Emilia Di Luca
Toronto’s Luminato Festival screams creativity. But who constructs all this creativity? Distinguished Argentinian writer and director Mariano Pensotti wonders who. In its North American premiere at Luminato, his play Cineastas explores the relationship between films and their makers.
Cineastas means “filmmakers” in Spanish. Unsurprisingly, the play traces the lives and works of four filmmakers in Buenos Aires. Born from Pensotti’s interviews with filmmakers, Cineastas cycles between stories and films. The ensemble cast—Juliana Muras, Marcelo Subiotto, Horacio Acosta, Valeria Lois, and Javier Lorenzo—swaps between the roles of filmmakers, film characters, and narrators. While no actors speak English, the play’s themes speak to all audiences.
“Do our fictions reflect the world, or is the world a distorted projection of our fictions?” asks Luminato’s program for Cineastas. Employing remarkable visuals and brilliant staging, Pensotti raises these dueling questions. He translates film to stage with a refreshing breath of creativity.
Along with Pensotti, costume and set designer Mariana Tirantte merges live theatre and cinematics as a thin black screen, supplying subtitles, slices the stage horizontally, creating two separate stages: one that represents film and one that represents reality. This split-stage mimics a split-screen, allowing the audience to watch filmmakers live their lives beneath representations of the films they produce.
Pensotti distinguishes the two realms with competing aesthetics. The upper stage, representing film, showcases interpretive movement, filtered lights, and heavy shadows—expressionism. The stage represents reality—pure realism. Pensotti refuses, however, to separate these two worlds.
The two realms collide best when the actions of the upper stage mimic the actions of the lower stage. Pensotti often uses the film to highlight or contrast the filmmakers’ emotions below. Moreover, the ensemble moves between the two worlds as both filmmakers and characters, reminding the audience that artists and art intertwine.
No matter how well the themes translate, the voices of Cineastas do not. The play overworks the eyes of its English-speaking audience. While the play often implicates the audience wonderfully, it assigns the audience too many tasks: read subtitles, absorb music, listen to narration, remember storylines, and follow dialogue—all in Spanish, and all at once. Our eyes: overworked. Our ears: underworked. Perhaps, English narration would relax the busy brains of the audience members and allow them to absorb this playwright’s genius.
Because the stage pictures are genius, especially the final visual. By the end, actors seamlessly undress the bottom set until it stands naked like the stage above—blank white walls. While artists think are filling a blank canvas, the films leak through into reality and cleanse their makers’ lives.
While Cineastas has ended its run at the Luminato Festival, Mariano Pensotti continues to produce daring work. For more information on this Argentinian talent, visit http://marianopensotti.com.