Former French Minister of Cultural Affairs, André Malraux, once described Buenos Aires as the capital of an empire that never existed. Argentine creative director and founder of Calixta Productions, Tomás Gómez Bustillo, painted it for us.
Last week his fifteen minute long film avant-premiered in one of the city’s many cultural centers. At 8.30PM the curtains opened before us in Chacarita. The lights dimmed. The tango played. The clichés of the city rolled in on screen. The audience was tickled pink. They cheered. They clapped a while too. The producers embraced. The photographers snapped.
Soy Buenos Aires: a grand short.
The Bubble spoke to Tomás, who directed the film, about the two year long project shot in all four corners of the city — from Barracas and San Telmo to Chacarita, Flores, Acassuso and Martinez — that evolved into a beautifully Amélie-style filtered motion picture of Buenos Aires: the Paris of Latin America, that place many of us like to call home. Shooting in 25 locations the production skeleton crew which grew from eight to 50 people captured the good and the bad; the rich and the poor; the arrogant and the humble; the reason and the insanity. The absurd. The tango, the passion, the uneven sidewalks. The quilombo. A quilombo where Buenos Aires is the protagonist, rather than the backdrop.
The short tells the story of Buenos Aires, performed by Hernan Bustamante — or rather the reincarnation of Buenos Aires, (or is he just a metaphor? A madman, perhaps?) — from birth. It tells the story of this man, so passionate about the city he calls home that when his parents relocate to el interior, he escapes to reunite with the home of Borges, the pope and chamuyo, letting the chips fall where they may.
Why portray Buenos Aires in this way though? Why through a person? The porteño himself should have his own motion picture, let alone a film about the very environment that creates him. Tomás explains that he aims not to send any messages. “I think a good work of art should not answer questions, but rather create a whole set of new ones. What kind of people live in this crazy city? Do we have anything in common? What do we aspire? What do we hide?”
In the film, the music which guides the journey of Buenos Aires plays just as powerful a role in representing the city as does Bustamante’s flawlessly enchanting and endearingly comical quasi-one man show. Performed by Finisterre Tango and composed especially for the film by orchestra conductor and concertista at Teatro Colon, Felipe Delsart, Tomás explains that the melodies came to life as they “sat by a piano, watching the film, and worked on the music scene by scene, in sequences.” From second one, the audio is married to the visual. And married to your mind. You’ll be humming it for the next seven days. In a good way, promise.
“How can you represent such a crazy, diverse, contradictory and beautiful city as a personality?” asks Tomás. Roles have reversed. “Would the person be charming? Sometimes unpleasant, even malicious maybe? My conclusion was that he would have to be both, at the same time. Buenos Aires would have to aspire to be grand and bold, but have a darker underbelly that would sometimes get in the way of those ideals. Internal contradictions were what give Buenos Aires, and our character its complexity, which is what I find fascinating.”
You’ll have to watch it.
Where? When? How?
On Dustin Luke’s YouTube channel (who also happens to be the film’s Producer of Marketing & Distribution) when it comes out at the end of the year. You know the one. That yanqui who got a better porteño accent within two weeks of setting foot in this country than any of us ever had, have or will have whether we retire here or not. We will keep you posted.
Political Science graduate and third culture kid, Tomás, is from Buenos Aires but grew up in various countries of the Americas. Why the change from politics to film? “I don’t really like the day to day of politics. I guess what I was really interested in was how the world works, why it is the way it is, how society organizes itself from a more sociological or political theory point of view. By the end of my degree, I was specializing in cultural analysis. I think I’ve always been interested in these things, and eventually came to find out that film, and not politics, was the medium for me to express my ideas.” Ironically for a film romanticizing the city, Soy Buenos Aires screams cobbled streets, cigarettes, uncertainty, hysteria, nostalgia, choripan, tinto, propinas, colectivos, and one kiss on the cheek more than it does “politics”: its other half, its heartbeat, its synonym.
“As I was in school, I started making music and wanted to share it with friends, but I thought uploading blank videos on Youtube was just boring. So I borrowed a friend’s camera and made my first short film, a music video. The years went on, and this newfound hobby just got more and more complex and time-consuming, to a point where I decided it was my passion and I would pursue it professionally.” The dream. He then when on to found his own production company, Calixta Producciones, and will soon be moving to Los Angeles for a two year MFA program at the American Film Institute Conservatory.
A gem worth seeing. You’ll relate and you’ll want to postpone your return flight.