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GIJÓN 2018

Review: Zaniki

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- Gabriel Velázquez’s film is an exploration of oral cultural transmission, portraying the close, respectful, conspiratorial and affectionate relationship between a young boy and his grandfather

Review: Zaniki

Gabriel Velázquez (Salamanca, 1968) is a familiar name on the festival and alternative circuit thanks to his previous films: Sud express [+see also:
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(directed alongside Chema de la Peña), Amateurs, Arctic [+see also:
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and Análisis de sangre azul [+see also:
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(co-directed with Blanca Torres). Now, in the official selection of the 56th Gijón International Film Festival — where he was awarded a special mention in 2011 for Iceberg [+see also:
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— he is unveiling his latest project, Zaniki [+see also:
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. It stars the Mayalde family (winners of the “Martínez Torner” National Folklore Award), focusing particularly on its patriarch, Eusebio, and his young grandson, Beltrán, whose nickname lends the film its title.

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Velázquez had the good fortune to come across this very special family of artists, and the good sense to make them the stars of his film. The most interesting of all is Eusebio — part leader, part showman, part shaman — a man who has no qualms about being filmed, unabashedly displaying his charm, wisdom, wit and talent for the camera and capable of coaxing music out of such everyday objects as a frying pan, a set of spoons or simply his bare hands. Eusebio is keen to pass all of this knowledge on to his grandson Beltrán, along with the value and pleasures of contact with the natural world. So, when he starts to feel that his time is running out, he plans an excursion (a sort of initiation journey leavened with playfulness and adventure): a few cold winter days just for the two of them, enjoying each other’s company and the warmth of a camp fire amid the moors, rivers and caves of the Salamanca countryside.

It is this ramble through the landscape of Castilla y León, seldom seen on screen outside of Jonantan Cenzual’s El pastor [+see also:
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, that provides the film’s most stunning sequences (with liberal use of drones for aerial shots). From family gatherings and school activities we get a sense of this desire to perpetuate memory and the richness of identity through oral transmission, as a way of preserving knowledge, that radiates from the film. Legend, western and spectacle combine in Zaniki, which hooks us in with its candour, singularity and ability to capture the deep affection shown by the old man and his grandson on screen.

Based on a screenplay by the Velázquez himself, written in collaboration with Manuel García and Blanca Torres, Zaniki was filmed over two weeks in November 2017, under the supervision of its mesmerising protagonist and adapted to his ways. The result is a mythology of a particular place, time, people, and approach to life, where nature, the earth, simplicity and tradition come together in remarkable harmony — something that seems fated to disappear, given that is neither taught in schools or reflected significantly in the media.

Zaniki  — with cinematography by Manuel García, co-director of Velázquez’s new film, Subterranean, in which music is once again the central theme, this time through the story of a group of musicians from Madrid making their way in the city of Los Angeles — is a film by Escorado Producción SL, with support from ICAA, Junta de Castilla y León, Diputación and the Ayuntamiento de Salamanca. Pirámide Films Is in charge of distribution.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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