Alicia G. Arribas |
Madrid (EFE).- The Álava filmmaker Paul Urkijo returns to Basque mythology to create a world of fantasy, adventure, witches, warriors and a lot of love for the Earth in his second feature film, “Irati”, a historical, epic, environmental film and magic that takes place in the 8th century, but that can be read in a totally current key.
“We live in a world in which large corporations absorb absolutely everything and creative ways of thinking are diluted in that mercantilist force. For this reason, ‘Irati’ is a hymn to creative freedom and respect for what is different and rare”, Urkijo affirms in an interview with EFE in Madrid on the occasion of the film’s premiere this Friday in Spanish theaters.
Since he was a child, the director told EFE, he went to the mountains a lot with his parents and with the ikastola. “And there they used to tell me: in this forest there is basajaun, this mountain is one of the sacred houses of Mari, its caves, the lamías of the rivers…”.
Then he read the comic “El ciclo de Irati”, by Juan Luis Landa and Jon Muñoz where the characters of Irati and Eneko appear, -“a very youthful comic, similar to Asterix”, he points out- and used it as a support to tell his story ; he obtained the rights and changed and added things, such as the battle of Roncesvalles or the relations between the Muslim families of Tudela and the proto-kingdom of Pamplona.
And he put mythological characters. “Irati”, she says, “is full of symbols that have represented the dreams and fears of human beings and that remain current”.
In old Basque
Shot in old Basque, “Irati” takes the viewer to the 8th century; Christianity spreads and pagan beliefs are frowned upon, they scare, they hide them. But Charlemagne’s army is going to cross the Pyrenees and the leader of the valley is looking for an ancient goddess who helps him in exchange for her life. Before dying he makes his son Eneko promise to lead his people in the new era.
After a bloody battle, the film jumps to an adult Eneko (Eneko Sagardoy), a fervent Catholic who must face his father’s promise and recover his body, buried next to Charlemagne’s treasure. For this, he will need Irati (Edurne Azkárate), one of the “daughters” of Mari (Itziar Ituño).
“Irati takes local references and uses Basque Navarre mythology and history to tell a medieval film, but one that is useful for talking about current issues and that concern the director”, such as the dichotomies “human law or divine law, the masculine and the feminine, politics or dissidence, and all this in a breeding ground that you can unravel in different readings”, considers Azkárate, who is facing his first leading role.
Sagardoy (Durango, 1994), Goya Revelation for “Handia” (2017), confesses that he would “love” that people who do not see the risk in mistreatment of the land would realize it by watching ‘Irati’ and “give a chance to science and activism.
“Our environment has saved us and has been a shelter for many centuries. We have to live together and do like Eneko Aritza, who despite having a very Christian conviction listens, lives, learns and assumes, which I think are good verbs that would be very useful for us today ”, he affirms.
Mari, the Basque goddess
Ituño is proud to play Mari: “She is the Basque goddess, the cult of creative energy, the maternal womb, which are the caves where her rituals were held, she is Amalur, the pachamama, a character who is not only a woman, it can be a storm, a fog: it is everything creative and feminine”, explains the actress from Basauri (Vizcaya).
“Irati is one of my daughters and Eneko represents everything that is destroying her,” Ituño points out, although she clarifies that this goddess “never completely leaves.”
In fact, he affirms, “it reaches our days (…). We are believers in Mari -Ituño harangues his co-stars with a complicit smile-: We must turn around the heteropatriarchy that consumes us, the entire planet, ”he affirms with the consent of Sagardoy and Azkárate.
“Mari is a generous mother who we punish a lot when we should take more care of her,” Urkijo agrees with his actors.
“Everything that has a name exists”, the director repeats the Basque mantra while asking himself “if names are maintained, if they will continue to exist”.
“I am a link in that chain and I hope that those who come after and thanks to ‘Irati’ can continue knowing those names”, concludes the filmmaker.