"I like the cinema that tells stories”
Editorial Clarín / Gaspar Zimerman.
Sebastián Borensztein puts on airs. Please don’t get this wrong: this gentleman is not arrogant or pedantic, but shows endless confidence, an invincible optimism aura. And he’s now going through a significant moment in his professional life: the release of his first movie, La suerte está echada, next Thursday. He doesn’t lose his confidence, not even in the spotlight, as he is, was and will be the glorious Tato Bores’s son. However, we’ll have to see if he was able to keep up with his TV show’s work, because, who knows, maybe the cinema was just a whim, a treat to himself, and nothing else. "They expect from me —he describes— maybe more than what is expected from others. I feel they’re watching over me and strongly demanded when I’m about to release something. Mind what you’re doing, we’re watching over you, you come from a certain background and you cannot do something crappy. That’s somehow present, floating, and it’ll never change. The more they like what I do, the higher the pressure. It’s true that having a name on TV helps me, as that creates expectations. However, it’s also bad, as I might not live up to it. But this will not be the case: I really do trust myself.”
That faith, he says, is the most significant legacy left by his father. He didn’t always have it: when he started producing Tato’s show with his brother Alejandro, his last name was some sort of burden. “Yes, of course, it was a burden. Picture this on television, which is a fierce, competitive media, when my dad said these two are my children and from now on, they’ll be in charge of everything. You can endorse a cheque, but you can’t do it that way when it comes to prestige or talent. And when someone like Tato Bores introduces you as the person who now thinks and makes the decisions, everyone looks at you thinking: Maybe Tato went crazy or this guy is really good. Then, while you’re walking that way, you feel that demand, those looks. It was easy for me to start working in the media, but that was the flipside. And once you’re left in there and doors are closed, it’s just like Bonavena said: they even take the bench away from you. At that point, you’re worthy just because of yourself, or nothing. And my dad made me believe in myself in a way I didn’t. He never said don’t worry because you’re Tato Bores’s son, he said don’t worry because you’re worthy. He built me up so that I could face those looks and move on. When your dad trusts you that way, it makes you stronger; it makes you feel a gladiator.”
Tato, la leyenda continúa (Tato, the legend continues), Good Show and Tato de América (Tato of America) were the first tests he had to overcome. After Tato’s death in 1996, Alejandro and him finished showing the world how worthy they were. Their production company, BBTV, was the factory for more and also less successful shows —taking into account rating— but always with a touch of quality, like El garante (The guarantor), La condena de Gabriel Doyle (Gabriel Doyle’s punishment), La cajita social show (The show social little box) or Tiempofinal (Final Time). During those years, when Sebastián was asked about the cinema, he replied he’d film when it were “the right time”. The moment came at the age of 42: “It has to do with some sort of professional maturity, that eagerness to tell stories without worrying about chapter 2 or 3, and the need to breathe new airs and refresh that professional drive.”
-The major advantages about the cinema, compared with the television, are that there’s more time and time?
-Those are two of the advantages, but there’re more. When filming, one has to catch the spectator’s attention in the first three minutes, as it happens on TV; otherwise, they tune into another channel. Moreover, the cinema has more international renown.
-Did you find any disadvantages?
-I’m still way too in love with the cinema to find its flaws. Maybe the television, being so immediate, allows you to renew the theme quickly; the cinema needs time and exclusiveness, as if you were a mother, at least for a year or two. Then, you start being monothematic and getting obsessed. But the cinema and the television are related: I could make this movie due to all the things I had made on television.
-Was television a platform to start directing films?
-I didn’t do it napoleonicly; I didn’t have a set strategy for those effects. I go by my intuition: my favourite navigation instrument is instinct. In that sense, I’m an animal.
-Is the highest risk in a first movie to try and include it all?
