Asier Altuna | Documentary, Musical

2011 | 52 minutes | Spain

Bertsolaritza is an ancestral, completely improvised, form of Basque poetry. Anachronistic? Not at all: the bertsolari, with their spontaneous creation and wordplay, could be an inspiration for rappers and other improv artists.


Bertsolaritza is an ancestral, completely improvised, form of Basque poetry. Anachronistic? Not at all: the bertsolari, with their spontaneous creation and wordplay, could be an inspiration for rappers and other improv artists.

This oral tradition has skillfully evolved and adapted to the times, connecting with the youngest generations. A surprising art of austere aesthetics in these days of spectacularity and special effects. At the grand finale performance of the last championship an audience of 14,000 people gathered to watch 8 bertsolaris vie live against each other. Bertsolari is a voyage through improvised verse, silence and art in the raw.

The origin of the bertsolari verse dates back to earlier times and the documented challenges amongst bertsolaris are very old. The first championships as we know them today, bringing together the very best bertsolaris of the time, were organized in San Sebastian in 1935 and 1936.

A living ethnographic documentary, remarkable and educational.


"Combining archival material with observations from practitioners and ethnographic scholars, Altuna traces the history of modern bertso as an expression of Basque individuality and exceptionalism...An effective introduction to a form of expression that has become comparable to slam poetry or rap, this is recommended." — Video Librarian

"Asier Altuna has weaved a beautiful piece... Bertsolari is a proud homage, created by people capable of appreciating how much emotion and meaning there is among the bertsolaris, and translate it to the screen with pleasure" — Mikel G. Gurpegui, El Diario Vasco

"An emotive lesson on how you can understand and communicate what poetry is." — Juan Zapater, Diário de Notícias

"The universe we are shown is extremely suggestive and interesting, a treasure. Don't miss Bertsolari." — Iratxe Fresneda, Gara

Main credits

Maialen Lujanbio (performer)
Egaña, Andoni (performer)
Foley, John Miles (performer)
Sarasua, Jon (performer)
Altuna, Asier (film director)
Fernández, Marian (film producer)

Other credits

Cinematography, Gaizka Bourgeaud; editor, Laurent Dufreche; music, Herrikojak.

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San Sebastián Film Festival
International Documentary Festival of Santiago de Chile
Alès Film Festival

DIRECTOR: Asier Altuna


YEAR: 2011

GENRE: Documentary, Musical

LANGUAGE: Spanish; Basque; Basque

COLOR / B&W: Color

GRADE LEVEL: High School, College, Adults



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