Small nations often have big ambitions. For instance they seek for independence, they want preservation of their language or recognition of their unique cultural and national identity. The frustration of not being able to live up to these ambitions is often compensated by very peculiar sports in which the inhabitants can take great pride. The Irish have their hurling, the Inuit have their kneel jumping and mouth pulling, and here in The Netherlands we have the Friezen, a community in the north of the country that speaks a language that is totally not understandable for 'normal' Dutch people and play a sport that called fierljeppen. The goal of fierljepen is to jump over large ponds of water using a large pole.
Small nations, Big games is about Pilota, the national sport of the Basques, a people in the north of Spain. The director followed his friend, Henrike Olasolo, from Amsterdam back to Basque country where Henrike was born. His father was a famous Pilota player back in the days, but Henrike, to his embarassment, has never played the game. For Henrike the social and political situation of the Basques (being stigmatized in the media as brutes and underdeveloped people) is symbolised by Pilota: the discussions about the cultural identity of the Basques is like slinging balls against a brick wall. The words bounce back, just like the balls.
Jan Jaap Kuiper (1976) is a historian who is specialized in the history of the Russian film industry. After he graduated from the University of Groningen he stayed in Russia for some time and directed films in Moscow and Sint Petersburg. Back in The Netherlands Jan Jaap studied at the Amsterdam Film Academy. With his exam film Pyotr, letters from the gulag he won the VPRO Documentary Prize and as reward he got a budget to make this MiniMovie.
A Minimovie is an episodic documentary consisting of 8 to 10 episodes. Episodes are 7 to 10 minutes each. Put together, they form a self-contained story. With MiniMovies SubmarineChannel explores a new narrative and visual style of documentary filmmaking. You can watch the Minimovies here or simply download them to your digital device of choice.