How about if you could show all available tango films from all over the world, be they feature films or documentaries, historical or contemporary, to the interested audience in the cinema? The tango teacher, author and organizer Ralf Sartori asked himself this question seven years ago. Soon afterwards he started a series of tango films that is unique in the world and is far from being over.
“Tango in the cinema” - the film series with an open end
In November 2013 the international film series started under the title “Tango in the cinema”. The opening film was Midsummer Night's Tango, a humorous documentary about tango in Finland. It was shown in the Breitwand cinema at Seefeld Castle on the Ammersee, Germany. The specialty: After the film there was a short introduction to the Tango dance and then a Milonga. This combination of film presentation with dance was enthusiastically accepted by the audience, so that the monthly “long tango nights” soon became firmly established.
At the beginning Ralf Sartori still had doubts whether he would even find “more than 25” tango films for his screenings. But the more intensively he researched suitable films, the more discoveries he made. This enabled him to continue the film series for seven years, with almost no repetitions. Every last Friday of the month, sometimes every two months, the event "Tango in the cinema" takes place until today. A second location was added in 2016: the Breitwand Gauting cinema. Since then, the films have been shown alternately there and in the cinema at Seefeld Castle. If they are not in German, they have either English or German subtitles. By August 2020 there were already 57 documentaries and feature films, and it goes on - for an indefinite period!
From the 30s to today: Tango films from all over the world
The tango films that have so far been shown in the “Tango in the Cinema” series range from exciting artist portraits, tango music-Documents to sophisticated feature films. Either the tango is directly the topic or it contributes significantly to the character of the films. The first feature films from the 30s with Carlos Gardel are of historical value, while some of the more modern works boast perfect film technology. Others are simply down-to-earth, unvarnished documentaries on the pulse of reality.
It is exciting to see what “exotic” origins some films have. Countries that one would never immediately associate with Argentine dance have sometimes developed their own “tango scene”, with milongas, lessons and even orchestras. Examples are South Korea, Latvia, Singapore, India, Israel, Panama, Turkey and Hawaii. This is certainly also thanks to the worldwide spread of tango videos on Youtube, as well as the many Argentine show dance couples and teachers who have toured the whole world in the last three decades. But there are also countries that have had a long tango tradition since the golden era of the last century, for example Finland or Japan.
Film rarities on the big screen
Many tango fans already know films like “Tango Lesson” by Sally Potter, “Sur” by Fernando Solanas or “Our Last Tango” by German Kral. These have reached a wider audience, especially since they have already been shown in other German cinemas and delighted audiences there. However, there are a surprising number of other interesting tango films that are little known. Otherwise they would hardly have a chance in the German cinema market, because they are specifically aimed at the target group of tango aficionados. But thanks to the “Tango in the Cinema” series, viewers can now enjoy seeing these rarities on the big screen. Many of the older films are thus saved from being forgotten!
Detailed descriptions, images and background information on all films shown can be found on Ralf Sartori's website in his Tango film archivewhich is certainly unique in this form. We would like to present two examples from the film series here: “Our Last Tango (Un Tango Más)” by German Kral and “Si Sos Brujo” by Caroline Neal.
“Our last tango” by German Kral
This tango film is about the most famous dance couple of the last century, Maria Nieves and Juan Carlos Copes. After having loved and hated each other, separated and reunited during their long, turbulent life, they step onto the stage one last time in a moving scene in the film. The film is a wonderful mixture of documentary and movie scenes. It shows flashbacks to the couple's early youth in Buenos Aires and the times of great success, but also of the quarrel in their adult life. These “time journeys” are re-enacted by two younger tango couples. An important message of the film is that the tango as we know it today would probably no longer exist without the work of Juan Carlos Copes. The pictures are atmospherically dense, the camera work is excellent, and so the film won the Bavarian Film Prize for best camera in 2016.
"Si Sos Brujo" by Caroline Neal
The title of this documentary from Argentina is roughly in English: "If you are a witcher". The American filmmaker Caroline Neal accompanies a young tango musician on his search: He wants to find the interpreters and composers of the golden era of tango who are still alive in order to learn from them. His goal is to capture the traditional oral tradition of their playing style before it disappears forever. With some effort, he was able to convince the legendary composer and violinist Emilio Balcarce of his idea of founding a music school in Buenos Aires where young musicians could learn the secrets of the old maestros. It is fascinating to see the tricks they used to turn violins into percussion instruments or to elicit true thunderbolts from the bandoneón. A tango film for music lovers!
Tango films as contributions to the Fünfseen Film Festival
In addition, each year a selected tango film from the series is shown as an official contribution to the international Fünfseen Film Festival. This resulted from the collaboration between Ralf Sartori and the festival management. The contribution of 2020 is the sensitive documentary "Joyride with Sexteto Milonguero" by the Hungarian director Eszter Nordin. It's a road movie about one of the most popular modern tango orchestras that recently announced its breakup. In this respect it is a kind of “farewell performance”. (The film will run on August 27 at 20 p.m. in the Breitwand Schloss Seefeld cinema.)
Award-winning film program - the cinemas
The Breitwand Schloss Seefeld cinema is located in the romantic courtyard of the 15th century castle on Lake Ammersee in Bavaria. The vestibule welcomes visitors with a small café bar. There are two cinema halls: a larger one on the upper floor and the cinema lounge on the ground floor, which is furnished with comfortable leather sofas and is barrier-free. This is where the special films are presented that are often not shown in the big city. The room is also used for readings, live music, exhibitions - or even for dancing!
In contrast, the Breitwand Gauting cinema is a modern, large cinema with five halls and a restaurant. In addition to the main program, Matthias Helwig, the operator of the cinemas, shows interesting film series such as a Fellini retrospective, jazz in the cinema or screwball comedies - and “Tango in the cinema”.
The Breitwand Starnberg cinema has two barrier-free cinema halls and also a café. All three wide screen cinemas have already received several awards for their program structure. For example, in 2013 the top prize for the best annual film program went to the Schloss Seefeld cinema. Most recently, in 2019, the Gauting cinema was awarded the top prize as the best cinema in Bavaria by the FilmFernsehfonds Bayern.
Cinema and milonga - the long tango film nights
The course of a typical “Tango in the Cinema” night at Seefeld Castle or in Gauting can be imagined as follows: Tango films usually start at 19.30 pm. After the film, Ralf Sartori and his dance partner Janine Holzer offer an introduction to the Argentine tango dance. All “newbies” can therefore dance at the subsequent tango party, the milonga. Then the tango bar opens in the respective cinema, to dance to the most beautiful tangos, but also to chat and socialize. The long tango night lasts until 00.30:XNUMX a.m.
Due to the current corona situation, the dance introduction and the milonga are unfortunately suspended. Instead, there is a “conversation milonga” in the cinema lounge, where you can chat about the film and all other (tango) topics in a relaxed atmosphere.
About the organizer
Ralf Sartori has been dancing Tango Argentino for over three decades. He has organized numerous milongas and is the author of many well-known books on tango. One of his current projects is the book series "Tango Global" with a collection of essays. On his website Tango a la carte you will find a wealth of interesting information about the Tango Argentino and of course everything about the shown tango films.
We wish all viewers a lot of fun with “Tango im Kino”!
Breitwand Castle Seefeld cinema
The cinema in the romantic courtyard of Seefeld Castle on the Ammersee
Breitwand Gauting cinema
Modern, large cinema with 5 halls, lounge and bar
The German magazine Tangodanza offers various tango films in their web shop. Some of the films shown in the cinema can be found here on DVD!
We would like to thank all film producers and the cinemas for kindly making their images available.