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May 28, 2007

Tribeca x 4: Gustavo Fontán


Durante el 6º Festival de Cine de Tribeca tuve el placer y honor de entrevistar a algunos de los cineastas, actores, productores y ejecutivos del festival. A continuación, un extracto de la entrevista con Gustavo Fontán, director y escritor de El Arbol (The Tree).

During the 6th Tribeca Film Festival I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing some of the filmmakers, actors, producers and festival executives. Next there is an excerpt from the interview with Gustavo Fontán, director and writer of El Arbol (The Tree).

Pablo Goldbarg:
En lo visual de El Arbol (2006) se percibe algo muy poético. ¿Cómo fue esta transformación entre la literatura y el cine, y que tipo de conexiones encontrás entre ambas artes?

Gustavo Fontán: En principio creo que literatura y cine son dos lenguajes diferentes. Uno no puede compararlos en cuanto a transcripciones. Sí creo que como lector y como escritor, y como lector de poetas fundamentalmente, hay algo que siempre me interesó en los poetas: cómo pueden ejercer una mirada nueva sobre un mundo conocido por todos. Es decir, esta formas de mirar al mundo, de mirar poéticamente al mundo, de renovar con la mirada las cosas que son conocidas por todos y que están presentes para todos, y esta posibilidad de verlas diferente, a mi me parecía que esa capacidad de la poesía también debería ser una capacidad del cine. Y siempre me interesó en ese sentido ese poder de otorgarle a la realidad una forma, y una presencia, y una mirada que es nueva segun la mirada.

P.G.: ¿Cómo fue trabajar con tus padres? ¿Qué te produjo tenerlos a ellos presentes en la película, durante el rodaje y cuando ves la película?

G.F.: Fue una decisión muy fuerte. Incluso algunos amigos pensaban que estaba un poco loco: “vos sos demasiado valiente”, me decían. Yo venía de una experiencia que me había resultado un poco, no te diría desagradable, pero me había hecho pensar mucho. Yo venia de dirigir una película en España. Una producción independiente, con un sistema más sofisticado del que podemos tener. Y fue para mi rotunda la comprensión de que yo no quería eso. Leí una frase de Fassbinder que decía que uno no puede hacer cine sobre las cosas, sino que tiene que hacer cine con las cosas, y en ese momento decidí hacer una película con algunas de las cosas más cercanas que tenía. Y llega un momento de la vida además, que el paso del tiempo o la presencia de la muerte en los padres y en uno mismo como espejo desde los padres se vuelve como muy contundente, y para mí ese era el momento de la vida. Claro, en el relato no importaba todo eso porque fuesen mis padres, sino que era el lugar que yo tenía para acceder a la sensibilidad que la película planteaba. No porque importara biográficamente, pues en mis padres eso está ausente en el relato, sino que importaba sensiblemente. Era mi puerta de acceso a un mundo sensible.

P.G.: Esta línea muy finita entre documental y ficción esta presente en tu película. Mario Vargas Llosa escribió que algunos escritores, y te trato a vos también como escritor, pueden manejar las diferencias de planos de realidad de una manera muy sutil que el lector no se da cuenta. Me pregunto cómo definiste vos en esta historia jugar con ese límite.

G.F.: Está muy bien la pregunta…en ese sentido me hace muy feliz la película. Creo que lo conseguí, y en esto no hay nada de soberbia, sino de sentimiento de convicción. Existe el acceso a algo que siempre me resultó muy interesante. Por un lado la primera línea de la película es absolutamente simple, es absolutamente sencilla. Uno puede contra la historia en pocas palabras. Sin embargo a partir de esa simpleza es que uno va accediendo a esos otros territorios y a esos otros límites. Creo que fueron enjacando con mucha precisión, producto del trabajo de un equipo, producto de una reflexión que la fuimos haciendo a lo largo de tres años, producto de la intuición, producto de Dios, o esa otra cosa que a veces colabora mágicamente. Yo siento que es verdad, que hay posibles lecturas, lugares donde uno se puede parar para reflexionar sobre la película muy distintos. Y eso me hace muy feliz. Creo que sí, coincido con vos que esas capas son múltiples y que están como enlazadas.

P.G.: Te llevó dos años filmar el proyecto. Quisiste filmar todas las estaciones, y te diste el lujo en esta industria que es una vorágine de esperar un año más para ver si cubrías nuevas tomas. ¿Cómo es esto de trabajar con un equipo durante dos años y jugar con tu propia impaciencia?

G.F.: El equipo era un equipo muy pequeño en principio, y era un equipo de una solidaridad y una convicción en relacion al proyecto, y una convicción humana que fue fantástica. El trabajo era constante porque nosotros teníamos como una especie de estructura inicial pero no teníamos un guión con todas las secuencias, entonces nosotros filmabamos dos días al mes, editabamos, pensabamos, filmabamos, editabamos, por lo tanto te diría que el trabajo con el equipo fue constante durante esos años, absolutamente solidario. Pocas veces sentí una unidad tan potente en el grupo. Cada uno de ellos investigaba desde su rol. Hay mucha investigación de sonido, hay mucha investigación de fotografía, entonces era muy alentador para el equipo para las cabezas de grupo, porque no era que burocráticamente resolvían una película. El proyecto partía de otro lado: acá esta esto, vamos a investigar todos. Entonces desde ese lugar el equipo tenia una posición frente al relato muy activa y nunca tuvimos impaciencia. Yo incluso al principio les dije “vamos a filmar quizás cinco, seis años hasta que el árbol se caiga”, y partimos de esa idea; no hubo impaciencia.

