Interview: Matías Piñeiro (Director – ‘They All Lie’ ‘The Stolen Man’ ‘Viola’ & ‘Rosalinda’

The work of Argentinian filmmaker Matías Piñeiro will be showcased during the upcoming Latinbeat Film Festival and will simultaneously open two of his films, ‘Viola‘ and ‘Rosalinda‘, theatrically on July 12, 2013. Latinbeat will play host to the NY premiere of Piñeiro’s 2007 film ‘The Stolen Man/El hombre robado’ and 2009 film ‘They All Lie/Todos mienten‘. ‘Viola‘ returns to the Film Society of Lincoln Center after debuting at this year’s New Directors/New Films and will be released in the US through Cinema Guild. All screenings of ‘Viola‘ will be followed by his short film ‘Rosalinda‘.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1982, Matías Piñeiro studied at the Universidad del Cine, where he went on to teach filmmaking and film history. In 2011 he received the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship from Harvard University for his new film project, ‘Sarmiento, Translator‘. He currently lives in New York on a New York University scholarship in creative writing and is currently developing the third installment of his Shakespearean project, ‘The Princess of France‘.

We managed to speak with Matías Piñeiro via Skype from Madrid in an extended talk on the Argentine Film Industry, the benefits of micro cinema, the intersection of cinema and art and much more.  In our talk Matías wholly represents the sensibilities and ideologies of IndieWood/HollyWoodn’t and is truly a name to watch on the filmmaking world stage.  The 2013 LatinBeat Film Festival will take place July 12 -21, 2013 at The Film Society of Lincoln Center with screenings, events and Q&A’s

Find Tickets to the 2013 LatinBeat Film FestivalHERE

Trailer-Viola from Matias Piñeiro on Vimeo.

When did you develop your interest in film?  What is it about the medium that you were drawn to?
I entered University quite young, when I was 17.  I think I was a usual cinephile until then.  Working through high school I watched a lot of films and did work in the video form as opposed to writing academic papers.  I had thought about being a critic at first, but I looked for a way to study criticism and could not find any so I was attracted to filmmaking.

Here in New York City we have some of the seminal filmmaking programs in the world.  You are a graduate of Buenos Aires’ Universitad del Cine.  How did you find your University program prepared you for your ultimate career as a filmmaker?
The most important thing is the people you meet.  All the people I have met in my studies I have worked in their films and they have worked on mine.  It gave us a nice group of people who were working towards a similar end.  Then, of course, you can form a small production company.  Having all these people united in a place that could provide equipment and wanted to do film made things happen in a natural way.

The Stolen Man

*still from ‘The Stolen Man’

Going through your filmography, there are many familiar faces from film to film.  Were these relationships born out of your time at the University?
Yes, many of the actors attended the University.  I met them through the short films that were done there or just going around the cultural atmosphere around Buenos Aires.  In Buenos Aires, the theater is very important so there are many types.  There are Broadway caliber theaters, but also off off off plays. With this kind of culture you get great groups of people around you, all of whom are curious as to how  all can work together.

Who are some specific influences you draw from?
As I said, I am a big cinephile so there are many people I admire.  Hitchcock, Cassavettes, Fassbinder, Godard are just a few of them. Somehow I got attracted to filmmakers by reading them and hearing what they say about film.  I even studied filmmakers that I found out I am interested in weeks ago.  It is an education that never stops.  What attracts me to this is linking cinema, production and art.

When you say you enjoy reading the words of filmmakers, is it this connection between cinema, art and production you look for?
Yes.  It is exactly that.  You see how the image was made.  How do they pull off that perfect medium closeup?  How do you maximize the capture of any individual gesture?  You see that things are made in a way that is very private.

They All Lie

*still from ‘They All Lie’

I see that you draw your primary “influence” from more mis-en-scene direction as opposed to highly stylistic, montage based work.  What is the dynamic like on-set with you and your actors since your films are so dialogue heavy, yet minimal in most other aspects?
I tend to write a lot of dialogue and I do feel that as much of the writing should be on-screen as possible.  At the same time, I write these phrases for people who I know can say them in certain ways.  Since we know each other, we are all familiar with the way we work and our abilities, I try to capture something of each individuals personality into the character so the phrases do not seem overly complicated. Then we have rehearsals so for a few days we collaborate, even if the writing is not completely finished.

It is all a dialogue.  I have my ideas, I watch what the actors do and I adjust if things need adjustment.  I try not to interfere with their jobs too much.

What are your personal impressions on the state of filmmaking in Latin America?
I can talk more about Argentina where there are many nice things to say.  There are all kinds of productions.  There are bigger budget films and all the micro projects, such as mine.  There is a film festival in Buenos Aires called Bafici which shows these kinds of micro films.  Then, there is a strange middle ground of films that are larger and come with a certain amount of expectations from the industry and the art world combined.  These films struggle because that balance is not easy to achieve.  I work in a very particular way, with micro budgets producing micro films.  Somehow they work in their distribution, in an alternative way, that makes the system hold up.  They are economically functionable.

