An eight-year-old child struggles with the fact that people keep addressing her in confusing ways. During a summer at her grand aunt’s among the beehives, her life and her mother's will change forever.

Director's Statement

20.000 SPECIES OF BEES is a coming-of-age story in which I explore the relationship between body, gender, and identity from Lucia and her mother Ane’s point of view throughout the story. It is not just a film about a transgender child, but an intergenerational portrait about identity and acceptance in the family; about the construction of gender relationships; tradition and change; but above all about the need to be loved just as we are.

20.000 SPECIES OF BEES aims to destigmatize the cinematographic representation of trangender kids by
presenting a complex character, rich in nuances, who not only represents the origin of the conflict but the opportunity for the entire family to meet again and recognize themselves from a more authentic place.

Thus, accompanying Lucía (8) on the path to achieve acceptance by her family, doubts and contradictions are
sown so that film-time becomes a space that challenge us for an individual and collective reflection on the diversity of identities and and transgender identity in childhood.
Ekai was a 16-year-old trans boy from the Basque Country. He was born with a vulva but since he was 5 he claimed to be a boy. In 2018, he committed suicide in Ondarroa despite having the support of his family.

The image of Ekai's father reading a farewell letter to his son struck me deeply. They were accompanying his son despite the lack of information and visibility of transgender kids at 2016, when they had to face the transition. That ́s what moved me to contact NAIZEN, the Association for Relatives of Trans Minors in the Basque Country.

Interviewing during this long process all these families from NAIZEN (Association of parents with trans kids) has been a wonderful present for me; an experience full of humanity, pain and love. I feel myself privileged of having acceded into the intimacy of so many families. That ́s why I have tried to offer to the audience a similar experience, the opportunity to approach the intimacy of a family dealing with this situation in the most naturalistic way.

As a director, I am very interested in the line between fiction and documentary, especially working with non-actors to create a more realistic code (CUERDAS, La Semaine de la Critique 2022). My experience directing children (ADRI; THE DECLENSIONS) has allowed me to explore the experience of realism, without giving up on narrative or aesthetics. In 20.000 SPECIES OF BEES working with a 9 years old girl with no previous experience in cinema was definitely a challenge but also a passport to connect with reality and refer professional
actors involved in the scene to a code that borders on the most palpable present.

Regarding the setting, the universe of beehives allows me to generate a magical-symbolic atmosphere that portrays the syncretism between the religious and pagan dimensions, opposed and coexisting in the Basque Country, my home. Here, the pagan tradition considered bees as sacred animals. They had to be notified of the goings-on in the family home. However, due to the wax production necessary for religious liturgies, beekeeper families have been closely tied to the church. For Lucia, facing the bees will symbolically represent
her greatest fear. By doing so, she’ll get her family to see her for who she is.

These natural exteriors will invoke magic and the wild. In the meantime the domestic inner spaces become where norms are shaped and chiseled: traditions, secrets, family reproaches, where doubts and uncertainty flourish. Through intense backlights, the film portrays suffocating atmospheres that suggest hidden and veiled sides of each character.

The sound track works to create an atmosphere in which the deafening hum of the hives is reminiscent of the gossip that appears in many sequences of the film, a sound that frequently comes from outside the field underlining how the environment affects the character in the shot. The narrative power of off-screen is a meaningful ground to explore given that we are talking about a gender system that legitimizes certain representations and absences, as well as the limits established by those margins.

Languages are another expression of these margins and absences. In the film we hear several languages: french, spanish and basque, since it is a story that takes place around borders. The family that dawns in Bayonne, crosses a bridge that divides a territory into two states: The Basque Country in the french and spanish states, indeed. That bridge is a border that represents not only a geopolitical division but also a symbolic and mental limit that Lucía and her family will have to cross.

Linguistics is yet another expression of the diversity of identities, but it is also especially relevant in this story because Basque, one of the oldest living languages, whose origin is still unknown, has a particularity and it is the absence of a gender mark. This aspect becomes truly significant for Lucía in the course of the story and acquires different implications in the portrait of the different women that surround her.

The eminently feminine universe of the hive, led by the queen bee and the workers, is reflected in the family unit in the film, which is mostly female. The different characters that make up the hive of “20,000 Species of Bees” constitute a constellation of women from different generations, representatives of different ways of understanding the idea of femininity.

I try to tow on the fine line that separates two traditionally opposing ideas: Is a woman born or made? Is the
category of woman itself something natural or constructed? Is there only “a woman” or perhaps “many woman”?

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren

Written by: Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren

Main Producer: Lara Izagirre Garizurieta, Valérie Delpierre

Cinematography: Gina Ferrer Garc¡a

Editing: Raul Barreras

Production Design: Izaskun Urkijo Alijo

Costume Design: Nerea Torrijos

Make-Up & Hair: Ainhoa Eskisabel, Jone Gabarain

Sound: Koldo Corella, Xanti Salvador, Eva Valiño

Casting: Naiara Carmona

Cast: Sofia Otero (Cocó), Patricia López Arnáiz (Ane)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Discovery - Prix Fipresci 2023
  • LUX Audience Award 2024
  • Feature Film Selection 2023