Source: Caterina Barjau

Mikel Gurrea

Film was a big part of Mikel Gurrea’s childhood, growing up in San Sebastian. “The film festival had a significant impact,” he recalls, “being able to access the type of films you could rarely find in cinemas, get familiar with different styles, different languages, different ways to understand storytelling.”

Gurrea is now based in Barcelona, where he moved to study audiovisual communication. His directing debut Cork (Suro) premiered this year at his hometown festival, winning the Irizar Basque film award and Fipresci award, as well as the best screenplay prize from the Basque Screenwriters Association.

The film is the story of a Catalan couple (Vicky Luengo and Pol Lopez) who move to the countryside to restore an inherited farmhouse, and make a living from the cork trees on their land — something Gurrea experienced first-hand when he worked one summer extracting cork.

To make the film, he learnt Catalan and shot it in the language. Production was postponed for a year owing to the pandemic, with the shoot moving from summer 2020 to 2021. While Gurrea waited, he went back to directing shorts and made Heltzear, which plays with three concepts close to his heart: adolescence, the Basque Country and climbing. The short was selected for Venice’s Horizons section in 2021.

Gurrea, who studied at the London Film School and spent six years in the UK, is writing his second feature Sants, which has been selected for the first edition of the Catalan Film Academy script residency programme.

Named after a neighbourhood in Barcelona — “sants” also means “saints” in Catalan — it is the story of a 30-year-old woman with a terminally ill mother, who discovers an underground group of church burglars who steal the statues of saints. Gurrea is in talks with the producers of Cork and the plan is to work with the same key crew as on this debut feature.

Contact: Mikel Gurrea