P.G.: Gustavo, muchas gracias. Para mi sos verdaderamente un hallazgo, y me alegro que esto le esté pasando al cine Argentino.

G.F.: Te agradezco mucho.


Nota relacionada (related note):
Suenan Las Raíces

May 21, 2007

Tribeca x 4: Sydney Meeks


During the 6th Tribeca Film Festival I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing some of the filmmakers, actors, producers and festival executives. Next there is an excerpt from the interview with Sydney Meeks, President of the Tribeca Film Institute.

Durante el 6º Festival de Cine de Tribeca tuve el placer y honor de entrevistar a algunos de los cineastas, actores, productores y ejecutivos del festival. A continuación, un extracto de la entrevista con Sydney Meeks, Presidenta del Tribeca Film Institute.

Pablo Goldbarg: One part of the mission that TFI has is to celebrate filmmaking for all ages. I wonder which is the importance of taking the filmmakers since they are young enough. Probably that’s not happening in most of the film festivals worldwide…

Sydney Meeks: It’s definitely something that we thought about when we were coming out with the programs that we wanted to do. Of course it’s New York city, and there is just a wealth of incredibly interesting people. Especially with the program for teenagers we learned that there were so many young people in New York. It’s such a filmmaking city but we were surprised even to know about all the different organizations out working with youth, and so we want to come out with something to do, to celebrate not only those filmmakers, but the organizations working with them. In addition, this year we started a new program; it’s a pilot program that we hope to expand and perhaps take other schools of the city and maybe even beyond that called “Tribeca Teaches”. And there we even reach a younger set because we work with middle school students. So we have fifth, sixth, seventh grade, and eight grade students along with high school students working in their school, and we brought festival films into the school. So, yes, I do think that a lot of major film festivals I know, certainly there are some children film festivals, and there’s a lot of emphasis on having films that work for all ages, and they have family friendly film festivals, but there aren’t many film festivals that they are working with youth in the way that we are. I don’t think of another or some. But we are doing free screenings, specially for the high school grades, we reach close to three thousand students with free community screenings during the festival, and before hand during the year. So, we are trying to expand and make new and more independent film more accessible to young people thorough the city.

P.G.: The Tribeca All Access connects filmmakers based on New York if they are “diversity” from Latinos to Afro-Americans. New York enjoys this difference and the TFI is enhancing that. How do you feel in terms of working with all these groups which probably they don’t have the same access to everything?

S.M.: That was one of the reasons the TAA program started. Our festival programmers were seeing lots of films coming and they weren’t seeing the kind of diversity of voices we’d like to see. We’d like to see the actual representation our country actually is (laughs)… in terms of the stories that are being told. In TAA we do have a lot of filmmakers who come from New York, but it’s open to filmmakers of color from all over the United States. Most of them are based on L.A. or N.Y., because that’s where you go if you’re trying to make movies, but they do come from other places as well. It’s something we think it’s important if you look to the statistics from, for instance, the WGA or the DGA, there’re still pretty low. I think, and I could be wrong, but the last stat we had from the WGA was that filmmakers of color comprise about six to seven percent of their membership. It’s probably some interesting stats from women as well (laughs)…This program really does focus on men and women, and, you know, the feeling is that there are incredible stories to tell. These are talented filmmakers. It’s a competitive program. They are filmmakers who really persevere. They’re gonna get their stories told with or without TAA, but the idea is that whatever we can do to help them facilitate the process of getting the work made and to help them with their career in some way, shape and form… that’s what we wanna do. Taking more traditional underrepresented and getting it… I mean, the industry is excited about it too. It’s not just us that were thinking “oh, these filmmakers are getting the comments, are meeting these people, and that’s great for them”. It’s great for the industry. They’re getting to see works that probably they wouldn’t see. Not ‘cause they don’t really want to. It’s just such a crazy, competitive and busy world in this business that we are actually helping them by saying “here there are thirty two wonderful projects for you to choose from. Which one are you interested in?”, and they are getting to see: “hey look, we are such and such company, and these three projects are..., and they take the meeting with the filmmaker, and we hope that that connection is gonna go somewhere.

P.G.: Can you tell me please about this year’s experience with the film fellows?

S.M.: Well, the “Film fellows” is obviously a separate program, and that’s for the younger set. That is just for New York based students, and that is students who really enjoy film, most of them already produced or participated in the making of a short film in some capacity. It was really great this year. Lisa Lucas who runs the program worked really hard to make that a diverse slate of programming for the students. So, they did everything from have individuals from the industry that work as film producers, as cinematographers, as PR people, even people from the non-profit world, from a funding organization… they came and they met with the students, and they talked about the different jobs that are possible in the industry. They met with representatives from film schools, universities, so they have a sort of “here are the practical things”, as well as I also think they had a really good time. They learned about networking, they went to film festival events, they went to screenings, they met with other filmmakers, they did Q&A sessions and that type of stuff. So, the idea was really to immerse them in a “Behind the scene” of the festival, and in the film industry. I think it was really successful. At the end they had to present a film pitch to their friends and families and special guests (laughs)... a lot of them were very , very nervous! But they each got up on the microphone in front of the group, and they did a really short one-to-two-minute pitch about the film they want to work on. Lisa is working in getting each of them as another new element she is doing this year: setting internships in the Fall. I know they are working really hard to actually match them well, so if the student says “I really want to be an editor, this is what I’m interested in, I’m working on Final Cut”, well, let’s try to make them set up with another editor or somebody working on post. Different areas, we are trying to set them up for at least a six-week internship in the Fall. The other thing about the Fellows program is that it’s this two-week immersion, this camp or program, so they all become close friends and they are gonna keep in touch. We do activities during the year. We have a screening, we invite them all, we do a workshop just for them or the internships I was just speaking of. But we also ask of them, for instance if we decide there is a movie coming out we want or we get permission to screen maybe for third graders or younger students, we ask the fellows to volunteer time with the Institute so they serve as Ambassadors for youth media thorough the city. So we may say “we need five people for this screening”. So they also have to give us a commitment for service, so we take them to different schools and have them meet with other students and tell them their experiences as a fellow, and how using film can be another way to get your story out there, or your voice.

