Dir: Esteban Sapir
80 min., 16mm, 1:1.37, b/w, EP
Produktion: 5600 Film - Esteban Sapir. Buch, Kamera: Esteban Sapir. Kamera: Víctor 'Kino' González. Schnitt: Marcelo Dujo, Miguel Martín. Musik: Francisco Sicilia. Ton: Gaby Kerpel. Ausstattung: Cristina Tavano.
Darsteller: Facundo Luengo (Tomás), Belén Blanco (Ana), Marcela Guerty (Alma), Fanny Robman, Nora Zinski, Sandro Nunciatta, Ricardo Merkin, Laura Marti, Miguel Angel Solá, Juan Leyrado.
Uraufführung: 5. August 1996, Filmfestival Mar del Plata.
Weltvertrieb: Sandra Gugliotta - De las Artes. 1125 Buenos Aires/ Argentina. Fax: (54-1) 924 09 95.
Sat 15.02. 22:15 Akademie der Künste Sun 16.02. 19:00 Babylon Sun 23.02. 16:15 Kino 7 im Zoo Palast Sun 23.02. 21:45 Delphi Mon 24.02. 12:30 Arsenal
The film's low budget as well as the actors' age (Facundo Luengo, 18, Belén Blanco,17, Marcela Guerty, 20) have influenced the aesthetics of PICADO FINO, resulting in the film's unique style. From the outset I had intended to portray the experiences of a Jewish youngster. I wanted to talk about his myopia, how he only sees what he wants to see.
The film takes a very simple, almost innocent look at the protagonists. It creates encounters between people and a number of objects, in a way that reinvents the world according to a very personal logic. This world has little room for words because "words constantly produce questions". There are sounds, heartbeats, rhythms, life. The sounds are as crudely edited as the images, they serve as texts in the film, going beyond the limits of language, towards a universal understanding.
PICADO FINO tells a simple story set in a
Peter B.Schumann: Your film shows young people's lives at the margins of society, living almost like outcasts. Is this your image of Argentina's youth or at least of Buenos Aires?
Esteban Sapir: Let's say that this is one aspect, this obtrusiveness, the deliberate isolation of the protagonists, that's the primary topic in PICADO FINO. Part of it is the desire to run away without knowing where to go or how to get there. The protagonists suffer from a certain lack of mobility. They are like the dog in front of a butcher shop. Hungrily drooling but staying put out of fear.
P.B.S.: But this young guy, Tomás, he is constantly moving.
E.S.: He always moves in the same space, never leaving it. I try to illustrate his isolation through the shots and the sounds. I use it to create a claustrophobic atmosphere which encircles the protagonists.
P.B.S.: Presumably, the sound is not original sound. Sometimes it even seems as if a sound track were broken, or as if the sound engineer had done shoddy work. Until one notices that it's all deliberate.
E.S.: I wanted it to sound like an old record. It was supposed to add a musical dimension. The sound was supposed to sound like music. Even though it is harsh and even disagreeable, it adds a kind of rhythm to the music. The ambiance was artificially created, with the help of samplers. We were only able to record seconds of original sound, working it into a loop.
P.B.S.: Why did you choose this unusual method?
E.S.: We had to work with stone age equipment: a Macintosh PC Classic 2 and a sampler which could only produce sound for one minute at a time. All dialogues had to be arranged with a keyboard. At first they were recorded asynchronously. Then David, our sound technician, used his keyboard to match each dialogue with the rhythm of moving lips, thus creating synchronicity. The sound production was an unbelievable process since we couldn't afford a proper sound studio. We recorded the dialogues in my apartment using a purpose-built structure. Every time the lift was being used we had to interrupt our work. For that reason I often switched off the lift. You can't imagine the conditions under which we had to make the film. Using nothing beyond what was available right then and there. We constantly had to think about economizing, doing things cheaper, always coming up with alternative solutions. We had so little money, we couldn't even afford to make the usual first print of the material.
P.B.S.: So you had to film 'blindly'?
E.S.: For eight weeks we didn't know what we had recorded. Then I copied the negative onto video, edited the video and gave this video to a negative cutter who produced the film copy. I don't think a single feature film in Argentina has ever been made in this fashion. Other people have now imitated our method. PICADO FINO doesn't simply contain elements of experimentation, it actually is nothing but an experiment. But there are certain things I wouldn't do again. For example, filming without looking at the material. At least, since I did the camera work for the film, I had an impression of what I had filmed.
P.B.S.: PICADO FINO must be a very cheap film. Normally, Argentinian features cost about 1,5 to 2 million DM.
E.S.: This figure also includes distribution costs and the money to bring out the film. The new film by Eliseo Subiela Despabilate Amor was about that much. For PICADO FINO we only needed about 40 000 DM, in cash. In reality it was a lot more expensive but we couldn't possibly cost all the items. Much of the work was done without charge.
Filming was very special because I was working with people whose primary interest was the film and not their salary. There were about fifteen of us and we lived like a family in a house belonging to my grandmother. When we worked late we even slept there. Everyone has fond memories of this time. I received many items free of charge: equipment, lighting. The only cost I incurred was an old delivery truck from 1959. You can still buy cars like that in Argentina! I wanted to be independent therefore I kept all costs to a minimum. During the last two weeks I ran out of pesos, so people even had to bring their own food.
