Saladillo: An Experiment in Neighbourhood Cinema By Anette Olsen

in 17th Toulouse Rencontres des Cinémas d'Amérique Latine

by Anette Olsen

Imagine you are playing the role of your neighbour’s wife or the alcoholic father of your son’s best friend. That is what the inhabitants of Saladillo in Argentina do several times a year when they enrol in a new film production. The city has become a sort of film enterprise involving some 200 people (100 youngsters) out of the 35.000 habitants.

Julio Midú and Fabio Junco, the two initiators of the Saladillo film project and the festival Muestra Nacional de Cine con Vecinos, have created a small local “film industry” out of nothing. Fabio Junco was present at the 17th edition of Cinémas d’Amérique Latine in Toulouse this March where seven of the Saladillo productions were presented.

The whole thing started ten years ago. Julio Midú was making films with a group of people from Saladillo and Fabio Junco joined five years later. Now they produce four films a year.

“Otherwise people will have to wait too long to participate in a film”, says Junco, who plays small roles himself in the films. The way it works is that either Junco or Midú writes a script and the other who reads it does the rewriting. They will try to include the ideas and suggestions of the habitants. The directors already have the actors in mind when writing the roles; they know the inhabitants well and who will fit which role.

Lo bueno de los ostros that was shown in Toulouse is a simple film in terms of script and technique. But in spite of the amateur look, the film wins because of its authenticity and a subject matter that everybody can relate to. The story deals with an alcoholic father and the effect his dependence on alcohol has on his family, especially his two sons. Junco and Midú try to find subjects connected to the reality of the Saladillo community, and as in many Latin American films, the social, political and cultural aspect is always somehow integrated into the drama or comedy.

For Junco, who graduated from the film school of Buenos Aires, the Saladillo experiment was a direct result of the economic crisis that hit Argentina and made film production in Buenos Aires impossible. “We needed to be together”, Junco recalls, “and in Saladillo we could do something”. Junco and Midú started out from scratch, without a budget. The Saladillo municipality donated a camera, a screen and computers for the editing and the local people willingly participated. In Saladillo, the films are screened in the Cine Marconi theatre, an old theatre that was threatened with being transformed into a Church and a super market before Junco and Midú had it restored.

The films are now shown at various international festivals, and to the inhabitants of Saladillo, the film business has been an important inspiration as well as an act of solidarity, and for the directors a stepping stone to filmmaking. The next project will be a comic film noir, this time with two professional actors in the leading roles, but with Saladillo non-professional actors in the others.