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Mendi Film Festival: a 15 years expedition

It has been 15 years since the creation of Mendi Mountain Film Festival in 2008. 15 years, and that is many editions without a break, with the one to be held from the 9th to the 18th  of December 2022. The list of films in competition will be published in October, and from then on, the guests, directors, producers and athletes who will take part in December will be announced.

This has always been the case, ever since the expedition set off in 2008 in Vitoria-Gasteiz. In those first four beautiful years, the Basque mountain film festival was born in response to the mountain culture that is lived and beloved here and with the desire to present the most recent and contemporary mountain cinematography at an international level. In the 284th issue of the Pyrenaica magazine, we have already mentioned its successful precedent that of the San Sebastian Mountain film festival from 1979 to 1985. For the creation of Mendi Film in Vitoria, the references were the festivals of Torello, Trento, Banff or Diablerets. Jabier Baraiazarra, Eduardo Martínez and company, gave free rein to a passionate dream, and thus put into to motion what was to be and what is the Mendi Film Festival.

Gala de Premios de la primera edición en 2008, en el Museo Artium

The Europa Palace and the Artium Museum became the Base Camps, and an expedition that is now in its 15th year set off from there. Let's make a sketch of the pitches, as if we were climbing a Big Wall:

  1. “Psicobloc: Ur Sakonetako Bakardadea” and Bideografik

This film opened the first edition of Mendi Film at the Europa Palace in Vitoria-Gasteiz, on the 15th of December 2008, making it the first of many films screened since then. A home production -Bideografik is based in Durango in the Basque Country, with close and world-class protagonists: Patxi Usobiaga and Irati Anda, together with the Balearic Miquel Riera (R.I.P.), the father of psicobloc. Xabier Zabala, Asier Maeztu, Carlos Iglesias and Eukeni Arriortua, have presented many good films in Mendi Film under the Bideografik label: along with the aforementioned "Psicobloc", "Slack Line: grabitateari erronka" (2009), "Tamur: Kangchenjungako harribitxia" (2010), "Aizkora hotsak goi mendietan" (2011), "GR-99. Los colores del camino" (2012), "Parapentea eta ni" (2012), "Imaginador" (2016), and "Pastoreak" (2018).

  1. Basque production

Since then, many Basque production companies have presented their films at Mendi Film: Marmoka Films, Arena Comunicación, Gariza Films, Morgancrea, Einarte Produkzioak, Zirriborro, Arteman, Dimegaz, Gattiken, On Produkzioak, Avis Producciones, Muxu estudio, Bideolan... 

  1. Basque directors

And a good number of Basque directors have immersed themselves in the world of mountain cinema, often premiering at Mendi Film: Lara Izagirre, Pablo Iraburu, Migueltxo Molina, Marga Gutierrez, Jose Larraza, Aner Etxebarria, Pablo Vidal, Ruben Crespo, Igor Bellido, Jon Herranz, Mattin Zeberio, Pablo Dendaluze, Jon Goikoetxea, Iker Larrañaga, Iñaki Peña, Egoi Markaida, Iker Elorrieta, Iñigo Grasset, Alex Areizaga, Romain Jamet, Tamara Lucarini, Carlos Rodriguez, Fredi Paia, Aitor Gisasola, Gotzon Arribas, Santi Ron, Mikel Peña...  

  1. Basque protagonists

There are also many Basque mountaineers and athletes who have worked as film directors: Mikel Sarasola, Alex Txikon, Jose Ramon Agirre "Marron", Adolfo Madinabeitia, Josu Bereziartua, Luis Arrieta, Janire Etxabe, the brothers Mikel and Iñaki Urresti, Xanti Ugarte, Txus Ruiz de Erentxun… In addition, as well as these, many others have been presented as the protagonists of the tapes. Mountaineers: Iñaki Ochoa de Olza (R.I.P.), Alberto Zerain (R.I.P.), Alberto Iñurrategi, Juan Vallejo, Mikel Zabalza, Edurne Pasaban, Juanito Oiarzabal, Juanjo Sansebastian and Felipe Uriarte. Climbers: Ekaitz Maiz, Gorka Karapeto, Arkaitz Yurrita, Unai Mendia, Eneko Cesar, Andoni Ormazabal, Itziar Zabala, Mikel Linazisoro or the Esparta brothers. Skiers: Lucas Eguibar, Iraitz Ezkergain and Jurek Sienkiewicz. Trail runners: Silvia Trigueros, Iker Karrera, Oihana Azkorbebeitia and Irene Sarriugarte. Kayakers: Aitor Goikoetxea, Xabier Olano, Fermin Perez, or Antxon Arza (R.I.P.). Surfers and adventurers: Kepa Acero, Aritz Aranburu, Natxo Gonzalez or Garazi Sanchez. Travellers: Josu Iztueta, Julio Villar or Eneko Etxebarrieta. Speleologists such as those from the Aloña Mendi club. Glacier geographers such as Eñaut Izagirre and Ibai Rico. 

  1. Pou Brothers

The brothers Eneko and Iker Pou are in a separate chapter. The climbers and mountaineers from Vitoria have always been closely linked to the Mendi Film. They have premiered nine films here, from "7 paredes con 7 continentes" (2008) to "Pim Pam Pou" (2018).