P.G.: You have a lot of things to do with the New York communities, with different kind of backgrounds, not only with the TAA but also with “Tribeca Teaches” in the Bronx, and different neighborhoods. This is not only Tribeca and Chinatown, you also have a collaboration with the “Made in NY” program from the Mayor’s Office and the New York Council of the Arts. How important is for you this task and mission of integrating New York into the Institute?

Oh, that was very well put. I need to say what you just said. I agree with you (laughs). Yes, it’s very important. You keep hearing it in the press and our founders will say that: The festival itself started over thing. That was 9/11 and what happened down here. The mission was bringing people back town and revitalizing the neighborhood and celebrating. Saying “what can we do to help the community?” One thing was, they’re film producers and they thought about film. And the fact also that film can be healing and it can bring people together. But, in general, most of them who work here they can’t think of a better place to have a film festival than in New York City. It’s just this giant, incredible… all these people that are here. So, it’s important to us to be a festival for New York and about New York. We want to reach out… we started downtown. We care about these neighborhoods, but at the same time we’re moving forward. We want to expand, and we want to be as inclusive as we can of different neighborhoods, different groups, and really try to have a wide representation of the city, because it certainly is a city with lots of vibrant communities that can be and should be celebrated.

P.G.: Thank you for using the power of film to promote understanding, tolerance and global awareness. Those aren’t my words. They belong to the TFI’s mission. Thank you very much.

S.M.: Thank you very much, it has been a pleasure talking to you.

May 14, 2007

Tribeca x 4: David Blaustein


Durante el 6º Festival de Cine de Tribeca tuve el placer y honor de entrevistar a algunos de los cineastas, actores, productores y ejecutivos del festival. A continuación, un extracto de la entrevista con David Blaustein, director y escritor de Hacer Patria (Forging a Nation).

During the 6th Tribeca Film Festival I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing some of the filmmakers, actors, producers and festival executives. Next there is an excerpt from the interview with David Blaustein, director and writer of Hacer Patria (Forging a Nation).

Pablo Goldbarg: ¿Cuál es la necesidad de recordar, a pesar de que a veces es doloroso?

David Blaustein: Yo me paso la vida recordando. Por empezar porque soy un tipo muy melancólico, por otra parte pertenezco a una generación diezmada. En mi caso particular yo supongo que no debe haber mes, semana o día en el cual de alguna manera mis amigos que no están estén presentes. Una de mis frases de cabecera cuando hice Cazadores de Utopías (1996), fue que la película para mi tenía sentido porque ahora yo podía apoyar la cabeza en la almohada y ser digno de la historia de los pibes que ya no estaban, de mis compañeros. Entonces, todo mi cine tiene que ver con recordar. Me parece que el sentido de recordar nos hace tener presente lo que nos pasó, sirve para tartar de entender por qué lo que nos pasó nos pasó, y también tiene sentido para entender mucho mejor el futuro. Es imposible no intentar transformar este presente y no tartar de ver qué es lo que uno va a proyectar hacia el futuro, si no entiende qué es lo que pasó más atrás. Gonzalo Chavez dice en Cazadores de Utopías que es imposible construir una nación si uno no puede mirar para atrás y para abajo. El dice que los españoles construían sus iglesias encima de los templos Aztecas. Y recordar… los nietos que recuperan las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo tienen un trabajo muy específico: ellos preparan las carpetas de los nietos por venir. Entonces, aparece un nieto, y el rol de los nietos recuperados es decirles :“tomá, esta es tu historia personal. Este es tu papá, esta es tu mamá, estos son tus abuelos, y acá el que te queda es tu primo, y este tío falleció, y los amigos de tu papa eran Beto, Federico y Ferando, y las amigas de tu mama eran Ines y Laura”. Y el nieto una vez que recupera su verdadera identidad también recupera su historia, gracias al trabajo de otros. Yo decía ayer en la otra presentación algo que me empiezan a decir los espectadores que ven la película, y para mi no formaba parte del sentido de la pelicula: todas las familias tienen algun secreto. La posibilidad de compartir ese secreto y de hacerlo público es la frase del Himno Nacional Uruguayo: “La verdad nos hara libres”, una frase que tambien usan las Abuelas (de Plaza de Mayo). Toda una cantidad de cosas… sacarlas… ponerlas afuera… saber como éramos, conocer ciertas cosas. Ese es el sentido. Recordar tiene el sentido de saber el pasado para que la transformación del futuro tenga sentido y sea liberadora.

P.G.: ¿Cómo ves el rol del documental en estos circuitos de festivales, y qué relación tiene con el público que va a ver documentales cada vez más seguido?

