José Antonio Sistiaga (4 May 1932, San Sebastián) is a Basque artist and experimental filmmaker best known for his feature-length hand-painted ‘direct’ film, … ere erera baleibu izik subua aruaren … (1968-70).
Early films Sistiaga exhibited his first film in 1968 at the Bilbao Short Film Festival. Titled … ere erera baleibu izik subua aruaren … (a nonsense phrase coined by Sistiaga’s friend Rafael Ruiz Balerdi), it won a prize for best experimental film. This 10-minute short, hand-painted in a fairly conventional cartoon style, was later renamed De la Luna a Euskadi (‘From the Moon to the Basque’).
The artist began painting his abstract magnum opus in 1968. It took 17 months of 10-12 hour days to complete. The silent, 75-minute … ere erera baleibu izik subua aruaren … was first exhibited at Madrid in 1970. Subsequent screenings took place in London, Paris, Barcelona and New York City.
Each of the approximately 108,000 frames in … ere erera is completely unique, and appears onscreen for only 1/24th of a second. No optical printing techniques or special photographic effects were employed in its production.
… ere erera baleibu izik subua aruaren … is the first feature-length example of ‘direct’ cameraless filmmaking, a painstaking technique dating back to the early 1900s. Other well-known artists in the genre include Len Lye, Harry Smith, Norman McLaren (whose work Sistiaga cites as a direct influence) and Stan Brakhage.
Later hand-painted films In 1988-89, Sistiaga painted Impresiones en la alta atmósfera (‘Impressions from the Upper Atmosphere’) in 70mm 15-perf horizontal format, intended for exhibition in giant-screen IMAX and theaters. A new work in the same format, Han (sobre el sol) (‘Han (About the Sun)’) was begun in 1992.
Two additional 35mm films using a different technique, Paisaje inquietante Nocturno (‘Disturbing Nocturnal Landscape’) and En un jardin imaginado (‘In an Imaginary Garden’), were completed in 1991.
- …ere erera baleibu izik subua aruaren… (1968-70), 35mm, color, silent, 75 min
- Impresiones en la alta atmósfera (1988-89), 70mm 15-perf, color, sound, 7 min
Screening format: 35mm (courtesy of Filmoteca Vasca)
Special thanks to José Antonio Sistiaga, Filmoteca Vasca and Filmoteca de Cantabria