• As part of its Official Selection, the ZIFF – ZINEBI First Film International Contest is for films that have never been previously seen in Spain and which will be competing for a prize of €12,000.
  • Featured in festivals such as Berlin, Venice, Locarno and Sundance, 7 of the 9 selected featured films are directed by women.
  • The festival will hold its 63rd edition from 12 to 19 November.

ZINEBI – International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao, organised by Bilbao City Council, has announced the titles of the nine feature films from 12 countries that will compete in the Official Selection –ZIFF – ZINEBI First Film International Contest, that is being held for the sixth time.

The members of international jury for this section of ZINEBI 63 are the German filmmaker and visual artist Helena Wittmann (who received special jury recognition at the 2nd ZIFF, in 2017; the Catalan cultural journalist and film critic Paula Arantzazu Ruiz, and the Italian author and film programme Eva Sangiorgi,  the artistic director of Viennale, the Vienna International Film Festival, and also founder of the Mexican festival FICUNAM and head of the Curatorship Department at the Elias Querejeta Zinema Eskola.


Winner at Cinélatino – Rencontres de Toulouse (France) thanks to  “La chica nueva” (2021), the Argentinean Micaela Gonzalo had already presented her earlier work, the short film “Toda mi alegría” (2018) at the Berlinale. For her debut feature film, Gonzalo chose the city of Rio Grande, on Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, as the setting for the story of Jimena (Mora Arenillas), a young women who travels to the far south of Argentina in search of her half-brother (Rafael Federman). With his help, she manages to put her life back on track against the backdrop of a complex economic crisis.


Mexican by birth, but raised in Ethiopia and living in New York,  Jessica Beshir makes her feature debut with “Faya Dayi” (2021), a documentary that was practically shot in full in the highlands of Ethiopia.  Growing khat, a stimulant leaf that is chewed and has been traditionally used in the Arab countries of the Horn of Africa, has become a very lucrative business there.  Midway between myth and reality, “Faya Dayi” returns to the tapestry of the Harar Region that  Beshir had already portrayed in her short film Hairat (2017).

After its premiere at Sundance, and described by the critics as “hypnotic, immersive and very beautiful”, “Faya Dayi” won the Best Documentary Award at  Visions du Réel (Switzerland) and the Audience Award at Hot Docs (Canada). Last month, she also took part in the 50th New Directors/New Films at the Lincoln Center in New York.


Five young Germans about to come of age are the main characters of “FREIZEIT oder: das Gegenteil von Nichtstun” (2021), the documentary directed by Caroline Pitzen. She shows a youth in Berlin of 2018 that seems to be the direct opposite of the stereotype. They wander through the city and wonder about their lives in the future. Always stimulating discussion and debate, the conversations of those young people are about everyday sexism, individual and collective responsibility or gentrification. They believe that what is happening around them is far from being as it should, but are optimistic about the future.

Pitzen presented her debut film at the  Berlinale Critics Week and, subsequently, it was screened at  Cinéma du Réel (France).


Between the fiction and the reality of young people from Tijuana,  “Los fundadores” (2021), the début of Diego Hernández, was awarded the Silver Puma  for the best Mexican film at the last FICUNAM (Mexico) and, subsequently, received special jury recognition at FID Marseille (France).

The main characters are Diego, Andrés and Renée, university students who, despite their personal effort, are not developing professionally, partly due to the funds for their university being suspiciously diverted for other purposes.


Commercially premiered a month ago, the début as a director of the  American actor of Cuban descent Natalie Morales, “Language Lessons“ (2021) was screened at the last  edition of the Berlinale. It went on to win the Audience Award at the Austin  SXSW Film Festival (Texas). It features Morales herself and Mark Duplass, the star of US indie films.

Described by “Variety” as “a platonic romantic comedy for the age of Zoom”, “Language Lessons” tells the unexpected shift in the relationship between Adam and his Spanish teacher, who Adam’s husband hired to teach him weekly classes online.


Endorsed by the Special Jury  Award for the Cineasti del Presente at the last Locarno Festival (Switzerland), the French filmmaker Émilie Aussel is presenting her first fiction feature film “L’été, l’éternité” (2021). Just like all her earlier short films, the film stars young people around 18 years old,  who, in this case, are nonchalantly getting ready to spend the summer at the coast. Aussel introduces us to this group of young people and adolescents, who are forced to face the best and worst in a summer that will mark their lives.


The obstacles to settle disputes and conflicts between families, but above all the way of overcoming them by means of a pathway agreed between the warring parties, are the main theme of the feature documentary Odpuscanje” (2021), directed by the Slovenian filmmaker Marija Zidar. It was premiered in the Netx:Wave section of  CPH:DOX, the Danish documentary film festival.

Set in the mountains of Northern Albania, this Balkan coproduction (involving Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo)  focuses on the Kanun, the medieval code that is more powerful than the law in rural areas and is based on the principle of  “blood for blood”.


The Portuguese-American director Fern Silva, who already competed 2017 in the ZINEBI Official Selection with his short film “Ride Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder”, debuts at ZIFF with his non-fiction film premiered in the Encounters section at the last Berlinale.  “Rock Bottom Riser” (2021) received special jury recognition there and was later selected to take part in the  French Cinéma du Réel festival, and the Rotterdam Internal Festival (Netherlands) and IndieLisboa (Portugal).

He starts with the lava flows from the different volcanoes on the islands of Havaii.  Silva builds a complex tale of life in such a remote place and how it could change in the foreseeable future with the construction of the largest telescope in the world on the archipelago’s most sacred mount, Mauna Kea, the imposing inactive volcano.


After her world debut in “The Train Passed By” (희수, 2021), the Korean filmmaker Kam Jeong-won has chosen ZINEBI for the international premiere of her first film, presented at the Jeonju International Festival in April.  The film describes how Heesu, a 27-year-old woman who has only ever worked at an industrial complex in Daegu, sets off on a journey (which will not be for pleasure) for the first time in her life.

Yet again this year, the prizes of the Official Selection – ZIFF ZINEBI First Film will be awarded during the closing ceremony of the 63rd ZINEBI – International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao at the Arriaga Theatre. The Festival will hold its 63rd edition from 12 to 19 November.

The films competing in this section are in the running for the ZIFF Grand Award, worth €12,000 (to be shared equality between the producer of the winning film and its director), and for the Youth Jury Prize, worth €2,000, which is only open to  university and film school students of the Basque Country.