 1983). The collaboration between Almodóvar and Cecilia Roth continued over time with Todo sobre mi madre [All About My Mother, 1999] and the recent Los amantes pasajeros (I’m So Excited,2013). As regards Argentinian films, the director Adolfo Aristarain created two films through whose female characters Cecilia Roth managed to express, incomparably, the pain of the most intimate reaches of human experience, which I referred to above: Un lugar en el mundo (A Place in the World, 1992) and Martín (Hache) (1998).

    The International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao is awarding Cecilia Roth the Mikeldi of Honour at its 56 edition because it recognises her as a free and generous actress, and also the heiress to the long tradition of female performers of modern and contemporary European film; a woman who has known how to reach maturity in her trade surrounded by dramatic success and who has also known —with a splendid mixture of intuition, risk-taking, and personal and profesional coherence in her choice of roles —how to bring women from her times to life in each of her films, women with character who know how to laugh and cry and who now form part of the film imagination of millions of viewers, across Spain, Europe and Ibero-America.

    Luis Eguiraun
    Screenwriter and programmer at ZINEBI (2003-2019)