-Yes, the famous opera prima syndrome: you want to tell everything in one movie, and you end up creating a long hybrid. The problem isn’t when it comes the time to film, it’s when writing: you have to be on the lookout, if you’re the scriptwriter of your own movie, as it’s in my case. However, I didn’t have that temptation, as I always thought of a small story. I never intended to make a movie; I intended to start creating films. I thought about making a movie, then another, and then another one. One will be better, the other one will be worse, and at some point I’ll be able to see it in perspective and tell which ones went well and which ones went wrong.
-So you’re going to stay away from TV.
-I started working on television in 88, and I continued until 2002; it’s a lot of years. I wanted to see what happened to me while filming, and it was wonderfully superior to what I expected. I liked it and I want more: to make movies, you need time and I think of taking it.
La suerte está echada (The die is cast) shows, in a sort of comedy, the story of two step-brothers, Felipe (Marcelo Mazzarello) and Guillermo (Gastón Pauls), who are reunited because of his dying dad who asks him to make his last wish true. The two of them are going through personal crisis: Guillermo has just become unemployed and dumped by his girlfriend; Felipe is an actor going through a tough face, because everyone labelled him as a jinx. "He tries to get rid of that stigma with witchcrafts, but he needs something else. The small anecdote is that if you’re able to work out the noise inside, all the other knots untie. One cannot understand how they magically untied, but it wasn’t that way: you were the magic, you resolved something, and you generated something different in the outside.”
-In the movie, people are divided into two categories: those who flow and those who push.
-We’re part of a general pace, and we have to find out where it’s going. If the tide is against us, we have to float on our backs, and build up the strength to swim when it stops. Some other times, you see this the other way around. When I wrote the script, I knew it was a good time to do it, and I seized it. That’s what you learn as years go by: when I started working on television, I was a tank. I only moved forward, I was just brute strength, I was breaking down walls all the time. Now I understand you don’t have to feel distressed or go crazy because something didn’t go well.
-Weren’t you afraid of the movie ending up like the character: having a stigma for mentioning a jinx?
-I don’t believe in that at all: Not even in Tutankhamen’s curse or people who bring bad luck. It’s good to challenge those beliefs. I do believe some people are labelled as bad by others and, because of their insecurity, they incorporate what’s said about them. Just like that one who ends up taking the role he’s been assigned to by the group. And sure: there’s a time when every time he touches that lamp, believing in such fate, he’ll eventually get burnt.
Witches don’t exist, but there are: Borensztein confess to, while shooting, every member of the film carrying a picture of Osvaldo Pugliese in their wallets; an icon against jinx in the artistic world. Moreover, before starting the shoot and after requesting permission from the musician’s family, the production made badges with his face, his name and the title of the movie. “There are people who are really superstitious, and we had to provide them with some sort of magical shield for them to feel protected,” the director excuses himself, smiling. It seems the trick worked: according to him, the making of La suerte está echada was “flowing”. He trusts the release of the film works the same way and achieves one of its goals: gather a huge audience.
-There aren’t many Argentinean directors openly speaking about the box office.
-There wasn’t a commercial strategy on my end, even though I do consider taking people to the cinema to be important, as making a movie is a huge effort. There are people who invested money and the best thing that can happen is to have that back. What is fundamental is making the movie one really wants, but it’s frustrating if afterwards it’s only watched by only four people. If that happens, I have to think it over and decide if I’ll keep making movies or not.
-What kind of cinema do you like?
-The one that tells me stories, small or big ones. Out of the recent Argentinean movies, I can name El abrazo partido, Valentín, Whisky Romeo Zulu, Nueve reinas... The only cinema I don’t like is the one that bores me.
-In the past years, there have been several boring Argentinean movies.
-I am sick and tired of people who say “I don’t watch Argentinean cinema”. It’s as if they were spitting on food. After calming down, I think: why do they say that? The challenge of the Argentinean cinema is to make the spectator fall in love again, with stories they’ll find appealing. It’s up to those of us who work filming: we won’t take them to the theatres, because we’re giving them a color TV as a gift.