Director: Mariano Pensotti
Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Luminato Festival. For more information visit luminatofestival.com and follow Luminato on Twitter at @Luminato.
Argentinian author and director Mariano Pensotti’s work focuses on the development of intimate drama and the way that plays with actors. He intersects theatre, literature, and visual arts in most of his work. For example, in his play The Past Is A Grotesque Animal, Pensotti had four actors enclosed on a rotating stage and through them attempted to tell the stories of many at once.
If anything, Cineastas plays out like a poetic art film come to life.
In my picks for Luminato this year, I was intrigued with Pensotti’s new project entitled Cineastas. Although it isn’t a movie, it’s a play about filmmakers and how their lives tie into their moviemaking. In preparation for this, he followed four filmmakers in Buenos Aires. Pensotti then constructed a set with a split screen comprised of two sets: a bottom and top stage. The play shows the lives of the filmmakers on the lower half while showcasing the fictional lives in the upper half. As the tales develop, each of the actors (doing a variety of roles), perform parallel stories: from life and on screen. There’s Mariela (Valeria Lois), who’s high established cult director in a failing marriage; Lucas (Marcelo Subiotto), a poor filmmaker who works at McDonald’s while trying to make a film against the corporation; Gabriel (Javier Lorenzo) is a successful director who finds out he will soon die of cancer; and Nadia (Juliana Muras), who is an aspiring filmmaker whose non-fictional first film unexpectedly becomes a hit.
A continual comparison and contrast occurs throughout the play. For many who are not fluent in Spanish, the two ongoing English subtitles may be confusing, but it’s visual feat to behold. Audio-wise the dialogue flows at different volumes between the narrative and the actors making the experience fluid. If anything, Cineastas plays out like a poetic art film come to life.
The mixing stories, audio, and scenery all in one place is a conceptually strong factor that takes over the experience of the overlapping stories. With the complex interplay of having the actors play all of the roles in the film versus real life, it also becomes a conceptual performance.
Pensotti explores the elements of transition in fiction in non-fiction and what is continual in a filmmaker’s constraints because of this. While one filmmaker is creatively blocked, she is challenged in real life to take a political stance that might ultimately force her to unblock. Many of the filmmakers in the play are provoked by their real life into a creative action or life epiphany by their reactions to the films they are working on.
With the complex interplay of having the actors play all of the roles in the film versus real life, it also becomes a conceptual performance.
Of course, my viewing was made easier by the fact that I can understand both English and Spanish. My concern with a non-Spanish speaking audience in viewing this play is the loss of the overall contextual experience of it. The lighting design makes clear distinctions between the two sets and the ingenious timing within the unique set design makes you wonder how it was all rehearsed and put together. The audience forgets they are watching a play, and instead are watching simultaneous reels of film on the go.
I’d be interested in seeing a film done in the same way about plays or about movies. It would be a great project for Pensotti if he thought of crossing over. Either way, I was incredibly impressed about this play on filmmakers. Let’s hope Pensotti and his troupe continues on this path.