D.B.: En primer lugar, lo felicito a Scarlet (Peter). La selección en el festival es impeccable y terriblemente competitiva. Por otra parte el documental a partir de nuevas tecnologías ha generado un boom muy importante que implica mucha más productividad, autonomía, efectividad, productividad, y mayor recuperación de materiales de archivo. Y todos estos elementos colaboran con que el documental cubre una cantidad de problemáticas y conflictos que la ficción no puede cubrir. El documental tiene una inmediatez y una facilidad que la ficción no, y en un mundo tan globalizado como este la gente busca respuestas todo el tiempo. La ficción no las puede otorgar. Se juega un rol esencial, y la gente agradece. Podes poner una cantidad de recursos narrativos que hacen que la gente pueda ver un documental con la misma posibilidad de entretenimmiento que la ficción. Por otra parte si ves la problemática que aborda el documental en Tribeca, esta metido el 9/11, esta metido Irak, el conflicto Arabe-Israelí, la memoria, Cuba, la dieta entre judíos y palestinos, temáticas que jamás podría abordar la ficción, con el riesgo de que sean fracasos comerciales absolutos. Esta realidad explica la presencia del documental y repercusión en el público.

P.G.: ¿Cuáles son tus próximos proyectos?

D.B.: Ahora lo más cercano es terminar una película sobre Enrique Juárez, título provisorio Fragmentos Revelados. El era un dirigente gremial de Luz y Fuerza y militante de la Juventud Trabajadora Peronista, que era la rama sindical de los Montoneros, y al mismo tiempo era cienasta, cortometrajista y montajista. Enrique cayó en un combate en el año ‘77. Yo empecé a producir un documental que estaba rodando un entrañable director de fotografía que es Ricardo De Angelis. Enrique en determinado momento me dijo “no puedo seguir” y me devolvió el material y yo la quiero terminar ahora a la pelicula, peor con todo un discurso en el medio porque recuperamos parte del material de archivo de Juárez, entonces hay que terminar esa película. Me ofrecieron la posibilidad, que no se si se va a concretar, de participar de trece documentales sobre grandes figuras ocultas de la sociedad Argentina. Me pidieron que yo haga el documental sobre Rodolfo Puiros, el historiador y ensayista que fue rector de la Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires en la época de Cámpora. Lo de mi exilio a Mexico lo tengo en la cabeza y creo que va a haber que empezar a hacer un juego de ensayo y error, y después hay algún proyecto que tiene que ver con las pasiones que por “cábala” (superstición), por ahora no lo comento.

P.G.: ¿Qué te deja Tribeca?

D.B.:
Yo me siento mimado y como dicen los mexicanos “apapachado”. Para mi que Peter Scarlet haya venido a presentar la película personalmente me llena de orgullo. Que sea la película Argentina más programada también, que sea una película más programada que muchas ficciones también me pone contento. Tengo la sensación que el festival ha crecido muchísimo. Me da la sensación que se ha convertido en un festival muy popular, muy masivo, que está en buena parte de los rincones de Nueva York. Me genera una enorme tranquilidad la decisión de Scarlet de programar solamente 150 películas, que es una gran discusión con el Festival de Mar del Plata y el de Buenos Aires, que es una típica competencia fálica Argentina, como si cantidad fuese garantía (se proyectan alrededor de 450 películas), y me parece que hay un criterio de selección que intentan respetar “a rajatabla”, y eso me parece super estimulante. La presencia Latinoamericana es importantísima, y se lo agradecí a Peter: que Tribeca se convierta en una posibilidad de entrada del cine Latinoamericano a Estados Unidos me parece realmente grandioso.

P.G.: Muchas gracias por hacer patria.

D.B.: Gracias a vos.


Nota relacionada (related note):
La Memoria Colectiva

May 7, 2007

Tribeca Film Festival Adiós


El Festival ha finalizado. Dos semanas locas de proyecciones, entrevistas, reuniones, fiestas y escritos. Y más escritos. La experiencia fue maravillosa desde ambos lados: el creativo y el social. Más allá del stress y la comida chatarra... te voy a extrañar Tribeca. Aquí, los premios. Aunque todos son ganadores.

The Festival has finished. Two crazy weeks of screenings, interviews, meetings, parties and writing. And more writing. The experience was wonderful from both the creative and social sides. Beyond the stress and the junk food... I will miss you Tribeca. Here, the awards. Though all of them are winners.

Esta es la lista de recomendadas, más allá de las que fueron cubiertas (not blogged, but recommended):

Avida
2006, France, 83 min.
Directors/Screenwriters: Benoît Delépine, Gustave Kervern

Fraulein (Das Fräulein)
2006, Switzerland, Germany, 81 min.
Director/Screenwriter: Andrea Ŝtaka

The Optimists (Optimisti)
2006, Serbia, 98 min.
Director: Goran Paskaljevic
Screenwriters: Vladimir Paskaljevic, Goran Paskaljevic

Taxidermia
2006, Hungary, Austria, France, 90 min.
Director: György Pálfi
Screenwriters: György Pálfi, Zsófia Ruttkay

The Year My Parents Went On Vacation
(O Ano Em Que Meus Pais Saíram De Férias)

2006, Brazil, 104 min.
Director: Cao Hamburger
Screenwriters: Cláudio Galperin, Cao Hamburger, Bráulio Mantovani,
Anna Muylaert

May 3, 2007

Finale Allegro Imbalsamato


The Salles family has two brothers well-known in the film industry. Walter directed The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and Central Station (1998) among others. João directed a few documentaries like Nelson Freire (2003) and co-directed News From a Personal War (1999), a powerful documentary co-directed by Katia Lund, also featured with the City of God (2002) DVD--which Lund co-directed with Fernando Mierelles and Walter co-produced. In this big Brazilian family network, there was an unknown character, so interesting that he deserved to have his own story told: Santiago, the butler. João couldn't resist the temptation of bringing him to the film world, and after thirteen years of an impasse in a project that already had many hours of footage, he finally released a sweet documentary called simply Santiago.