  1. Vitoria-Gasteiz

From 2008 to 2011, Vitoria-Gasteiz was the Basque capital of mountain cinema. During the cold local winters, the warmth came from the public who supported the festival from the very first edition by filling the cinemas. Big international names paraded through them: Dean Potter (R.I.P.), Sean Leary (R.I.P.), Nicolas Favresse, Sean Villanueva, Karina Hollekim, Erhard Loretan (R.I.P.), Leo Houlding, Inés Papert, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Dujmovits, Chris Sharma...

  1. Bernadette McDonald

An internationally renowned writer of mountain literature in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Her first visit was in 2010 when she was still part of the Banff Film Festival management. She has been a member of the jury at Mendi Film on two occasions, as well as on panel talks and presenting exhibitions. She recognised the festival's international character and potential and has always been a loyal ambassador of it.

  1. IAMF

In 2011, Mendi Film Festival joined the International Alliance for Mountain Film. The association is made up of 28 members, representing 20 countries from 5 continents. And since 2018, Jabier Baraiazarra, director of Mendi Film, has been its president. The IAMF is a reference in the mountain film industry.

  1. Bilbao

Mendi Film moved from Vitoria to Bilbao in 2012, grateful to all those who supported the beginnings in the capital of Alava, both the institutions and the public who supported the festival throughout four years, as well as to those who were receptive in Bizkaia-Biscay for the festival to continue growing. Ten editions have been held in Bilbao. In such places as; the Sala BBK, Golem Cinemas, Euskalduna Palace, Bizkaia Aretoa, Euskal Museoa-Basque Museum, Itsasmuseoa, Ondare and Rekalde Halls, the Ensanche Building, the Biscay Bar Association, the Bilbao Sports Club, the Casco Viejo-Old Town... the breath of mountain culture spreads every December in Bilbao.

  1. Jimmy Chin

In 2013 Jimmy Chin presented in Metro Bilbao stations an exhibition of his career as a photographer. In 2015 the film “Meru”, directed by himself, was screened at the Inaugural Session of the 8th edition of Mendi Film at the Euskalduna Palace. In addition, in 2018, Mendi Film programmed "Free Solo", a film he co-directed with his wife Elisabeth Chay Vasarhelyi, and which a year later won prestigious international awards: an Academy Award, a BAFTA award and 7 Emmy awards. He is an important figure linked to Mendi Film.

  1. 10th aniversary

The 2017 edition of Mendi Film, the 10th, vindicated female power: Catherine Destivelle, Lynn Hill, Josune Bereziartu and Edurne Pasaban shared the stage of the Sala BBK; the superb film "Mountain" by director Jennifer Peedom opened the festival at the Euskalduna Palace; Bernadette McDonald and Katie Ives led the panel talks, as well as the then head of Pyrenaica Luisa Alonso-Cirés and the filmmaker Lara Izagirre; the film "Becoming who I was" by the director Jin Jeon won the Grand Prize; and the always admirable trail runner Irene Sarrionandia was presented in society with the short film "Aurrera".

  1. New Era: BBK Mendi Film Bilbao Bizkaia

In 2019, Mendi Film presented a four-year collaboration agreement with the Provincial Council of Bizkaia-Biscay, the City Council of Bilbao and the BBK Foundation. A drive focused on stability and social sustainability, and a new name for the festival: the former Bilbao Mendi Film Festival is now BBK Mendi Film Bilbao Bizkaia. Together with these main institutions, our sincerest thanks to all the sponsors and collaborators who continue to make the festival possible.

  1. Pandemic

Despite COVID-19, the 2020 and 2021 editions went ahead. The 13th edition took place with masks, disinfectants, social distancing and perimeter limits included. Even without getting rid of the masks, last year's festival was a meeting point without limitations. The official posters announcing both editions, selected in the CVCEPHOTO competition, exuded symbolism: the 2020 poster, "Into the light" by photographer Sandi Bertoncelj, showed, in a black and white picture, a mountain skier heading for the point of sunlight peeking over the summit; and Jan Zahula's colourful "The edge of guillotine" showed a climber about to overcome the sharp "Guilotina VIIb" route.


  1. Exhibitions

All the editions of Mendi Film have been adorned with exhibitions: photographs, comics and books, mountain equipment, music, paintings, scarves and handkerchiefs... The awarded photographs from the seven editions of the CVCEPHOTO contest have been displayed in Metro Bilbao stations. The prestigious photographer Jim Herrington exhibited portraits of great mountaineering legends. Santi Yaniz and his magic and imagination have been shown frequently. EMMOA-The Basque mountaineering museum, brought the story of Basque mountaineering to the shop windows of Bilbao's Old Town. The exhibitions of scarves and record covers from the Museo della Montagna in Torino-Italy also had a great impact. And the comics created in the Mendi Film together with the SUA publishing house, "Everest: a whole country at the summit" and "Iñurrategi Brothers: hearts devoted to the mountains” have been on the star bookshelf of the festival.

  1. Mendi Tour

The touring exhibition of the best films of Mendi Film after its screenings at the festival in December, offers the opportunity to enjoy them all next year. In 2022 the Mendi Tour will present mountain cinema sessions in more than 50 cities and towns between January and November. Mendi Film offers the chance to enjoy the best mountain films on the big screen and in the best company, becoming the meeting point for mountaineering. And it continues to climb the "big wall" after 15 beautiful years.



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