ZINEBI – International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao, organised by Bilbao Town Hall, is kicking off its 65th festival today at 19:30 h in the Arriaga Theatre, with the Honorary Mikeldi award for Bilbao film critic and journalist in recognition of a long professional career that goes well beyond his appearances on TV in ETB’s famous La noche de… programme. Throughout his career he was an active communicator of his interest in films and culture, on television and also on the radio (he worked at Radio Popular from 1966 to 1984, and on Radio Euskadi subsequently), in memorable programmes such as Pompas de papel (which he co-directed alongside Kike Martín) and Iflandia.
One of the unquestionable film documentary giants since the late 1960s is Frederick Wiseman, with whom ZINEBI is now settling “a debt outstanding” in view of his extensive artistic legacy, and so the 65th Festival has awarded him the second Honorary Mikeldi.
However, Wiseman (Boston, USA, 1930) was finally unable to come to Bilbao after his health took a turn for the worse, and he had to be admitted to hospital in Boston.
Wiseman’s debut as director was Titicut Follies (1967), an astounding documentary chronicle which to this day still elicits extreme audience reactions, and which was banned in a number of US states for several years. This maiden feature film – followed by Law and Order (1969), Juvenile Court (1973), Meat (1976) and Near Death (1989), among many others – is the best exponent of a work that served to extend the Utopian objective of direct cinema to transform the footage and sounds of films into something that those watching the films would be able to see and hear if they were present in the shooting location at the time.
Wiseman has always claimed that all his films are tinged with the subjectivity inherent to any cinematographic decision. His versatility as a director was also obvious, from the new perspective of the introduction of the utilisation of video, in many of his documentaries filmed in the 21st century, often applied to the painstaking description of rites, processes, customs of society or the daily functioning of institutions in the United States: State Legislature (2007), At Berkeley (2013), National Gallery (2014), Ex Libris (2017), Monrovia, Indiana (2018) or City Hall (2020) – the last two of which were State-premiered at ZINEBI.
The 2023 ZINEBI Honorary Mikeldi prizewinner won a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2016, and his career has also been acclaimed in Cannes, Venice and Jihlava, among other festivals.
In the Beautiful Docs. An Overview of Documentaries from Over the World section, this time ZINEBI will be State-premiering Wiseman’s latest production, Menus Plaisirs – Les Troisgros (2023), the world premiere of which was staged in Venice just over a month ago. Another ZINEBI Honorary Mikeldi prizewinner, Albert Serra, will be at the presentation of the film at the Golem Alhóndiga cinemas tomorrow, Saturday 11 November at 18:00 h.
OFFICIAL SECTION – INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM COMPETITION
ZINEBI 65’s first session will be staged at the Arriaga Theatre after the Opening Gala, again hosted this year by María Goiricelaya and Ane Pikaza (La Dramática Errante), with music by Vizcaya’s Zabala (formerly of We Are Standard). The Basque short films competing in the Official Section will be screened during the event: Agrio by David Pérez Sañudo (fiction), La mujer ilustrada by Isabel Herguera (animation), Todo lo cubre la sal by Joana Moya (documentary), Memories of an Empty House by Bruno Carnide (fiction), Ximinoa by Itziar Leemans (fiction), Betiko gaua by Eneko Sagardoy (fiction) and In a Nearby Field by Ren Ebel and Laida Lertxundi. The last two are ZINEBI premieres in association with the FICX – Gijón/Xixón International Film Festival, which has also added them to its schedule, starting on 17 November.
The following two sessions in the Official Section will be screened tomorrow, Saturday 11 November, at the Auditorium in Azkuna Zentroa – Alhóndiga Bilbao. Among others, there will be screenings of State premieres of shorts such as You Play My Father by Guillermo Roqués, Rafa Honrubia and Javier Marín (documentary), Welcome Tahiya by Marta Bayarri (fiction) and A Bird Called Memory by Leonardo Martinelli (fiction).
OFFICIAL SECTION – ZIFF ZINEBI FIRST FILM
Tomorrow, Saturday, ZINEBI 65 will also be staging its sixth international first feature film competition. This kicks off with In the Rearview by Polish director Maciek Hamela, in the wake of his success at the UK’s Sheffield Doc/Fest, the International Odessa Festival (Ukraine) and Millennium Docs Against Gravity (Poland). Certainly one of the documentaries of the year, presented at Cannes, and one of the 14 films nominated by the European Film Academy for the year’s Best Documentary.
During the afternoon, this Cinema 7 at Golem Alhóndiga will also be screening another two feature films in the competition: Basque production Zarata by Tamara García Iglesias – which will be presented to the audience by the director herself –, and the UK/US co-production Playland by US artist Georden West, with a presentation of New York drag queen Lady Bunny, who appears in the film.
Another six feature films will be competing for the ZIFF Grand Prix (12,000 €) and the Young Jury Award (2,000 €). They are all State premieres: Chilean documentary A la sombra de la luz by Ignacia Merino Bustos and Isabel Reyes Bustos; US fiction Chestnut by Jac Cron, starring actress Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things, 2016-2023); German fiction A Good Place by Katharina Huber, winner of the prize for best up-and-coming director at the last Locarno Film Festival, who will be in Bilbao to present her film; Dutch fiction Milk by Stefanie Kolk; the Chinese film A Song Sung Blue by Zihan Geng, premiered at the Cannes Quinzaine des Réalisateurs; and US fiction What Doesn’t Float by Luca Balser, starring and produced by Pauline Chalamet.