Though not among the most prolific of the 1990's Spanish directors, Julio Medem has become one of the most respected and is considered by many the voice of post-democracy, Basque cinema. Medem started out directing short films and made his feature length directorial debut with Vacas (Cows) (1992), a beautifully rendered but unpretentious portrait of the close rivalries between Basque families; the film packed an emotional wallop not found in other art films. Vacas proved an auspicious debut and critics hailed Medem's craftsmanship and ability to marry the right images with his near mythic story lines.
Before entering the film industry, Medem studied Medicine and General Surgery at the Universidad del Pais Vasco. He graduated in 1985. While in school, Medem wrote a movie column for the daily La Voz de Euskadi. He has also penned and co-penned articles for other film publications including Cinema 2002. He taught himself about cinematography in the mid-'70s, experimenting with a Super-8 camera. The result was a series of short films, beginning with the Hitchcockian El Ciego (The Blind Man) (1976). In one of his early short films, Fideos (1979), Medem effectively blurred the lines between recognizable reality and the abstract by having the camera view an abstract series of patterns in extreme close-up and then slowly back away to reveal a mundane scene of a man eating pasta. Medem has remained true to this blurring of lines and continues to explore the relationship between the abstract and reality in films such as La Ardilla Roja (The Red Squirrel) (1993) and Tierra (Earth) (1996), both of which have earned similar accolades at various international film festivals.