Andrés di Tella: 327 Cuadernos

Cuadernos means Notebooks or Diaries if I get it right – written by Argentinian writer Ricardo Piglia. Regret to say that I had never heard about him before, even if his long bibliography includes works translated into English, French and German. I will search for books of him in these languages after having seen Andrés di Tella’s fascinating essayistic documentary on and with him. di Tella I know as a true auteur, that’s why I asked him a link to this film. Three years ago I praised his ”Hachazos” on this site.

How to describe the unique style of di Tella? What is it that attracts me so much and draws me totally into the film? The tone first of all, maybe, with its calmness that fits to Piglia (born 1941), his charisma, his voice when he reads from the diaries, but indeed also di Tella’s constant reflection on how to ”film” diaries and his gentle (yes, gentle and not

bombastic) surprising me with archive material, some of it ”found footage” from a collector, some from another writer Amorim, who filmed his colleagues (Borges, Garcia Lorca) to build his own autobiography, and some from (amazing!) the fall of Peron in 1955 and the death of Che Guevara and the return of Peron to Argentina. But on top of that, the theme, daily events written down in this case, some – as says Piglia – ”exist in the diary but not in the memory”, and some in small film clips but not in the memory… And for me also this love to Argentina and Buenos Aires, the city where my father was born in 1921.

The historical frame is clear and linked to the story of Piglia, whose father was a Peronist, was put in jail and moved with family from the suburbs of Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata. ”1955 was a year of Sorrow, 1956 was Prison, 1957 even worse”, words from Piglia, who started to write his diaries when 16 years old in 1957 and have kept on since then. di Tella films him at the moment where he packs down his books to return to Buenos Aires from Princeton University, where he has been teaching (see link below). Piglia reads from the diaries, laughs when he finds – in one of the first notebooks – a list of boxers next to a fictious text, reflects on how much easier it is to convey personal experiences in life when you go from the first person to the third person narrative. The camera rests often on the writer’s face (PHOTO) and his hands later on in the film, when Piglia turns ill and asks the director not to focus the camera on his hands. Very impressive and touching is the story Piglia tells – my life would have been much different if I had stayed in the Buenos Aires suburb like my cousin, whose sad story he gives us listeners and viewers. At some point he does not want to read, di Tella does it for him, their collaboration on this film is obvious, they are both obsessed with memories as they come out in literature and cinema.

What else to be applauded? Yes, the masterly precise placement of music, the dark sequence with the writer in rainy weather that makes me think of ”The Third Man” and Orson Welles, there are other sequences like that, ”film noir”, and then suddenly archive images from a terrorist attack with a beautiful text by the writer and his reflections on how historic moments can influence one’s life. Not to forget the humour!

Looking forward to see this film at European festivals, please!

Argentina, 2016, 81 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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