In Argentina, the film industry is subsidized by the state and there is an institution that runs most of it.  There is regulation that works, in a way.  Nowadays, if you have a camera that can shoot you can shoot very nicely.  With a lot of people in film schools and willing to produce, this makes people move.  There are many ways to make films and each person discovers their own way.  In some countries that are more “organized”, these alternative ways of film production are very narrow.  I think in Buenos Aires there are a lot of ways to make a film, resulting in many filmmakers who are very different from each other.

Whether its productions are big, small or in the middle, do you say that the film industry is “healthy” in Argentina?
I think it is healthy.  I work outside of the film industry so maybe there is something to question, though.  I am a little bit in a bubble.  It is not that I am against it but I am just not attracted to it.  I should be because I could make more money, but everything else would affect my filmmaking in (what I would call) a negative way.  It is complicated.  It is like a baby.  If you give it too much it does not mean the baby will turn out to be good.  I would need to find different producers with different personalities and goals.  It is a matter of questioning the system and also oneself because films are being made all the same.

Obviously in America there is a lot to say about Big Hollywood and how that model not only lays the template down for the entire industry, but also how this template has become so generationaly engrained into filmmakers at all levels it is difficult to find many that operate 100% outside of it independent or not.

* still from ‘Viola’

You talk about a government subsidized film industry but if you operate outside of even this, how do you fund your films?
It really is a throw of the dice.  I have to go case by case.  The first feature was built from a short and took some time to produce.  That film won some awards with a little cash prize.  I paid the people from the original film and put the rest of the money into a new film.  I knew I wanted to film in a simple way.  I call them Chamber Films, like Chamber Music.  I am not interested in having a lot of actors, locations or complicated shots so fortunately that is where a lot of expense in film goes.  All in all, the money from one film affects the next one.

At the same time there are things that just happen, like a film festival in South Korea gave me some money to produce a film because they liked my work.  It was crazy! Then I produced a play which became the basis for ‘Viola‘.  So I am making movies for $10 or $20K but are being premiered all around the world.  Its all like an ant path, but it works.

Do you find that the majority of films in Argentina are actually funded through the government subsidy or do they still rely on private investors?
The traditional mindset of the filmmakers is the INCAA (Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes AudioVisuales) is government subsidized.  In almost all the Argentine cinema you will see this logo.  Then, little films such as mine do not have it because we make money ourselves.  As I mentioned, our money comes from various places so we do not have to go through the state-run system.  Sometimes through the state you have to spend more money and I think I can produce films for less.

The thing is that my films have all been done very quickly in this way.  I did my first in 2007, so this speed would not be possible dealing with the state.  Some day though, I would like to make a film the way others do.  If just for the curiosity.

* still from ‘Rosalinda’

Your films ‘Viola’ and ‘Rosalinda’ are going to be playing theatrically as ‘They All Lie’ and ‘The Stolen Man’ play as part of the 2013 LatinBeat Film Festival.  Specifically to the former, I read these films as being adaptations of Shakespearean plays with a third on the way.  What is it about Shakespeare that made you want to produce this trilogy?
At first it was not a trilogy.  There will be many films…5 or 6.  We will put them all together and they will form a unity.  I make one for each actress.  I am not sure how they all come together in the end, but in the meantime I am seeing there is a lot of potential in these characters.  The Shakespearean character is only a starting point.

The next feature ‘The Princess of France‘ will be played by a man so I am interested to see how that works.  It is based on ‘Love’s Labours Lost‘.  I did part of this play in the theater (which is shown in ‘Viola‘).

‘Viola’ has played at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which is now putting on the LatinBeat Film Festival.  What are your own impressions of the Film Society and the festival?
The Film Society is a great place to watch films so even when I would visit New York I would go.  That night that ‘Viola’ premiered in the comfortable theater with all its cast was great.

In regards to LatinBeat, I like it because my friends usually go there.  I am very happy that I am part of a small family of films and filmmakers from Argentina and Latin America whose films are being shown here.  It is very nice that there is a space that makes it possible for my friends to show their work and now I am part of that circle too.

Are there any films on the schedule you would recommend?
I would like to see ‘La Paz‘, ‘Avanti Popolo‘ and ‘Senoritas‘, for sure.

– Interview Conducted, Edited & Transcribed by Steve Rickinson

Film Society of Lincoln Center

Friday, July 12 – 21, 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center presents
LATINBEAT Film Festival
@ Film Society of Lincoln Center
144 West 65 St.
New York, NY


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