MEMORY: This intriguing trip down memory lane, to the Basque country of idyllic summers, is an exercise in transcendence.
Nick Holdsworth
Journalist, writer, author, filmmaker and film and TV industry expert – Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
Published date: March 5, 2020

You might like to spend a day fasting and meditating before watching Oskar Alegria’s Basque-language two-hour poetic musing unfold before your eyes. Bringing a calm, transcendent attitude to this odd, arty, and strangely beguiling film about memory, nostalgia, nature, and loss will definitely benefit the viewing experience.

For those who prefer more cutting edge, politically pointed, and topical documentaries, this could be a welcome change of pace. For a somewhat fidgety reviewer, accustomed to more newsy fare, it took a while to settle into a film that pretty much begins with a tender, loving static shot of a crusty cowpat, before proceeding to a range of long – and always beautiful – studies of sky, water, vegetation, trees, birds, and various nocturnal forest denizens seen through the lens of motion-triggered cameras.

Zumiriki, a film by Oskar Alegria

Metaphysical questions

Alegria is an affable Robinson Crusoe seeking to recapture memories of the halcyon days of childhood (which were, in their turn, captured on 8mm coloured film footage shot by his sometime shepherd father).

There is a depth and range to Alegria’s memories of land and people that is slightly lost on those of us lacking the necessary cultural and religious references. Opening shots of a religious procession in the (presumably) 1970s – effigies of the Virgin Mary held aloft – are juxtaposed with today’s version, where 4-wheel drives with the plaster Virgin safely strapped into the passenger seat, trundle up to an ancient rock-built shrine.

Interviews with the few remaining octogenarian shepherds – with a range of metaphysical questions that centre on life, dreams, and death – add colour, if not necessarily easily penetrable context, to this philosophical essay.

Alegria is an affable Robinson Crusoe seeking to recapture memories of the halcyon days of childhood

There are also odd asides where …

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