João returns to the empty rooms of the abandoned mansion where he lived most of his life, to make a documentary about the film that he couldn't finish. Perfect framings and other obsessions canceled the project, but after Santiago's death he revisited the past to find many amazing stories about redemption, memories, farewells, cemeteries, horses, and other anecdotes--all of them product of this Italian-Argentine butler's imagination, who lived with the Salles family for 30 years. In only five days of shooting with Santiago in a simple set with a kitchen, the bookshelves and a Remington, and other days revisiting the house--though it was the Pitti Palace for Santiago--cinematographer Walter Carvalho (one of the most captivating DPs in Latin America) portrayed dreams, dances, solitude, and emptiness with austerity and sensibility. Same sensibility that Santiago had in conflicted feelings of possession and oppression: "Why do I love Wagner?", asks himself. The answer is in the film.

Santiago lived mentally in the Middle Ages, and jealously kept until his last days 30,000 pages of notes and memories. He wrote and translated a history of generations of nobility and aristocracy from different countries between 1956 and 1986: Assyrians, Egypts, Chinese, Indians, Manchurians... Notes and observations in identically aligned pages. With an incredible historic value and a categorization of Medicis or Gonzagas between good and bad families, those pages grew up year after year to complete a very rich source of stories. Every chime from the old clock gave Santiago's characters life again. Almost six thousands years of cruelty and saints. For him, they weren't dead. Once a week he put the pages in the sunlight, to take some warmth and fresh air. "They understand me when we chat", said Santiago in total seriousness. He played; he dressed for a Gala night to listen to Beethoven; he sang, danced with castanets, and spoke English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. His imagination was never predictable, loving from opera to wrestlers. He even turned floral arrangements into poetry, and he never stopped writing. That was his way to make catharsis with such an overwhelmed mind. And he was happy being a butler: the day he dreamed about being a French Noble, he woke up frightened...

A new relationship was developed between João and Santiago during the shooting process, but the filmmaker was still the boss' son. The voice of command once and again many years later. Santiago did exactly everything what João said, and there was always a distance between them. In a way, he played with Santiago like the nouvelle vague directors used to do with his actors-puppets. Probably it was the fascination of exploring Santiago's limits and broad possibilities. From repetitions that defied memories, to repetitions of quotes in different languages, Santiago accepted every order, used to a whole life of serving. This exercises revealed different layers that not only enriched the audience's experience but also João's memories. From the words to the film, the whole experience is like reading a novel: the pages, the typewriter, his hands, the leaves over water and the tireless imagination.

The end approaches, La Gran Partita, with just one wish: those 30,000 pages should be taken by someone who can love them, otherwise they must be burned. Like mother Salles proposed a toast with champagne on one of Santiago's birthdays, and like Fred Astaire slid his foot with Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon (1953), Santiago felt happiness and freedom in his own world. But like Bergman talked about death as a cruel and empty sky, Santiago also felt sometimes that he belonged to the cursed beings. He said goodbye in a sweet and sour way with a "Finalle Allegro Vivace Moderato Andante Cantabile":

"Estamos en la estación de otoño, los días se van achicando y parecen más tristones. Los árboles de su ropaje rojizo, de a poco se van despojando, sintiéndose como que humillados en su desnudez, más cuando se les mira cada vez con atención... tiempo implacable por su falta de consideración"

He said to the newsman that João wasn't shooting a movie: he was embalming him. I believe it. More than a butler, Santiago was a writer. A poet. A dancer. An historian, storyteller, and dreamer. Happy ending: Santiago dies, but he remains in eternity.

(Written for NYRemezcla)


Santiago
Tribeca Film Festival 2007, New York
World Documentary Competition
2007, 80 min., North American Premiere
Director/Screenwriter: João Moreira Salles

Code: SANTI
Sunday, Apr 29, 10:45pm
Wednesday, May 2, 7:15pm
Friday, May 4, 2:15pm

May 2, 2007

Shoes On The Set


A good boxer knows how to fight in a ring, but it doesn’t mean that he can face life in the same successful way. Frank Díaz (John Leguizamo), protagonist of Salvatore Stabile’s Where God Left His Shoes, is one of those ex-boxers struggling to survive outside the ring. When he, his wife Ángela (Leonor Varela), and his two kids, Justin (David Castro) and Christina (Samantha Rose), receive an eviction notice, they have no choice but to move into a homeless shelter. Two months later Christmas Eve brings them a gift--a new apartment in a housing project. However, Frank must be employed to qualify. Before closing the case, a State employee gives Frank extra time--until the end of the day. It’s early in the cold morning, and the family is ready to move from the shelter, so Frank takes his ten-year-old stepson Justin to the city to help him find a job. This journey is about a family that tries to overcome the worst experiences through humor, patience, and love.

In one of the last nights in their apartment, the light cuts off and Christina gets scared. Frank tries to make her laugh and forget about the problems playing a game: The one who scores a piece of food in other’s mouth wins. There is no money on the table, only care and consideration. While the city prepares for Christmas the family must beg in the streets, but they aren’t alone. This story opens our eyes to the sub-world of heart-breaking homeless shelters, showing the main holiday season as the busiest time.

The relationship between Frank and Justin moves in crescendo. Sometimes they seem to be brothers, and that’s exactly what works for Justin: They have a special language. Although Frank is unemployed, not educated, and probably not a good role model, there is something that makes Justin feels secure with him. The bureaucracy and eternal red tape make them roam the city of qualifications and barriers, but when everything is over and there is no shame left to lose, Justin serves as Frank’s inspiration to not give up. Fear is the worst weapon in the world. "Do you love me?", asks Justin to Frank, in one moving and wonderfully directed scene. They start playing at boxing, but suddenly the game is mixed with feelings of impotence by both.

