Review: Cineastas (Luminato)

Real life and storytelling play out side by side inĀ Cineastas playing as part of Toronto’s Luminato Festival

Art imitates life. It’s the most fundamental principle of creating art — create what you know. It’s seen throughout every art form out there — from still life to motion picture, from writing to dance. In Cineastas, presented at the Luninato Festival, we see just that. Argentinian theatre director and author Mariano Pensotti presents a living, breathing slice of life, the results of numerous interviews with filmmakers in Buenos Aires detailing the bonds between their private lives and the stories they create for the screen.

Pensotti followed the filmmakers from their days on set to their personal lives at home, candidly capturing their interactions to create Cineastas. What you see on stage is a meticulously designed split-level stage that both seamlessly and jarringly blend the intimacy of the personal day-to-day with the written and imagined world of created art.

Considering that the director and production is based out of Buenos Aires, it is evident to say that the entire production is spoken in Spanish with English subtitles in between the split-level set. If you’re a fan of foreign film, this show is right up your alley. For those who aren’t native Spanish speakers or who aren’t used to quick reading or may have trouble following along with subtitles, Cineastas will prove to be a challenge.

In particular due to the split-screen effect throughout the production with two scenes happening simultaneously and the translated dialogue and narration projected in between. My grasp of Spanish is basic conversational at best and I found keeping track of three elements concurrently to be rather difficult. In all honestly, I believe this inhibited my ability to appreciate the full scope of the production. Often times I found myself focusing on reading and then missing the action or watching the two scenes and only grasping the bare minimum of the dialogue.

The performance begins with a living room set on the lower level and a stark white room with a picture of a chair on the second floor. In essence, real life happens downstairs and upstairs is the abstract film world. All the actors move between the two levels and take turns picking up a microphone to shift from their character to the narrator.

What we see are the friends, associates and lovers that weave in and out of the filmmaker’s (played by Javier Lorenzo) personal life and the reflections of such in the film he’s creating. As the people in his life change, evolve and affect him, so too do his ideas and attitudes in the work he’s creating.

And it is because of this the plot of the play constantly fluctuates and evolve, with twists and conclusions that seem completely out of left field from an outsider’s perspective but within this context we see the influences beneath the surface.

I really enjoyed the direction and set design in this production, Pensotti and set/costume designer Mariana Tirantte did a brilliant job bringing this production to life and though at first when the actors shifted from acting to narrating it felt disjointed, it soon blended well. The lighting effects used to change time of day and for more artistic effects along with the musical choices were also beautifully executed.

What really disconnected me was getting lost in translation. There were times when what the narrator was saying didn’t match what I was seeing on stage above or below, or some of the language nuances and subtle cultural in-jokes that didn’t come across in the translation. The audience laughed, I didn’t know why.

My guest for the evening is of Ecuadorian descent and a native Spanish speaker who, naturally, understood all the dialogue and the cultural ‘isms’ that I didn’t. She enjoyed it despite the odd twists and turns in the story.

I’d probably get a better appreciation of this piece upon a second, perhaps even a third viewing. Unfortunately the last opportunity to check Cineastas out would be this evening. If you enjoy foreign film, world cinema, and simply the art of film making, this would make for a thought-provoking evening.


  • Cineastas is being performed at the MacMillan Theatre, University of Toronto (80 Queen’s Park)
  • The final performance is tonight at 7:30
  • Tickets are $35, $45, and $55 and can be purchased online

Photo courtesy of the company

2 thoughts on “Review: Cineastas (Luminato)”

  1. I completely agree with this review. It was challenging to follow, and too fast. I wish it was in English! I was tired out mid-way and gave up on understanding and following the play :(

  2. I’m not native Spanish or English speaker, but I could follow the show, with lots of effort though. I’m surprised to hear from you that the focus of your review is discomfort in translation, rather the quality of theater performance or essence of the content. This play is attractive, fresh, dynamic and fun to watch. On the other hand, actors are not really good and convincing and I’m left without being touched in any way with the content and thoughts behind this play.

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