P.B.S.: You had a famous actor in your team: Miguel Angel Solá who is known to German audiences as the main protagonist in Tangos - el exilio de Gardel or in Sur by Fernando Solanas.
E.S.: I am a professional cameraman and photographer and met Miguel Angel Solá during the filming of a television series. I told him about my project. Much, much later, when I was well into the filming, we happened to meet and he remembered: "It wouldn't hurt your film if I contributed." Except that he had just sustained a neck injury and had to cancel all TV and film engagements. So I added the story of the music teacher with a neck problem to the narrative. It was fascinating to see how he created a character with a physical handicap.
P.B.S.: Your film works on a number of distinctive aesthetic levels: firstly, signs and symbols, secondly, movements by the main protagonist and thirdly, the universe which he occupies. Let's talk about the level of signs. Some of it is mysterious, but there are also signs of orientation, proper directions.
E.S.: There are 'traffic directions' which we have to obey, which are imposed on us. The main protagonist is in permanent conflict with such 'traffic signs', looking for his own path. The signs are there to express the conflict, integrate it into the story which itself lacks conflict. Two people meet, something happens to them, they react and move on to another point in the story. Signs and signals are an alternative form of expressing the conflict.
P.B.S.: There are some playful relationships, for example between the billiard balls and a group of human beings. What's behind this?
E.S.: Let me respond with a concept by Julio Cortázar who speaks about the 'coagulos', i.e. a particular moment in life during which a number of images condense into an idea. In this scene you see the billiard balls, you hear the sound of them touching, there is a group of people one of whom is distributing cocaine, in the background a blurred TV screen is showing Batman - all these are singular associations which clarify a situation, an image. I am not inventing this, but I think the cinema should allow such moments of sensual expression more frequently. It shouldn't lose its magic but should heighten the inherent power of its images. Silent film was able to do it, it wanted to stir audiences emotions with its pure and naive images. I wanted PICADO FINO to be a film which approximates this naiveté, this simplicity, this innocence.
P.B.S.: I remember the billiard scene with the policeman, that's pure silent cinema, pure movement in all its naivité.
E.S.: A reference to the naturalness of images. Given the limited funds for this project, that's what I thought I could do with this film. The spirituality of cinema has somehow been lost. My highest aim as a cineaste is to impart to the viewer a feeling that s/he sees these images for the first time. Every film should be a rediscovery of the world.
P.B.S.: There is an irritating voice on the sound track, i.e. Hitler's voice. The film lets it be known that the young guy has a Jewish background. And yet, the use of this voice as an expression of Tomás' trauma doesn't seem appropriate. I could imagine, however, that as an Argentinian you have a different relationship to the past than I do.
E.S.: I just used it to express a certain character trait in our society, our country. Like you said, you experience your history very differently from us. If I had used Videla's voice (he belonged to the junta of generals who established the military dictatorship in 1976) it would have signalled something very concrete to us. Using Hitler's voice signalled a more universal approach. Perhaps I was naive.
P.B.S.: Why does Tomás need to have a Jewish background? Is it autobiographical? Does PICADO FINO have autobiographical elements?
E.S.: The boy is Jewish because the film reflects my own family background. I am from a Jewish family, but I am not a practising Jew. The boy feels and says what I used to feel and say at his age. In this respect it is a very personal film: I have exposed myself on screen. I don't mean to say my life is like that, then I wouldn't be sitting here with you. But there are certain phenomena and personal memories. My grandmother looked like the grandma in the film. There is the little turtle which I will never forget, small details, little images which are indelibly burnt into my memory. That's what the film draws on.
P.B.S.: Your camera work is unusual. Certain takes are unforgettable. Subsidized, contemporary cinema doesn't produce anything like it. There is one other, independently produced feature film which is similarly original in its camera work, Moebius by the Universidad del Cine.
E.S.: As a photographer you learn that each sequence has to be coherent. That's why I always search for strong images. I want to fill this square called screen with something significant. I mostly prefer the format 1:1.33, a square, the format of silent cinema.
P.B.S.: Will you make your next film in this format and in black and white again?
E.S.: A good question. I want the next film to be in colour. Henry Alekan who is responsible for photography in Wenders' films once said: "Colour means reality, but black-white is more realistic." PICADO FINO had to be made in black and white. But the next film must be done in colour. PICADO is an experience which cannot be repeated.
P.B.S.: To what degree did the lack of funds influence the film's aesthetics?
E.S.: Financial limitations forced me to think of alternatives. I found a number of production possibilities, especially material ones. We talked about some of them. If I had been able to spend 1,5 Million DM I would have looked daily at the rushes. But my aesthetic approach wouldn't have changed fundamentally. For me, the film takes place in the movement between the four edges of the square. With a better budget, I would have had more peace of mind, I could have paid my team better, I could have taken more care with the editing and the sound. I am sure the film would have looked very different because I would have been under pressure from the producer, and the film institute, to deliver on time. It took me two years to make PICADO FINO. Although I had no money I had time. Time, however, isn't free either. Perhaps I could have used the 1,5 million DM to stop time in order to make the very same film. (...)
(Esteban Sapir was interviewed by Peter B. Schumann)
Esteban Sapir was born on June 6th, 1967, in Buenos Aires and studied camera and photography at the film school of the National Film Institute (INCAA). He works as a cameraman in film and video. PICADO FINO is his first film.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.