John Leguizamo delivers a great performance yet again, after rich and difficult roles in Moulin Rouge, Summer of Sam, and many others. Young David Castro digs into his role with the experience of an adult, as he did in Palindromes and A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. Leonor Varela’s international experience in Innocent Voices and Shut Up among a few U.S. features adds cohesion to this Latino family trying to live with pride while bouncing between extremes, from a fancy restaurant to an improvised shelter in the subway.

Like most true indies, this Vulcan Productions film had to squeeze money out of many sources to get made. It relied on the NY City and State tax incentive program -- a 15-percent rebate for being "Made in New York." According to the production notes, because a majority of the cast is either Latino or African-American, the Screen Actor’s Guild raised the budget cut-off that qualifies a production for lower-budget agreements. And many New York organizations, including Trinity Church, Toys ‘R’ Us, contributed to the film because of the importance of its subject. Some famous locations in the city reduced their fees for this film. A housing project in the Bronx even provided a real, vacated place, after a non-payment of $245 in rent, to be used as the Díaz family’s apartment.

Where God Left His Shoes is Stabile’s second feature. Many years passed after he made Gravesend in 1997, and much water had to flow under the bridge until he felt mature enough to work on this kind of project. In recent years he has written and produced a few TV episodes for The Sopranos and FDNY, among others. Having the enormous responsibility of directing Leguizamo and catching the essence of crowded New York streets during Christmas, Stabile shot in more than fifty locations in 25 days with Super 16mm, including in the busiest places in the city -- Times Square, Grand Central, and Rockefeller Center -- during peak season days.

Croatian cinematographer Vanja Cernjul and prolific music composer Jeff Beal get into the soul of the city and the soul of the family, in a story about poverty, a hidden abusive history, indifference, and hard times. As core characteristics of this independent film they bring a precious moral: If people have each other, they can survive everything, and they probably will. "This is not where God left his shoes... but it'll do", says Frank when he see the apartment. Those shoes aren't in the apartment but remain in their hearts--and in Stabile’s team: While they were filming the crew did a clothing, food, toy, and money drive for several homeless shelters, and the earnings from the film will go in part to more donations.

A good boxer knows how to fight in a ring. A good father knows how to teach his kids and how to learn from them. A good son knows how to accept a father beyond his mistakes. A good director knows when he is ready to make a challenging film. All of them have something in common: They also know where the shoes are.

(Written for NYRemezcla)


Where God Left His Shoes
Tribeca Film Festival 2007, New York
Discovery, Narrative
2007, U.S.A., 99 min., World Premiere
Director/Screenwriter: Salvatore Stabile

Code: WHERE
Wednesday, May 2, 10:00pm (AMC Village VII)
Thursday, May 3, 6:00pm (AMC Kips Bay)
Saturday, May 5, 10:30am (AMC 34th Street)

May 1, 2007

Renacer


"Sangre", dice la letra de la canción que acompaña los créditos que abren la película. Y sangre es lo que no se ve... ni cuando se produce el accidente, ni cuando hay un muerto, ni cuando se pelean, ni cuando disparan. Pero la sangre se percibe. Sangre tienen la madre y el bebe cuando éste nace; sangre tienen una y otra vez los chicos al criarse y tropezarse. Pero sangre es lo que no se ve en Nacido Y Criado (Born And Bred), el cuarto largometraje de Pablo Trapero como escritor, productor y director. Competencia oficial en los festivales internacionales de Toronto, La Habana y Londres, está co-producida por Francia, Chile, Inglaterra y España. Entre ellos se destaca el nombre de Walter Salles, productor de Diarios De Motocicleta (Motorcycle Diaries) y Estación Central (Central Station). Muy diferente del estilo austero y casi neorrealista de su primer largo Mundo Grúa (Crane World), Trapero no se cansa de explorar las distintas posibilidades de hacer cine, y se afirma como uno de los cineastas más importantes de Argentina en los últimos años.

Esta frase que se utiliza para describir a alguien que nace y se cría en el mismo lugar, es a veces usada para diferenciar a la gente que nace en un lugar pero se va a vivir a otro. Una especie de defensa de la identidad. Es exactamente lo que Santiago (Guillermo Pfening) intenta buscar en Comodoro Rivadavia, zona patagónica de Argentina. Luego de sobrevivir a un accidente con el auto en el que viajaban también su esposa Milli (Martina Gusman) y su hija Jose (Victoria Vescio), Santiago viaja a Comodoro. Allí intenta empezar de nuevo, curar las heridas y luchar diariamente contra el tremendo dolor interior y sentimiento de culpa--él manejaba el día del accidente. De Milli y Jose no se sabe nada. Sólo que cada tanto Santiago llama a Buenos Aires para hablar con su hija pero por algún motivo no se la pasan, y le insisten en que vuelva a la casa. Lejos de su estilo de vida donde no le faltaba nada y todo lo hacía la mucama, Santiago se despoja de sus riquezas materiales y espirituales, y se encuentra con sí mismo y un par de amigos de ocasión que se irán convirtiendo en su apoyo más importante: Robert (Federico Esquerro) y el Cacique (Tomás Lipan).

