In this collaboration with Maider Oleaga, in Zazpi T’erdi we were in charge of the cinematography (David Aguilar), editing (Pello Gutiérrez) and the Super8 shooting (Iñaki Sagastume)
Theatrical release in Spain: May 24th 2019
Two women will met at an apartment in San Sebastian, one is alive and she is the filmmaker, the other one is called Elvira Zipitria Irastorza, and she died in 1982. The filmmaker will find out very soon that Elvira run the first Basque clandestine school in that same apartment, for 30 years, under the harsh Franco dictatorship. She made a huge effort to protect Basque language and culture in different fields. And despite her pioneering work, she is not much known in the Basque Country or elsewhere. The filmmaker, stunned and hungry to know more, starts researching to find out who that woman was. The quest won’t be easy, as she will encounter many closed doors. And so she starts different types of research methods, one of the main ones being making the film itself.
The director Maider Oleaga returns to Euskadi and settles in a house that holds a surprise, a mysterious connection with a woman named for her until then unknown: Elbira Zipitria. A plaque in her building commemorates her, but little or nothing is known of her. In Muga deitzen da Pausoa (Stepping into the boundary) we see the result of months of investigation through its intimate relationship with the spaces of what was a clandestine school of Basque during the Franco dictatorship. Soon its interior minimally illuminated by the light that filters through the windows takes on a new meaning. A sense of social place closed on itself in which the transmission of tradition is possible to avoid the decomposition of an entire community and its culture. The director herself is included in the film, using her body as a vehicle to evoke the spectral presence of Elbira, but also to perform a series of performative exercises interacting with the light and the walls of the apartment and other objects before the camera. The projection of old photographs give the social dimension and reveal the invisible link with the past of its corners. Oleaga intends to capture the figure of the teacher through herself, from the house – from what she discovers with her eyes – but also from the absence and what is out of the field, outside that confinement enclosure oppressive
Language and its important connection with identity not only individual but also collective appears recurringly. From the narration in off the word relations exercises are listened to the way a language teacher would do with her students. A language that, being Spanish-speaking, makes it possible to escape absolutely nuances that are impossible to explain and lost in the translation of a work entirely shot in Basque. The naturalism of the visual description of the fragmented spaces leads to the phantasmagoric with the ambiguous identification of the director herself with Elbira. The negative space of the composition of the shots, the fracture of the visual field through the walls and door frames transmit the ambivalence of presence and absence until Maider and Elbira get confused. The formal commitment is complete, never leaving the interior of the house that serves as a personal means of discovery, a temporary artifact that encloses the essence of the subject under study and bridge with historical memory. What was beyond its walls during the period of time it was inhabited by its previous owner and while conducting classes to groups of children and adults? What sounds could be heard coming from outside?
Elbira Zipitria’s own words mark the step and structure. The recreation of the past gives way to memory to end up being confused in a single whole, a single global creation that describes personality, political commitment and the creation of a space of freedom in which shared memories are treasured. There is also the discursive and formal sublimation of the film with shots taken using a Super 8 camera. The texture of the image and the colors that capture this photochemical support essentially contain two key tools for the director in her approach to this essay —the light and time—, which automatically move to other times and allow to unravel new nuances in familiar places. Bare ornaments the walls, furniture and other totems, Oleaga lacks accessory symbols to search in the vacuum for everything that has been transformed during the footage with his point of view. The director disappears to fill the entire space of the house now transformed by two absences. Elbira Zipitria will be remembered.
Ramón Rey (Cinemaldito)