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The Search for Emak Bakia

Oskar Alegria
Location: The Maltings Theatre & Cinema
Spain / 2012 / 83 min / Cert. Suggested 12a

In 1926 the American photographer, filmmaker, and artist Man Ray shot a cine-poem in the border town of Biarritz, on the Southeast coast of France. Entitled Emak Bakia, the film was named after the house where the film was shot, which itself took its name from a Basque expression meaning "leave me alone".

In 2011, inspired by Man Ray, the Spanish photographer and filmmaker Oscar Alegria set off from the border town of Bidart on a journey to find the house in Biarritz. Alegria’s search is not a straightforward one, but one which is made up of one diversion after another.

The film begins in a graveyard in Biarritz where it is rumoured that Man Ray saw a tombstone engraved with the words ‘Emak Bakia,’ and found it so fascinating that someone would wish to be left alone upon death that he chose it as the title of his film. The rumour turns out to be untrue, but this instigates the first of many detours as he goes in search of the descendents of a clown whose gravestone he finds himself amused by.

Such diversions might seem superfluous to the search for Emak Bakia, and to the film, but it is the journey itself – led by chance – which makes the film, and it is his wandering camera that captures some of the most memorable moments. One of the many visual jokes in the film is when the camera cuts to a “back in 5 minutes” sign in a shop window before taking yet another arbitrary detour. True to his word, Alegria is back on track a few moments later.

Where Alegria finds a clue, he meets a dead end, and where he meets a dead end, he finds a new starting point. Comprised of beautiful footage of the Basque country, and postcards, and clues on the backs of postcards, Alegria also weaves in clips of Man Ray’s work, which adds yet another layer to the film, and to the surreal nature of it. Not content with the eventual discovery of Emak Bakia, instead the film searches to explore the spirit of Man Ray’s art, and the art of creating a film about searching.

“Its constant inventiveness affords the film an unexpected accessibility, stocking it full of engrossing moments worth lingering over.”
- Chris Buckle, The Skinny

 

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