Querejeta, Elías


Querejeta, Elías
(1930- )
   Elías Querejeta is the producer most closely associated to the Nuevo cine español movement of the 1960s. He was born in Hernani (the Basque country), and in his early years developed a range of interests including football. He was active in the cine club movement of the 1950s, and his passion for cinema goes back to adolescence, when he practiced shooting films with a home camera. He studied chemistry and then law at college, but both degrees were interrupted before graduation (he was actually dismissed from both). His earliest contributions to film were as scriptwriter, most often in collaboration.
   In 1956, he co-wrote with his friend Antxón Eceiza a script that would go on to win a national award but was never shot. After discovering that his real vocation was shaping the film as a whole, rather than focusing on one part of the project, he set up his own production company with Eceiza, and they supported the production of shorts on a small scale. He moved to Madrid in the late 1950s, and worked with the communist party-supported production company UNINCI, where he made important contacts for his future career as independent producer.
   In the early 1960s, he participated in a number of projects for established companies. In 1964, he finally set up Elías Querejeta Producciones Cinematográficas to take advantage of the new measures for the encouragement of quality cinema introduced by General Director of Film José María García Escudero. One of the earliest efforts of the new company was Carlos Saura's La caza (The Hunt, 1966), and Querejeta would continue to support Saura's work until 1981's Dulces horas (Sweet Hours). He encouraged work by Antxon Eceiza, Ricardo Franco, Jaime Chávarri, Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón, and was the driving force behind Víctor Erice's El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive, 1973) and, 10 years later, El sur (South, 1983), two films that mark the summit of a certain canonical tradition in Spanish cinema that finds recognition in film festivals all over the world.
   Elías Querejeta's productions shared an outlook and followed artistic paths very seldom tried in Spanish film of the 1960s. A typical Querejeta film tended to be slow moving, earnest, reflective, sparse, and had more in common with the aesthetics of Robert Bresson or Abbas Kiarostami than with Hollywood commercial cinema. In an atmosphere of institutional repression, he opted for metaphors, obscurity, and symbolism. Thematically, his films looked back to the Civil War period and the deep wounds left in the country's soul, a subject that did not go down well with the authorities. Querejeta was outspoken against censorship and the restrictions censorship put on the free development of an artistic Spanish cinema, and his films repeatedly ran into trouble with the authorities. His films were seldom box-office hits, but their international success, however muted, helped Querejeta to continue to produce the kind of films he believed in.
   His continuing support allowed Saura to spread his wings as a director and produce work increasingly original and, against the commercial grain of the times, increasingly hermetic: it is unlikely that anyone else would have supported works like Peppermint Frappé (1967) or Stress es tres tres (Stress Is Three Three, 1968) with the level of funding Querejeta put into these enterprises.
   When the Transition came, Querejeta was left without an enemy to fight, but his films remained recognizably artistic, and he constantly sought new talent. He supported Montxo Armendáriz, whose whole output he produced, including Tasio (1984) and 27 horas (27 Hours, 1986). More recently, he was the first to recognize Fernando León de Aranoa's talent, producing his first and boldly original effort Familia (Family, 1996). In recent years, he has championed the film career of his daughter Gracia Querejeta, producing Estación de paso (Transit Station, 1992), El último viaje de Robert Rylands (The Last Journey of Robert Rylands, 1996), and Siete mesas de billar francés (Seven French Billiard Tables, 2007).

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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