Sunday, 21 July 2013

Disappearing documentaries

Tango documentaries – documentaries about the social dance of the milongas – don't seem to have it easy; no sooner do they appear than they vanish. In a paranoid moment I wonder if dancers of other kinds of tango have Friends in High Places. Catch a glimpse of a wonderful documentary about social tango, and it's gone.

It's happened several times recently, most recently with the Russian-made documentary featuring Pedro Sanchez. Jantango wrote about it and filmed a behind-the-scenes glimpse of filming in Lo de Celia: there's a link to her clip in the post. The documentary was on YouTube, and now 'This video is unavailable. Sorry about that.'

I'm glad I watched it while it was available. I skimmed through the first half, the tango tourist's visits to La Ideal, to La Boca. Then half-way through he, the Russian who wants to learn tango, rings the bell on an unremarkable door in Boedo – and Pedro, beaming as ever, opens it and invites us up the flights of stairs to his roof-top terrace, where the tango lesson begins in the wonderful late-summer afternoon light of Buenos Aires. Just the Russian and Pedro: for 10 minutes or more we watch a scene that could have taken place (less the CD player) 60 years ago, the older guy giving the newcomer an idea of tango. Imitate what I do, now let me push you so you get the feel of it, now push me. & above all, listen to the music! How it informs the way you move! The commentary is entirely in Russian: so what!

I should add that this one-to-one teaching wasn't familiar to me from my encounters with Pedro, who would always find a partner for me if I didn't have one. But the direct learning was always there. & I didn't intend to be impolite when I said that Pedro pushes: he firmly grabs your forearms and leaves you in no doubt what you have to do.
Then the scene shifts to Lo de Celia, where the Russian negotiates a milonga. It's well done: the failed efforts at cabeceo, and finally the nod that accepts his invitation, and the ensuing dances. & it's all disappeared. 

Other films I can think of that have vanished:

Maestros Milongueros, which has been shown occasionally in Buenos Aires.

There's a half-hour film by French film-maker (and architect) Odile Fillon about Tete Rusconi, which has an excellent sequence of Tete teaching in the Plaza Bohemia on Maipu: he's in great good humour, laughing, joking, flirting outrageously, and giving clear and useful advice. A couple of years since I saw it, and I'd dearly like to watch it again.

Ad Occhi Chiusi, Eyes Closed, is an Italian film, which exists as a trailer on YouTube.

Some months ago a tango documentary was shortlisted for a film festival (in Italy I think) and was available on the festival website and on YouTube – for a couple of days. It disappeared from the festival website, although other videos on the website remained visible, and since I can't remember what it was called I can't even start to see if it's available on YouTube, but I doubt it.

& that's just an off-the-top-of-my-head list. I'm sure there are more. Too bad, really: there must be around six that have appeared briefly and vanished. Of course the producers, the people who paid for them, will hardly rejoice that their product can be seen for free on YouTube, but I wish they'd get together and produce a DVD of all their wonderful short videos of social tango, of the older dancers at home and on the dance floor. (Same thing, really.) 

One documentary that has been around for a while is One Tango Moment, a charming and instructive documentary of how a couple who became Australian tango champions visit Buenos Aires to take part in the Mundial, the world championships. She goes out dancing one evening and discovers Argentine tango... After that, everything they do seems excessive, overblown. Their rehearsals of their choreography become fraught, and she wants to drop out of the Mundial altogether. They go through with it but get nowhere. (I guess from one point of view you could say it has a happy ending.)

The video was posted on YouTube by the director, Carla Thackrah, along with her other films. One Tango Moment is well filmed and put together; it has only the briefest moments of social tango but it's a revealing record of the experience of two quite different forms of tango.


Chris said...

TC wrote: "One Tango Moment, a charming and instructive documentary..."

And now there's a sequel: Another Tango Moment.

"documentaries about the social dance of the milongas – don't seem to have it easy; no sooner do they appear than they vanish"

Almost any video that plays in a browser can be downloaded using e.g. this program. Alternative programs exists but beware - some are unsafe.

Francesca. said...

Have you seen Chan Park's new documentary, Tango Your Life? He's trying to explain why Tango is different in Buenos Aires & what it means to people.
Lots of familiar faces & Milongas.
The best I've seen on the subject.

Tangocommuter said...

Yes, thanks Francesca, that's another one I couldn't remember while I was writing, and as you say it shows familiar places and faces. However, it's not really in the category of disappeared documentaries as it is available for sale and I think it's being promoted quite energetically by Chan Park: he was in the UK presenting it at a tango festival last year. Afraid I haven't had a chance to see it, but it's good to know it is available. I'll take your recommendation and see if I can get a glimpse of it!

Janis said...

Maestros Milongueros was not intended for commercial purposes.

I was going to post about Tango Your Life, but I see that Francesca has. Chan is no longer in BsAs. It was only a matter of time before his film was offered for sale - $20US or $2 to rent online for a week. He posted a new trailer on youtube two weeks ago. He paid no one who participated, solicited donations to make it, and is now selling it.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, Janis. I appreciate that films aren't always made for profit... but I just wish it was easier for us to get to see them, both the films for profit and those that aren't intended commercially! After all, if it wasn't made for profit why not put it on YouTube so we can all watch it?