Nacido Y Criado fue recibida por la prensa con aplausos y grandes críticas (el Festival de Londres la definió como obra maestra), pero con opiniones mixtas entre el público: algunos la encontraron aburrida y a veces obvia. No parece ser una película para cualquiera, y no creo que tampoco esto le importe a Trapero. El ritmo lento, sin abrumante acción y repetitivo que suele hacerse presente en las historias ambientadas en el sur del país no puede evitarse aquí, especialmente cuando el recorrido del principal personaje es un viaje interior. Desde esa óptica, esta película encuentra una interesante conexión con El Aura (The Aura), última obra del fallecido Fabián Bielinski. Las actuaciones son precisas, profundas, parejas y bien cuidadas por su director, al igual que la cinematografía de Guillermo Nieto (acompañándolo a Trapero en la mayoría de sus proyectos). También es notable la reaparición en escena de uno de los responsables de la música: Palo Pandolfo, ex Don Cornelio Y Su Zona, quien fue un fugaz pionero en la camada de los rockeros argentinos de los '80.

Santiago cree que Milli va a dejarlo por otro, Robert cree que Santiago dejó una mujer en Buenos Aires, la gente cree que el Cacique es Mapuche, y las suposiciones se tiñen de hermetismo y una difícil tarea de sobreponerse a un trauma, especialmente cuando no se pide ayuda. La vacía rutina de estos personajes en la tierra de los "zombies" se conmociona cuando Santiago y Robert tienen un trío con Betty--camarera y prostituta del lugar--que termina en violencia e impotencia. Robert no se hace cargo del embarazo de su novia mientras Santiago se desespera por volver a ser padre. El Cacique pierde a su mujer enferma y se hermana con Santiago sin saberlo a través de otra tragedia, la misma noche que sale a engañarla alcoholizado entre las pocas diversiones que provee el lugar. La imagen maravillosa del cortejo fúnebre con dos autos y dos tractores acompañados de las montañas marca la inmensa soledad que se vive en este pueblo, el cual seguramente tiene su encanto aunque no se llega a apreciar.

El silencio de Santiago explota por acumulamiento, y en su catársis pide apoyo. El llamado y la esperanza suenan a espejismo, pero no: el ciclo se cierra. Después del viaje se vuelve al origen, aunque ya nada es lo mismo. Renacido, sangrado y criado nuevamente... Santiago es otro. Trapero también. Algunos detestan el cambio, otros lo adoran. Lo más interesante es que con el cambio llega una madurez que fortalece al cine argentino en este renacimiento de la última decada.

(Escrito para NYRemezcla)


Nacido Y Criado (Born And Bred)
Tribeca Film Festival 2007, New York
World Narrative Competition
(Narrativas del Mundo)
2006, Argentina, 100 min., U.S Premiere
Director: Pablo Trapero
Guionistas: Pablo Trapero/Mario Rulloni

Código: BORNA
Martes 1 de Mayo, 6:15pm (AMC 34th Street)
Miércoles 2 de Mayo, 10:45pm (AMC 34th Street)
Jueves 3 de Mayo, 2:30pm (AMC 34th Street)
Viernes 4 de Mayo, 6:oopm (AMC 72nd Street East)

Paint Your Enemy (But Do It Nice)


"I was, after the fashion of humanity, in love with my name, and, as young educated people commonly do, I wrote it everywhere."
-Goethe, Poetry and Truth, 1811

Oh, sweet, charmed and happy life. Lucky me, surrounded by free popcorns and a vitamin water (naturally flavored but artificially preserved) on this Friday afternoon. I stretch my legs, play with my toes, put my neck on the edge of the mini coach and relax while the comfort takes me... it takes me... take me... SPLASH! WHAT WAS T-H-A-T!?? A part of my body has a green paint, Pollock style. Am I a bleeding alien? I was just bombed. Director and producer Jon Reiss' Bomb It starts powerfully with a mix of animations after a night-vision intrusion that welcomes the spectator to the global world of graffiti. It's making a lot of noise in Tribeca, while its co-producer and DP Tracy Wares spreads the word passionately--well deserved after risking her life through all kind of dangerous places. This documentary has confronted everyone (a graffiti exhibition planned for the premiere was thumbed down) and raises very complex issues about art, social justice, public space and law among other indirect problems. "Don't" seems to be the magic word to stay more activist than ever. Like those alternative guys called Rage Against The Machine claimed in 1991 about the freedom of political prisoners and re-interpreted the American dreams:

"...we're comin' back then with another bombtrack... think ya know what it's all about..."

Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where graffiti was first popular through a comedy group called Los Vergara, spray paintings in my streets were generally ugly and disrespectful. Los Vergara appeared without art but with content to express in some way that graffiti must be something else, and also to wake up people. "Fascist are trembling: Maradona is lefty" or "Everybody promises, Nobody accomplishes it... vote Nobody" were some of the graffitis that later on evolved into fútbol (soccer) gangs battles, dirty money political official campaigns, and then came the art. Art that in most of the cities is consider a felony, though it's very difficult to establish where it's harmful and where not. The only crime where people sign their names raises another issue: what is or should be considered a crime? In the dictionary it goes from an action that is injurious and legally prohibited, to a gray zone of any offense. The essence of graffiti in itself is rebellion. If the government allows it in some places, some graffiti artists could agree to stick to the designated areas, but others would be tempted to use the forbidden zones. As we can see during the first part of Bomb It in New York and Philadelphia, "my name to the world" is probably one of the biggest purposes in graffiti. Cornbread explains it clearly: "The more they said my name, the more I wrote it". The train was also used in this city as an alternative way of expression and chatting: a greeting would appear in a car, and a few days later the response would be ready on another. Some people call them graffiti artist or writers. Many of them consider themselves "bombers". It's about a war against the system. PHFSH!. My left leg is red now... hold on a minute, weren't my jeans blue?

"Something must be done about vengeance, a badge and a gun, 'cause I'll rip the mike, rip the stage, rip the system, I was born to rage against 'em."

