To the South

Well I’ve just had one whirlwind of a trip. First, five nights in Atlantida, a very sleepy seaside town just along the coast from Montevideo (which I didn’t get to visit) on the La Plata estuary, for a small but extremely friendly documentary film festival called Atlantidoc, where I taught a workshop in directing documentary. Fifteen participants from half a dozen Latin American countries, not students but young film-makers out there hustling to get their films made, highly intelligent and articulate. Lots of animated conversation in the festival cafe on the beach, and late night screenings in the open air. More about this later.

Then on to Buenos Aires on Sunday morning, where my friend Guillermo De Carli was a wonderful host. Had lunch on Sunday at a excellent Yiddisher restaurant (much better than New York—and by the way, saw lots of black hats walking around), then a long walk through the centre of the city during the afternoon, where we encountered all sorts of street music. But the most extraordinary sight was a large ornate cinema built in the 1920s which has now been converted into a bookshop. The frame grab is from a poor quality video which I took on my mobile, but you can just make it out.
Of course what struck me immediately was the ironic contrast with the cinema we filmed in Detroit, which fell into disuse and was converted into a parking lot.
During the day on Monday, when Guillermo had meetings and a class to teach, I went shopping for DVDs and had lunch at a parrilla where Piazzolla wrote one of his famous tangos, then to top it all, Guillermo organised a little gathering with half a dozen friends. We ate empanadas and drank wine, and finally broke up about 4am. This was brilliant—highly convivial, and rich conversation, ranging from the state of documentary in Argentina currently to everything you wanted to know about Peronism but never dared to ask (and not because I did ask, but because it came up anyway… In two words: an empty signifier—everyone makes what they want of it; and this from a Peronist.) Lots to think about as I board the plane back on Tuesday afternoon.

And lots of graffiti in the streets. My favourite:
“If the government has no culture, culture has no government!”

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