Original title: Centro
Director: Sebastián Martínez
Projection format: HD – Color
Audio post: Jesica Suárez
Cinematography: Sebastián Martínez
Edition: Alejandra Almirón
Runtime: 90 minutes
By Carolina Soria
Exhibited in the twelveth edition of the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema (2010), the first film by Sebastián Martínez, Downtown, introduces us to a fascinating visual and sonorous deployment from the places and characters mostly circumscribed to the intersection of the pedestrians streets Florida and Lavalle.
At first glance, we can think this documentary as a city symphony, in the vein of the classics À propos de Nice (1930, Jean Vigo) and Berlin: symphony of a great city (1927, Walter Ruttmann), that runs the center and its corners -mainly through close-ups-, providing an iconographic range typical of the neighborhood.
From sunrise, when the silence of the city still allows hearing the sounds of the port, until the morning starts to advance with speakers and the increscent murmurs of the street, we walk empty spaces that expect to be occupied: offices, a tailoring, a swimming-pool. Short of individualization, or monitoring, the characters are none other than office workers, hawkers, hustlers, street performers and beggars. Practically portrayed as a place separated from the rest of the city, the center hosts all kinds of activities in all slots. Office work, sports like swimming and climbing, evangelical churches, dance lessons and entertainment centers like theaters o cinemas, leave room at night to the underclass.
As the movie moves on, a nostalgic tone begins to emerge. In order to achieve this, the few dialogues that can be discriminated are crucial: a conversation at a hairdresser about the famous people who once passed by there and a chat at a coffee where are listed the missing cinemas. From newspapers pictures of the inauguration of the Florida Street in July 1971, that show the pedestrian with pots and flowers, and the passers elegantly dressed, the only interviewed in the film wistfully compares the before and after the street. After hearing an advertisement for the department store Harrods, the camera poetically records the passage of time, walking the once mall empty and its abandoned objects, including a carousel operated exclusively for our vision.
Without appealing to an external narrator or extradiegetic music, the filmmaker gives voice to the elderly people. Thus, images acquire a more emotional than descriptive tone and Downtown ends up being a tribute to what was and no longer is.