The team effort in this global project resulted in around 400 hours of footage (yes, two zeros), and it was put together to great effect by Salvadorian Alex Márquez and Cuban-American Jessica Hernández who the footage with different kind of formats (cartoons, animations, and archive footage). Less than two hours of footage (.5%) made the cut, rearranged with a very tight rhythm and creative transitions. Venezuelan David Garcia completes--with a few more co-producers--the main crew as music supervisor. Latinos, women and other punished labels of the society are here unified to be unlabeled paradoxically through another label... well, a tag: "bomb it". Like those tags and paintings that used to appear in caves since the beginning of the human kind. Today we have the subway tunnels: dangerous but peaceful too.

"Im a brother with a furious mind, Action must be taken, we dont need the key, We'll break in."

The movie becomes global while the screen spatters my fingers with black and my body slowly becomes a graffiti. In Paris, Blek Le Rat started painting all around the only free animals in the city: rats (casual acronym for "rage against the system"?). Le monsieur asks permission to the homeless people--not to the State--to paint on the wall where they camp as a response against racism and calling for social justice. Amsterdam is witness of another interesting case: a kindergarten teacher during the day, graffiti artist at night. Eyeballs watching the world, playing as a kid. Another kind of eyeballs take care of London with Big Digital Screen Brother watching you: "Get off the bicycle". The woman obeys immediately. The public space is neutral; it's for everyone, but it excludes many people. Surveillance transforms it into a blurred space. I wonder if they can also push a button from the main control and fix the water fountain... I'm so thirsty. In Berlin, CBK take it seriously: he does it for his family and friends, a commitment for ever. Every region has an interesting approach. Barcelona's artists use graffiti as therapy and to provide art to the people who can't afford expensive museums. They use some restricted inoffensive zones to paint non-codified graffiti for everyone. An old lady loves how the street has a beautiful color now, while the old man threatens the artists: "you'll clean it with your tongue". A tongue that this time speaks through the hands.

"Now I got no patience, so sick of complacence, with the D the E the F the I the A the N the C the E"

A latex hand is signing my feet in the darkness of the theater while the travel continues to Capetown. A city that with the Apartheid was divided in black, white and colored. Graffiti unites them with many more colors. Political awareness and art are a fantasy for poor people in search of very basic things to survive. The artists spray a school in front of the fascinated looks and smiles. But in São Paulo there are no smiles anymore. It's a dragon that eats all, like New York in the '70s. Guns are probably cheaper than spray cans. It's the perfect place with the wrong people for some, a scary place with great people for others. The words order doesn't alter the meaning: chaos. A police ask Os Gemeos if they have permission to paint that big funny animal in the middle of a wall: "Well, it's an old work about ambient preservation... we're just retouching it, cool?". The audience burst into laughter. Nor the police. They just get into the patrol car again, not worried about the war of words and colors but about the war of bullets in the favelas. Inside the most humiliating sewer and other subterranean places Zezão finds a public/private space to paint with a healing power as a therapy against depression. He also finds a family living there who soon become his family, too. A dream: take them out of that hole. It's not the same as the hole found by Tokyo's bomber. A controlled city with some cracks that can be penetrated. A woman changes the state from hate and angst to happiness and her graffitis change with her.

"The finger to the land of the chains What? The land of the free? Whoever told you that is your enemy!"

And here we are. In the land of Jon Reiss and his film-bombers: Los Angeles, where not everybody is un ángel. Here the graffiti takes at least three forms: the artists' tags, the gangs' tags and the T.A.G. (Totally Against Graffitis). This organization recognized as one of the best national public programs has interesting educational activities against graffiti vandalism and children safety, working with a reward program: if your little boy reports a graffiti act he and his school will obtain cool prizes. Although the intention of getting the kids involved is wonderful, I just hope they don't win any super-sized, fast-food party or tickets to NASCAR. I'm also Totally Against Gaming your kid in a S.H.A.K.T.I. warrior activity--web store included--with the good soldiers vs. the good-looking bad guys. I prefer Sesame Street style and creative, educational awards. Nevertheless, that's another story and it's true that some kind of anarchy is taking the control of the streets with an ego that can't stop. For those who obey the billboards Ron English have a second view if you turn around to avoid being raped by the ads (and Shepard Fairey has a third one). For those whose graffitis are being commercialized, good... they must also pay debts. For those who think that doing money with graffitis turns you into an entrepreneur, the graffiti life continues in the shadows.

"Yes I know my enemies: They're the teachers who taught me to fight me. Conformity... submission... ignorance... hypocrisy... brutality..."

I leave the theater with a moral conflict. Although I love those big walls, boats, schools and complete buildings around the world with incredibly beautiful graffitis, I don't like to see graffitis wherever they want. While graffiti bombers, artists, writers, or painters are being jailed, many rapists and thieves remain free, but it doesn't mean that the guy who sprayed that car in the street shouldn't be prosecuted. The situation is complex and as urgent as their call for social justice. I have an original Nic One's graffiti in my Metrocard. Am I a criminal? I'll use it anyway, it still has credit. I hope nobody stops me while I travel through the spiritual and visual vacuum of the post-Giuliani subway system. Now it's clean and bright, although the "E" train is not running this weekend, a shuttle bus is replacing the "1", and the "L" will soon substitute employees with robots. Now I wonder... is my blog a graffiti?

(Written for NYRemezcla)


Bomb It
Tribeca Film Festival 2007, New York
World Documentary Competition
2007, U.S.A., 93 min., World Premiere
Director/Screenwriter: Jon Reiss

Code: BOMBI
Tuesday, May 1, 9:15pm (Clearview Chelsea West)
Friday, May 4, 10:30pm (Regal Battery Park Cinemas)
Sunday, May 6, 5:30pm (AMC Village VII)