Opera House, Wellington

10/03/2016 - 16/03/2016

New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2016

Production Details

Director Mariano Pensotti

Co-production between Grupo Marea, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Wiener Festwochen, HAU Hebbel Am Ufer, Holland Festival, Theaterformen, Festival de Automme Paris, Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires and El Cultural San Martín

“A marvel of theatrical wit and ingenuity” – The New York Times  

A hot shot director making a Hollywood blockbuster comedy; an experimental documentary-maker with a cult following and an identity crisis; a disgruntled McDonald’s employee plotting a corporate-bashing revenge flick; and a writer toiling on a doomed second screenplay for a rich French producer.

Downstairs, you’ll follow the work, lives and loves of four film-makers over a year in Buenos Aires. Upstairs, the films they are making come to life. The stunning two-tier staging and director Mariano Pensotti’s inventive “filmic drama” proved a hit at New York’s Under the Radar Festival, and will thrill Wellington’s many film fans as well as its theatre lovers.

Cineastas is a co-production between Grupo Marea, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Wiener Festwochen, HAU Hebbel Am Ufer, Holland Festival, Theaterformen, Festival de Automme Paris, Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires and El Cultural San Martín. 

Opera House, Wellington
Thursday 10 Mar – Wednesday 16 Mar, 8pm
Adult A $79.00 | Adult B $65.00
1hr 45mins (no interval)
Spanish with English surtitles
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Partnered by Stem
With Support From Embassy of Argentina 

Theatre , Film ,

1 hr 45 mins - no interval

Unusual, intriguing glimpse into filmmaking, live on stage

Review by Ewen Coleman 14th Mar 2016

In his programme notes, the Argentinian director of Cineastas, currently playing at the Opera House, says that film is durable, capturing moments in time and freezing them while theatre, like life, is ephemeral, where time flows freely.

And in his production of Cineastas, Mariano Pensotti shows this in a most unusual and intriguing, albeit somewhat complex way.

On a split-level set that sits well back from the audience like a movie screen, four filmmakers are shown each making a movie over the course of a year in Buenos Aires. [More


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Skilfully crafted study of a cross-section of humanity resonates well beyond itself

Review by John Smythe 11th Mar 2016

If you have ever been jet-lagged in a foreign hotel and channel-hopped through the day-become-night, returning to snippets from a selection of films intercut with documentary footage about the filmmakers while factoring in memories of your own life and recurring fantasies, trying to keep track of it all within this weird state of wakefulness, that’s something like watching Cineastas (which is Spanish for Filmmakers).

Being a co-production between Grupo Marea, Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels), Wiener Festwochen (Vienna), HAU Hebbel Am Ufer (Berlin), Holland Festival (Amsterdam), Theaterformen (Hannover-Braunschweig), Festival de Automme Paris, Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires and El Cultural San Martín, it’s tempting to think everyone threw their ideas into the proverbial pot and this Argentinian ‘stew’ is the result.

But Cineastas, written and directed by Mariano Pensotti, is much more crafted and coherent than it may seem. What we are being treated to is a live theatre documentary on current film-making activity in Buenos Aires, where more than 2,500 films have been made since the inception of film in 1905.  

Largely through live, amplified narration that accompanies live action on two levels, we tune in and out of the stories of four filmmakers and the diverse scenarios they are trying to create. On the ground floor, in a rudimentary production office, the filmmakers work with their people while above, the scenarios they are imagining, pitching or shooting play out.

All this is achieved by five indefatigable actors – Horacio Acosta, Javier Lorenzo, Vanesa Maja, Juliana Muras and Marcelo Subiotto – with stage manager Leandro Orellano shifting, adding and subtracting props. The strip between the two levels carries the Spanish-to-English surtitles.

An interview with “golden boy” Gabriel tells us his recent success means his new project is a co-production with a Hollywood studio. The lone man in the empty room above turns out to be Tony, whose life is disintegrating because his wife-to-be (who will turn out to be a serial jilter) left him just before the wedding.

[Spoiler alert, although it won’t hurt to know this.] Swamped with demands for decisions from the art department and location crew, Gabriel sees himself “as a nuclear power plan awaiting a tsunami.” He has an epiphany, ditches his script and decides to shoot his own life story so his daughter will know him better when he is gone. He ends up eschewing actors in favour of filming significant objects gathered during his life, hoping his audience will draw his life story from observing them. [Ends]

Mariela is a conceptual filmmaker from Russia, inspired by Japanese cinema, whose new project involves using the musicals staged in Moscow over 10 years as a device for depicting the demise of Stalinism then the USSR. What plays out above starts highly stylised and disintegrates into an amusingly clumsy evocation of Cats.

Meanwhile Mariela falls for Dmitri, an ex-Soviet scientist who now has a Russian restaurant in Buenos Aires – and the complications that ensue in her real life play out like a soap opera.

Nadia’s last film, destined for the art-house circuit, was an unexpected commercial success and now she’s been given a huge advance by a French production company. But even as she builds her lifestyle to a new level, she suffers writer’s block – and is eventually handed the script of a story we have seen playing out above.

A man thought to be a Desaparecido (‘disappeared’ by the Argentinian dictatorship) has been living rough in the jungle. He returns to Buenos Aires and disrupts the bourgeois lives of his sons. But being an auteur, will Nadia be capable of rejecting someone else’s script or will she disparage it as a cliché?  

Then there is Lucas who works at McDonalds and uses every spare hour off work to make his film with actors from the Culture Centre. Inevitably all his hatred of his menial status in the multinational mega corporation permeates a ‘revenge flick’ he truly believes will revolutionise the fast food industry and filmmaking. But what happens when he gets promoted to manager in what turns out to be his father’s franchise?  

Throughout, regardless of which role they are playing in reality or a film scenario,   all five actors wear the same clothes, albeit with the odd shirt removed – except for baseball caps with the golden arch insignia and the full Ronald McDonald clown rig. Poor Ronald is mysteriously held hostage and equally mysteriously released to wander the street in one of the play’s most surprisingly poignant images.  

The logistics of interweaving all the stories in live split-level performance is mind-boggling and writer/director Mariano Pensotti must be commended for mater-minding all that. Even more astonishing is the relaxed way the actors ‘edit’ themselves into each character and scenario with a simplicity that is easy to take for granted – as well as taking their turns on the hand-held mics to keep the ‘documentary’ narration going.

What Cineastas is really about – because good stories are always about something bigger than themselves – is the relationship between real lives and filmed fiction, and between generations. “Do our fictions reflect the real world, or is the world a distorted projection of our fictions?” Pensotti asks. His programme note details how he went about developing the script.   

Finally both rooms are stripped bare, leaving us free to project our own lives into their empty whiteness. Given the level of concentration required to keep up with it all, especially as our eyes flick between the action and the surtitles, its only in retrospect that we realise how much skill has gone into crafting this detailed study of a small cross-section of humanity that resonates well beyond itself.   

If any fluent Spanish-speakers have seen this show I’d be keen to know how it is for them (in Comments below). We English-speakers see a distilled summation of all that is being said then hear the ‘music’ of the voices. Is listening to the much more detailed text more arduous or more interesting because of the nuances of phrasing and tone we inevitably miss? 


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