Short Film: A Common Place (2010)
A Common Place
Cameras: Jennie Gubner & Natalia Marcantoni
Editing: Jennie Gubner
A Common Place is the first of four short films that I made as part of my Doctoral dissertation on neighborhood tango music scenes in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is a short film about Roberto's bar, the most legendary bar in the Almagro neighborhood of Buenos Aires where my research is centered. Roberto's bar was my point of entry into tango culture in Buenos Aires in 2005, a place I spent many nights learning about tango as a participatory music tradition and about the importance of small bars as places of cultural transmission for tango knowledge. This bar, in becoming a gathering space for many young people --both Argentine and not-- has played a significant role in the revitalization of tango as a genre of urban popular music in Buenos Aires over the past two decades.
I filmed this short with a friend of mine, Natalia Marcantoni, a local photographer and camerographer for the city's public access television station. Our collaboration was both challenging and rewarding. She brought her beautiful cinematrography to my work as her years of experience, but we both realized how difficult it can be to collaborate coming from two different worlds of visual knowledge production. Her training as a traditional journalistic filmmaker, and as such she was looking to storyboard, script, and pre-plan the film, as well as alter the settings of the shots to allow for the best possible filming conditions. As an ethnographer trained in visual research methods, I was more interested in filming the themes that lay behind my research questions, and figuring out how to build a story around the material later as the visual knowledge emerged through our work. I was also uncomfortable changing any of the settings to fit my needs, but instead happy to adapt our shooting schedule to when things naturally present themselves for good filming conditions.
Both Natalia and I feel that our collaboration, though challenging, was a learning experience and was was ultimately successful. I am grateful for her generous dedication to my project. That said, reflecting on how unnatural it was for her to work in this much less conventional approach, I decided after this film to start working on my own as a filmmaker, and only asking for specific technical help when/if I needed it.
The film was shot in July of 2010 over the course of a few nights in Roberto's bar as well as a few interviews in nearby bars in the Almagro neighborhood. My goal was to evoke a sense of the bar, the intimacy and belonging that people feel there, and the important relationships that are built within the bar between younger and older musicians.