We talked with Mikel Gurrea

Friday 4 August, 2017

Mikel Gurrea (Donostia-San Sebastián, 1985) studied Audiovisual Communication at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. During that period, he worked at the Agosta advertising agency and wrote and directed several short films, including Primo (2008), Los gatos del tejado (2009) and Vermell en l’aigua (2010).

In 2011 he was granted a La Caixa Obra Social scholarship to study for a Master’s degree at the London Film School. During that time he directed the documentary Txoria and the Chessmates advertising spot. He also developed the dramaturgy for the choreography Automatic Flesh, by the Rambert Dance Company, which was performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. 

Foxes, the short film that he made as his graduation project, was awarded prizes in several film festivals: the Festival des Filmes du Monde in Montreal, among others. It was also selected for the 2015 Kimuak catalogue. 

Gurrea wrote the theatrical performance Soka, which was chosen for the New Dramaturgies of the Capital of Culture 2016 initiative; Tanttaka was in charge of bringing this to the stage, along with the Teatro Victoria Eugenia theatre.

In 2016, Gurrea’s fictional feature film project Suro was chosen to be developed as part of the Ikusmira Berriak initiative, and it won the post-production prize offered by the REC Recording Studio within the Co-Production Forum of San Sebastián Film Festival. The project was produced by Lastor Media and Tàndem Entertainment, from Barcelona.

Gurrea is also working on a fictional feature film with the title of Heldu. This film received a development grant from the Basque Government and will be a co-production between Irusoin and the Icelandic company Askja Films.


Glocal Cinema: Tell us in a few words what the project that you are working on involves.

Mikel Gurrea: It is a fictional feature film called HELDU. The context of the film is sport climbing, and it will portray the loss of innocence, the search for personality and the spirit of adolescent resistance. As a teenager, I was a climber. Climbing has a kind of metaphorical terrain: ascending, descending, falling, reaching... These become actions with multiple meanings when we associate them with adolescence. In this film, I aim to portray these two concepts together.


GC: Why did you decide to shoot the film in the Basque language?

 M: For questions of realism. In my experience, the world of sport climbing is, generally speaking, lived in Basque.


GC: When you look for producers, what is the significance of the film being in Basque?

M: The truth is that it has not meant anything new. The beginnings of this project were somewhat unusual, but at the same time everything happened very naturally. I studied in London, and my graduation short film from the film school was produced by Eva Sigurdardottir, an Icelandic producer that I met there. It was a very positive experience. After that, Eva asked me what I wanted to do in terms of my first feature film and at that point I told her the story of HELDU. She liked it, and immediately after that we began to look for a Basque producer. We met Xabier Berzosa, from Irusoin, and when we saw that our schedules coincided, we started to work together. Since I'd conceived the film as being in Basque from the beginning, it was never an issue that was debated.


GC: You're working with Irusoin. How did you end up with them?

M: I knew Jose Mari Goenaga, and he showed Xabier Berzosa my last short film, FOXES. After that, when they were showing LOREAK in the Iceland film festival, Xabi met Eva. They started to talk about HELDU, and before we realised, Irusoin had already become our main producer.


GC: Which strategies have you used to make the film more international?

M: From a production point of view, HELDU is a co-production between Irusoin and the Icelandic company Askja Films. This means that the project, by definition, has an international flavour. Apart from this, we developed HELDU within the EAVE programme, which was driven by Creative Europe, and we also showed it at Sofia Meetings, the pitching session for Sofia’s international film festival. In these kinds of events, you normally have the opportunity to meet a lot of different distributors and vendors. The producers share the project with them, and open up avenues for collaboration in the near future. On the other hand, in a broader sense, specific things always become universal, in my opinion. Since cinema itself is a universal language, if HELDU can succeed in portraying the particular features of its context well, I am sure that it will succeed in overcoming international barriers. 


GC: You participated in the Ikusmira Berriak project. How has that helped you?

M: I worked on another project with Ikusmira Berriak. It’s called SURO, and is set in Catalonia. The six weeks that I spent working on it were very constructive: on the one hand, because I shared the project and shared experiences with Kiro Russo, Leo Calice and the Merino brothers, and on the other hand because the resources that they provided us with during that period (time, space, support, professional guidance and so on) were exceptional. We presented the projects in the Co-Production Forum of the Film Festival, and SURO won the post-production prize which is awarded by the REC Recording Studio. There is no doubt in my mind that Ikusmira Berriak has opened a lot of doors for me, both in terms of finding collaborators and in reaching an international audience. It will be produced by Lastor Media and Tàndem Entertainment, from Barcelona, and without Ikusmira Berriak it would have been much more difficult to contact them.    


GC: What does a network like Glocal Cinema mean in terms of your feature film?

M: I see it as being totally natural to make the film in Basque, and also to make it as a co-production with Iceland. The fact that Basque is a non-hegemonic language and that Icelandic cinema is also mainly made in a non-hegemonic language means that to me it feels very logical that HELDU is part of the Glocal Cinema network. Being a part of this network means greater visibility and distribution, and this is tremendously important for the film.