To mark the centenary of Orson Welles and with the exhibition of his documentaries filmed in the French Basque Country, the Chez les Basques cycle (At the Basque Home, in French) seeks to bring together, for the first time ever, the important documentary legacy of this area located between the Pyrenees and the Atlantic.
Since the very beginning of the film industry, few places in the world have been able to boast of having such an illustrious group of internationally renowned filmmakers, who, like the author of Citizen Kane, have come here decade after decade to portray the life and culture of this corner of Europe. This ethnographic interest is what traces the selection and the programmes that make up Chez les Basques. As a prologue to this cycle and to the festival itself, writer, Bernardo Atxaga, will give a conference at 9pm on Monday 9th February in Baluarte, accompanied by Chris Wertenbaker, the boy who starred in the documentaries filmed in this region by Orson Welles. At the end, Wertenbaker will give a short guitar concert with the songs he learnt in his childhood on the French Basque coast.
The first programme in the cycle proposes a journey through the history of film seen decade after decade: the birth of image, the arrival of sound, the incorporation of colour, propaganda and modern forms of narrating. The cycle begins in the same way as the birth of film by the Lumière brothers, who, after making their debut with workers leaving the factory and the arrival of the train, also travelled to south-west France to film the melodious swell of the Atlantic Ocean near to Virgin’s Rock in Biarritz in Rochers de la Vierge (1896). On the other hand, not far from this area, Maurice Champreux offers us another film milestone in the 1930’s: filming in France with outdoor sound for the first time ever in Au pays des Basques (1930), in which the first words in Basque are spoken on film. This cycle is rounded off with Retour aux Pyrénées, by Jean Faurez (1961), on the importance of the home in the Basque culture; Maskaradak (1980), by Jean-Dominique Lajoux, a film backed by the UNESCO on the dances and masquerades in Zuberoa; and the interesting film, Im lande der Basken (1944), in which Herbert Brieger depicts a mythical vision of the Basque people passed through the filter of Nazi propaganda.
With the second programme, Punto de Vista focuses on the tribute to Orson Welles and his particular search for paradise through the journey he embarked upon in 1995, departing from the coast in Ziburu and accompanied by an excellent guide: the boy, Chris Wertenbaker, with whom he discovered dances, Basque pelota, smuggling, pigeon hunting and other border tales. The two chapters that make up the Around the World with Orson Welles series will be screened in a double session.
Along with famous filmmakers, the cycle also rescues less well known filmmakers, such as Hubert Knapp, Godard’s portraitist in Cinéastes de notre temps, who travels to the heart of the region through two films, Le Curé Basque de Greziette (1958) and Croquis en Soule (1958), revealing the personal world of a priest from his small universe and the intimate world of some shepherds who practise their dances in a cowshed in the secrecy of the night.
The next programme will rescue a forgotten gem, Le Chemin d´Ernoa (1921), recently restored by the French filmmaker, a film that has hardly ever been shown by the master of impressionist film, Louis Delluc, who, after searching the entire Hexagon for the best light for his outdoor films, found the ideal scenario for a short fiction film in which the landscape is the absolute star in these mountains alongside the sea and on the sides of Ibardin and Ascain.