Like a mesmerizing foreign film, Cineastas is intriguing, profound, and captivating. Following four filmmakers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the show was staged on two levels, which created a very cinematic split screen effect. On the bottom level, the characters acted out their daily lives and we learned about their films, hopes, and desires, and on the upper level, scenes from the films they were creating were acted out simultaneously.
Mario Pensotti is the mind behind this unique theatrical creation, and he is no stranger to the PuSh Festival. He has visited the festival more than any other artist, and his works are known for their diversity and non-conformity to any specific genre.
The parallel and at times intersecting storylines of the show followed Gabriel, who is terminally ill and ends up making a film about his experience; Carlos, who works at McDonald’s and is making an anti-corporate film about a man who is kidnapped and forced to dress up as Ronald McDonald; Nadia, who can’t think of what to write for her second film and is given a cliché script to direct; and Mariela, who is making a film based on Soviet musicals.
The theme of Cineastas is the age-old question of how much life influences art and vice versa. In some cases, the lives of these four filmmakers clearly influence their films, but in others, the filmmaking process and fictions they create have a profound effect on their personal lives.
Focused on these larger ideas concerning the relationship between life and art, the film primarily explored the demonstration of abstract ideas while the relationships among the characters took a backseat.
Discussing huge concepts like Eisenstein’s theory of cinematic montage — the juxtaposition of two ideas, which in turn form a third — and inspired by quotes like Jean-Luc Godard’s “I started with fiction and discovered the real; but behind the real is again fiction,” this is a very dense show, and one that poses many thought-provoking questions.
The filmmaker characters served as devices to illustrate Pensotti’s musings on whether fiction or reality comes first, or rather if they form an endless cycle with no beginning or end. The show emerged out of a series of interviews that Pensotti conducted with filmmakers involved in Buenos Aires’ booming film industry, and the show opens on a filmmaker being interviewed.
This detached way of learning about the characters continued throughout. The soundtrack featured more narration than anything else, which reminded of a film’s voiceover. Five actors represented many different characters during the show, quickly switching back and forth among their roles and the narration.
With a couple of very busy scenes involving simultaneous acting on both levels, narration, and quickly changing subtitles, there were some initial hurdles to overcome, but once I realised that this show was all about the ideas it presented and not the story itself, the show became much more enjoyable.
Cineastas was performed Feb 5–7 at SFU Woodward’s as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. For more information, visit mariopensotti.com.