Dispatch from The Luminato Festival: Cineastas

Cineastas, a new play by Mariano Pensotti was just presented as part of the Luminato festival in Toronto, a giant festival of arts which also brought Matthew Barney among others. The play was an exploration of the relationship of life and work for several filmmakers in contemporary Argentina. Argentina has become one of the most interesting countries to me for contemporary cinema, just recently Matias Pineiro’s Viola and Jazmin Lopez’s Leones. Pensotti and this production makes me think that Argentinian theater is just as exciting. Watching the play made me consider how as a filmmaker, one may strive to bring an authentic life onto the screen yet who can say that life is more true than cinema. At one point in the play, a McDonalds CEO recalls the shoot of a commercial directed by Spike Lee in which a village was built. The poor began living in the set and they could not be made to leave. Is this not now a real village?  Later in the play, a filmmaker goes into a church, a converted cinema of his childhood and finds himself moved to join the group. Is this really that different from the transcendent experience we seek from the cinema?

The striving of all the filmmakers in this play is for the real, all too often deleted from films. The stories in the play were simple yet resonant. One award winning filmmaker is given a script about returning refugees. She dismisses it until she finds herself considering if her lost father could in fact be alive. The script opens something in her despite her refusal to connect to it. In another, a popular director is diagnosed with cancer and seeks to put the entirety of his life into his slight comedy. He leaves story behind to try to show what is left behind of a beautiful mundane existence.  A film can be called life but edited. Images are found by the filmmaker and placed against one another to create new meaning.  The stage was arranged in a split screen, one half the lives and the other the films, providing a unique chance for theater to achieve montage, two images which through their connect or disconnect create a dialogue. The actors in the production all gave the production wonderful energy. Pensotti has a wonderful eye for images and manages to use the theatrical space to powerfully consider this relationship of life and film (and so theater and film.)

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