ZINEBI – International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao, organised by Bilbao Town Hall, has announced the nine feature films from nine countries (United States, Germany, Netherlands, Ukraine, Poland, China, Chile, France and Euskadi) competing in the Official Section – International Competition ZIFF – ZINEBI First Film, in its eighth round in 2023.

The films chosen will be competing for the ZIFF Grand Award, 12,000 € (the largest amount in the entire Festival), and for the Young Jury Prize (UPV/EHU University of the Basque Country), to be decided by a panel of film and audiovisual students from universities and other educational centres all over the State (including, for the first time, students from Madrid’s ECAM Cinematographic and Audiovisual School), in the amount of 2,000 €.

This year the international jury panel for this section of ZINEBI 65 will feature Colombian programmer, filmmaker and producer Diana Bustamante (who was given a special mention by last year’s ZIFF jury for Our Movie), the head of programming at Arsenal – Berlin Cinema and Videoart Institute Birgit Kohler, and Spanish filmmaker now resident in the United States Rocío Mesa, the director of Secaderos (2022).

The films chosen will be screened at ZINEBI for the first time in the State.

1. A la sombra de la luz | Documentary
Ignacia Merino Bustos & Isabel Reyes Bustos – Chile – 66’ – 2023
Presented at the last Cannes Docs, and then premiered worldwide at the Sheffield Doc/Fest – the UK’s main documentary festival – the debut of these two female Chilean directors portray the daily round in Charrúa, a location in the Biobío region with the many disadvantages of living beside one of Chile’s largest electrical power stations. Merino and Reyes shun the language of protest to depict the daily lives of this community as a sensory experience.

2. Chestnut | Fiction
Jac Cron – USA 87 – 2023
At the last Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco (USA), New York filmmaker Jac Cron presented his opera prima after graduating in Cinema, Finance and Astrophysics at the University of Drexel, and directing a few short films. The cast of Chestnut, a project consistent with the rest of his background addressing the LGTBIQ+ community, is led by actresses Natalia Dyer, one of the stars of the Stranger Things series (2016-2023), and Rachel Keller, from the Tokyo Vice series (2022). The former plays a recently graduated student during the summer after university, trapped in a relationship with a man and a woman.

3. A Good Place (Ein schöner Ort) | Fiction
Katharina Huber – Germany – 108’ – 2023
German Katharina Huber – director of the short film The Natural Death of a Mouse (2020) – took the prize for best up-and-coming director at the last Locarno Film Festival (Switzerland) with this obscure uchronia set in a dark oppressive rural environment which seems to be on the verge of disappearance. For the time being, people seem to be fainting away and the radio is constantly sending messages about the imminent launch of a space transporter, which it seems the protagonists (Céline de Gennaro and another Locarno prizewinner, Clara Schwinning) are going to miss.

4. In the Rearview (Skąd dokąd) | Documentary
Maciek Hamela – Poland / France / Ukraine – 84’ – 2023
Turning a personal experience into a film. That is what Polish director Maciek Hamela has managed to do with his first film, presented in Cannes as testimony – in the form of a documentary – of the trips he made in his van to take Ukrainian refugees to safety in Poland. Along with four camera operators (in the course of several trips), Hamela conveys the up-close-and-personal experiences of those fleeing an unexpected and unfair war. It took the Jury’s Grand Award at the last Sheffield Doc/Fest, two awards at Millennium Docs Against Gravity (Poland), and the prize for best Ukrainian documentary at the Odessa International Festival (Ukraine). It is also one of the 14 nominees for the European Film Academy’s award for Best Documentary of the year.

5. Milk (Melk) | Fiction
Stefanie Kolk – Netherlands – 96’ – 2023
Premiered in September at the Venice Film Festival’s Giornate degli Autori, the first feature film by Stefanie Kolk (director of short films such as Clan (2016) or Eyes on the Road (2019), among others) explores the ties between a mother and her dead baby. Produced by Lemming Film, it stars Frieda Barnhard, one of the most promising Dutch actresses of her generation.

6. Playland | Documentary
Georden West – USA / United Kingdom – 72’ – 2023
The debut by Californian artist and filmmaker Georden West is quite an atypical biopic: the star is not a person, but Playland Café instead, Boston’s oldest gay bar (it opened in 1937 and closed down in 1998). A quarter of a century after it was demolished, halfway between fiction and documentary, West’s interdisciplinary film combines representations, archive material, real testimonies, dancing, opera and performances. It was a contender at the Rotterdam International Film Festival (Netherlands) for the Tiger Award.

7. A Song Sung Blue (小白船) | Fiction
Zihan Geng – China – 92’ – 2023
Liu Xian, fifteen, moves in with her father while her mother goes abroad to work. There she meets Mingmei Soon, her father’s stepdaughter, a young woman who fascinates her. The opera prima by Peking director Zihan Geng was premiered at the Cannes Festival’s Filmmakers’ Fortnight, and in July it took the Grand Award at the Biarritz International Festival.

8. What Doesn’t Float | Fiction
Luca Balser – USA – 69’ – 2023
This independent US production had its commercial premiere in New York only a few weeks ago. It stars Pauline Chalamet – from The Sex Lives of College Girls series (2021-2022), who is also the producer – and was screened at the US festivals Lighthouse, in Long Beach, and Nashville. Luca Balser – co-owner of independent production company GUMMY Films, with previous editing experience – makes his debut in feature films in this series of urban vignettes with a rebellious kaleidoscopic portrayal of New York society far removed from common locations and clichés.

9. Zarata | Fiction – Documentary
Tamara García Iglesias – Euskadi – 62’ – 2023
Gipuzkoa producer Tamara García Iglesias makes her debut as director of this feature film, premiered at the 34th FIDMarseille. Produced by Atekaleun and starring Ainara Gurrutxaga, Erika Olaizola and Jabier Barandiaran, Zarata is a film about the way in which private life affects art, with a particular focus on the way to make a film, which can also be “another way of wielding power”.