He’s ready to return to cinema, in his words, his greatest love, with two new projects. In one of them, he takes on the challenge of bringing the life of fellow Argentinian Rudolfo Walsh to the big screen.
The director of Illuminated by Fire cuts a striking image, his height contrasting with his shy manner and thoughtful and precise way of speaking.
In the last six years, he hasn’t stopped for one minute; in addition to holding the presidency of Radio and Public Television, a position he left in December 2015, he has made flying visits to various countries of the continent.
Tristán Bauer spoke exclusively with Prensa Latina at the newly created Instituto Patria. Some of the topics covered were; his new projects, his vision of contemporary Latin American Cinema, politics and the state of Argentina today.
What has happened since the release of your most recent film project, the documentary ‘Che, a new man’ (2010)?
The documentary was well received in a range of international venues- it received awards at the Montreal Festival. Afterwards, I took on the responsibility of starting the first TV channel focusing on cultural and educational programmes in Argentina, Canal Encuentro. Following that, I took on the presidency of Television and Public Radio.
It was a busy few years but now I am very keen to get back to filming, after such a long lapse. I am now deeply focused on the scripts for two film projects, one of them is about the Argentine writer and journalist Rodolfo Walsh.
The other is the adaptation of the novel The infancy of Jesus (2013), by one of the great Nobels in Literature in recent history, the South African J. M Coetzee.
When I met him, I told him how moved I was by that work and we came to an agreement. I am working very hard on the adaptation, the director explained to Prensa Latina, carrying the book with him wherever he goes these days.
In the case of Rodolfo Walsh (1927-1977) -one of many disappeared in the last dictatorship- Bauer, who is currently deeply involved in research, will centre his film upon on the last year of the writer’s life.
In December 2015, you decided to leave your post at Argentine Radio and Television. In that time, President Mauricio Macri publically expressed that you should leave because of your political activism. Many have claimed that there has been a political persecution of sympathizers of the previous government. What is your opinion?
Persecuting others for their political activism seems totally savage to me; I am sure that history at some moment will put things in their place. It is precisely activists who fight for a better world; it is all those men and women who gave even their own lives, who managed to change the world and set in motion the wheel of history.
It seems absolutely abhorrent to me that a president would make that public and afterwards, take such a stance of persecuting others.
One of your most known films is illuminated by Fire, the story of a veteran of the Malvinas conflict. Today, how are these issues and the current position of the government seen in the country?
At the start of the 21st century, Latin America was very actively involved in the project to regain sovereignty over the Malvinas. The goal was to make a reality of the United Nations resolution which obliges Great Britain to sit down with Argentina in a process of dialogue. This is what we petitioned for, dialogue for peace and an open negotiation.
This was an important step forwards, to receive the unanimous support of the continent, above all in the last years. In the face of this, Macri came to power and a backwards slide began.
We are concerned by the President’s declarations and the document recently signed by the foreign minister and the British government, he said, referring to an agreement established last September which set down an action plan for subjects such as fishing and hydrocarbon exploitation in Malvinas.
We can also see, unsurprisingly perhaps but unsettling nonetheless, that Britain continues to carry out military exercises on its base, including recently firing missiles.
Sometimes, people like to present the topic of Malvinas as just a couple of islands, isolated in the south Atlantic, but that is far from the case. The territory boasts kilometres of sea rich in natural resources; it is an issue of sovereignty, the establishment of a military base in alliance with the United States in the south Atlantic region. This must be firmly rejected by all of Latin America.
We have kept, and will keep fighting for this sovereignty and we are extremely concerned by the actions of the current government.
Today, we witness a reversal of the unity achieved on the continent in recent years. As a filmmaker and politician, what must be done to combat this?
When one looks at what happened on the continent, Hugo Chavez becoming president in 1999, the arrival of Nestor and Lula… I can remember, 10 years on, that extraordinary encounter in Mar de Plata. Without doubt it was a triumph of Latin American unity.
Evo Morales was there, still not president at that point. From that moment onwards each one of us went on to build in our own spaces, with a great will. We were fascinated by how these ideas of Latin American unity, were coming fruition in such a beautiful way.
Maybe because we were so immersed in this process, we couldn’t recognize the presence of Imperialism and its ‘soft coups’; in Honduras and Paraguay.
Neither did we see how a series of NGOs managed by the US’s state department, was beginning to penetrate the entire continent, to take control of social networks, using mass media to work against constitutional and democratic governments.
That’s why it was so important that in 2008, when we approved the Law of Communication to supersede the law established by the Dictatorship, a new map of the media could be established, one that would that would leave behind the monopolies and give a space to public and popular media.
It was very difficult for us to implement this because together with the media, the justice system had been coopted by the imperialist system with support from national governments.
What is the reality of popular media today in Argentina?
Privately owned media, far from dissipating, are getting stronger and stronger in their influence. Public media, after a great deal of hard work in the last years, is losing its audiences.
If one looks at the size of public television or national radio 11 months ago, and their size now, we can see a shocking downturn- This shows that what they really want is to silence the public media.
Today the media established by popular organizations are cut adrift, without support, only surviving by their own momentum. It seems to me that this is where we must invest our efforts and provide support. We must build at this stage and in the years to come.
Cinema is one of his great passions. How does he see the national film industry and that of the region?
Film holds an extraordinary power; it’s my great love and in the past 10 years that I have dedicated to television and building new channels, it has held a firm place in my heart. That’s why, when I resigned, the first thing I did was to sit down to write a script to shoot a film.
In our continent, regardless of the crises we go through, there will always be extraordinary directors and films. One sign of our times is that, new digital media technologies have brought about a boom of new films. This requires the support of the state.
In Argentina, we have very good laws on cinema, like the other countries of the continent. It’s an unstoppable energy, which produces films and documentaries with astounding force.
The monopolies of cinemas in Argentina are still yet to be broken up: when you go to a cinema in Argentina, 80% of the films showing are North American. This situation should change. (PL)
(Translated by William Parker)