Homage: El Pampero Cine
by Francis Vogner dos Reis, Pedro Butcher and Marcelo Miranda
In this 12th edition of the Mostra Cine BH - Belo Horizonte International Film Festival, we paid tribute to a collective body of work that has more than a dozen films made by a group of Argentine filmmakers since the beginning of the 2000’s: TheEl Pampero Cine, which has among its partners and filmmakers: Laura Citarella, Augustin Mendilla, Alejo Moguillansky and Mariano Llinás.
The homage will be paid in the context of the theme "Latin American Bridges" and contemplates in a comprehensive and provocative way the debate about the Latin American cinematographic field that involves discussions about production, distribution and screening, on the one hand, and on aesthetics and creative processes, on the other, from the unique experience of this group of Argentine filmmakers. What makes El Pampero Cine such a special case is the consequent incidence of modes of production on the formal outcome of the films. According to the discourse of the producer and the filmmakers themselves, it would be necessary to give up several industrial postulates to qualify and enhance the creation.
The introduction on the producer's website is bold (and perhaps a little ironic with her own refusals and lack of modesty). They claim to be more than "a simple producer", but a group of people willing to experiment and renew the practices of the cinema made in Argentina with works that "have innovated practically all the fields of the cinematographic activity (...) that is not done only on an aesthetic level, but its revolution reaches - especially - the forms of production and exhibition. " Due to the distance and little knowledge of their films in Brazil, we still do not know the reach and effectiveness achieved by the revolution they suggest. The notorious fact is that the discourse of El Pampero Cine stirs up the whole film industry, from production to the film screenings, and questions the ways and prerogatives that are placed in the consecrated schemes of producing, defending the creative and aesthetic imperative as the great motive of the existence of movies.
Their position in this matter is modern (in the strong sense of modern cinema): the process and experience determine the particularity of the film, refusing industrial forms both in the procedures of shootingthe film and in the logic of existence (circulation and visibility) and claiming a (partial) apportionment of the consecrated schemes.
If El Pampero's practical and economic discourse is "modern," so is the way members integrate - as a dialogue and reference - to a cinephile tradition: Roberto Rossellini, Eric Rohmer, Ernst Lubitsch, Charles Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Jean Renoir, Robert Bresson and Robert Aldrich are part of a repertoire that appears in their statements, debates or reflective texts about the films themselves. Not that the films of El Pampero Cine necessarily resemble the cinema of these quoted authors, but they are important to the extent that a modern more radical and instigating cinemabegins with the awareness of the cinematographic legacy of other generations. One does not perceive something like this in the speech and ideas of a good part of the filmmakers of the New Argentine Cinema, with the exception (partial) of Lucrecia Martel.
Being also under another sphere of influences and responding to its place and its historical time with nothing but respectful peculiarities, El Pampero Cine is notonly set apart from other producers by its methods, discourse and the economics of the New Argentine Cinema of the last two decades, but also by an image of the Latin American political cinema of the 1960s and 1970s that crystallized in our memory (Brazilians and Latinos’). There is no ideological and cutting-edge program in the politicized molds of the 1960s generation nor do they speak on behalf of Latin America. While this may be obvious to some, it is important to reaffirm this prerogative in this edition of the CineBH, in which we discuss Latin American cinema. The tribute to El Pampero Cine interests us in the context of the theme "Latin American Bridges" because it shifts the discussion of the conditions, solutions, ideas, economy and imaginary of the cinema to another area than the tradition of the new cinemas, although the constraints (today, in the presence of neoliberalism) reach us all in different ways - in the work regime, in the economy of time and in creative modes of production.
We see the dialogue with the producer's experience as fundamental in its possible distinctions and necessary approximations with our cinema, not to reproduce a method nor to force identification, but to think of solutions and alternatives to the most conspicuous models of production, creation and distribution present for the last twenty years. We understand that El Pampero Cine's "rejection of industrial predicates" is not exactly a political program in the merely ideological sense, but a creative liberation. "Industrial modes" are not just a Hollywood paradigm, but the ones that we create locally as well, and that have a visible result in the movies, even in "author cinema" films. The experience of the films of El Pampero Cine reconfigures in concrete terms what is "independent cinema". Nothing revolutionary, but quite honest.
Bringing dignity to the term "independent cinema" is not anything easy, whereas today everyone is "independent". Well, independent of exactly what? Of Hollywood and of the great systems of production, as John Cassavetesbelieved "independent cinema" was defined? Of course, it's not that simple. Today, beingindependent in the cinema field means what? Dependence can be on both the big schemes and on the small and medium production schemes that, in their time savings, tend to standardize work methods, impose commercial commitments (either with the large circuit of the market or with the small circuit festivals and arthouse rooms) and automate codes and dramaturgy.
In 16 years, El Pampero Cine has made 13 feature films outside the traditional means of financing: four films signed by Alejo Moguillansky, three by Laura Citarella and four by Mariano Llinás, many of them with occasional collaborators (Verónica Llinás, Fia-Stina Sandlund, Ignacio Masllorens), as well as two other films (El Amor: Primera Parte and Opus) signed by directors who are not part of the production company. Augustin Mendilla, the fourth partner, did not direct films for El Pampero, but did the photography of some titles like Opus, of Mariano Donoso; Extraordinary Stories, by Mariano Llinás; and El Escarabajo de Oro by Alejo Moguillansky and Fia-Stina Sandlund.
What attracted the attention of the CineBH curators for El Pampero was, mainly, La Flor. In the last edition, in 2017, we tried to bring the first part of the feature film of Mariano Llinás that had been exhibited at the Rotterdam Festival as a "work in progress". We were not able to do so, because the director would only screen the movie again when the other two parts were ready. In this year of 2018, the film was completed, and its full-length version counts almost 14 hours - one hour longer than Jacques Rivette's Oct 1 (1971), and one hour and a half shorter than RainerWerner Fassbinder 's Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980). The difference is that both the Fassbinder and Rivette films are divided into episodes of about an hour, while Llinás's work has only three parts, all of which are extensive even for a regular-length film. La Flor started the festival circuit in 2018, having won the Hubert Bals Fund Audience at the last Rotterdam Festival and was chosen as the best BAFICI film in Buenos Aires.
What is remarkable, beyond its length and its production process of almost ten years, is how boldly a project like La Flor manage the time in a way that does not try to reconcile with the swift demands of the market and a narrow notion of professionalism. How many festivals will want to screen a 14 hours movie? How will this duration run? How to produce something of such a dimension with a very low budget? Why does a movie need to have this length and time of production? A conservative response might say that we are faced with "unprofessional" production, which would reject the imperatives of industrial operation (in which the team works by dividing one-off functions, with each in its own, apart from the functioning of the whole creative process). The name given to this is "alienated labor". On the other hand, a non-conservative response would also point to a "non-professional" production, but from the point of view of an achievement that rejects the imperatives of a production operation with the industrial time economy and in which the team works a little more horizontally, within the creative process and that demands time other than that of industrial speed and the market.
In the cinematographic field, as it exists, we can point to a contradiction: how to work in such a time regime in a universe that audiovisual workers need to pay their bills? A good question that needs to be asked, as well as the provocation thatthis question raises,needs to exist in the name of the survival of the very integrity of cinema as a mode of expression. The members of El Pampero declare, in an interview made for this catalog, that they do not depend on the cinematographic activity of producer to make their living. That is: it is something coherent with their choices and their speech. It remains to be known more precisely how this system works in the absence of traditional professional methods - and for this reason, we invited the producer and filmmaker Laura Citarella for a masterclass, in which all these aspects will be approached and discussed.
The enterprise is not only admirable but vital to the survival of cinema - not as an industry, but as an expression that creates meaning. This debate must be opened. Having El Pampero Cine as an interlocutor at CineBH is a privilege and a pleasure.
EL PAMPERO CINE
Founded in 2002 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. More than just a simple production company, it is a group of people keen to bring experimentation and innovation to the procedures and practices involved in making cinema in Argentina. As part of the formidable rebirth known as Nuevo Cine Argentino, bringing with it films like Mundo Grúa by Pablo Trapero, La libertad and Los Muertos by Lisandro Alonso, and Los Guantes Mágicos by Martín Rejtman, the output of El Pampero Cine has seen some of the most original and celebrated films of the last ten years. Films which have taken innovation to practically all areas of film activity.
The influence of El Pampero Cine is not only seen on an aesthetic level. Above all, the revolution takes in how films are produced and screened. Since the release of Balnearios in 2002, El Pampero Cine has developed a production system that rejects industrial film ideas and embraces radical independence from conventional sources of funding, allowing a constant and fertile production. With Extraordinary Stories (with a duration of four hours, including scenes filmed in Africa, reconstructions of the Second World War and epic scenes with lions in the middle of the Province of Buenos Aires) it
became clear that El Pampero Cine had imposed in Argentina a new way of producing films, working with budgets markedly lower than the smallest industrial budget without these inferior conditions in any way affecting the technical and aesthetic quality of their work. El Pampero Cine is made up by Mariano Llinás, Laura Citarella, Agustín Mendilaharzu and Alejo Moguilansky and has participated since 2002 in the creation of more than ten feature films.
See the complete filmography of the producer at: www.elpamperocine.com.ar