Ginger Gentile graduated from Columbia University with a degree in history in 2002 and decided to learn Spanish to be a union organiser in New York for The Garment Workers Union. After taking a month-long intensive Spanish course in Guatemala and travelling in Cuba, she arrived in Buenos Aires and has been living here ever since. Now the co-founder of bilingual film company San Telmo Productions, she is hard at work on a variety of different projects. While her husband jokingly calls himself “her inspiration”, motivation does not seem to be something the talented 28-year-old lacks.
What is the film industry like in Argentina?
Argentina has a well-established movie making tradition. Argentina started making films one year after the Lumière brothers [usually credited with having made the first movie in 1895]. It became the hub for movies in the Spanish-speaking world until the late 50s and 60s when many works became increasingly artistic and for smaller audiences instead of commercial and for larger audiences. Because this trend has remained, the industry remains largely under the radar of the general public.
How do you think working in the industry here is different than working US?
Here, with the same or even a lower budget not only you can go up in quality. That’s why we are trying to attract international businesses. The people we can afford to work with here will be people who have won awards for their work. In the US for that same amount of money we could only afford to pay someone just starting out. There are also many female technicians working in Argentina; in fact, half of all those working are female. I watched the making of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ [made in the States] and there was only one woman in the entire huge crew! She was the makeup girl! For me, Argentina is much less machista than people think.
Outside of the film industry how have you seen this play out?
I would say that machismo in every society is different. But, as someone who has lived here for some time, I find Argentina much less machista and sexist than the US. Overall, sex is treated differently in Argentina. It’s not moralised as it is other places. Nudity is much more common; the other night I was watching a show about vedettes at 11pm and they were showing these girls naked talking about how they put their thongs on.
Still, a lot of the films I make, especially the one we are working on now, ‘The Hooker and the Transvestite’, involve sexual subjects that make some people uncomfortable. Talking about sexuality is less common than showing explicit images. I made a film about a woman who has an orgasm in public from a head scratcher. For me, it was more modest than a lot of what I have seen because she had all her clothes on, but many people here were shocked. Talking about that type of sexual response is rare. There are many women who don’t even understand their own sexuality.
Besides pushing the envelope in this respect, what’s another goal of your films?
Our new project about slum girl soccer, ‘Goals for Girls’ does something that we look to do as much as possible in our films – it breaks stereotypes. First, girls don’t play soccer in Argentina. Secondly, these girls live in Villa 31 – one of the largest shantytowns in Buenos Aires. Most people assume that anyone living in a villa is a thief or a victim, and they can’t relate to them. But the girls we worked with are so full of energy! They love to dance, they listen to music on their cell phones, they talk back, they fight with their parents, they fight with their teachers sometimes. We wanted to show these girls with big dreams, who want to be everything from a doctor to an actress to play football. These details made me realise that they are worth investing in, and the viewer can relate to this as well.
Do you actively try to draw attention to these kinds of social issues?
Definitely, but we want to do it in a way that is palatable. One thing that we want to bring to Argentine cinema is show these horrible life situations in a funny or entertaining way. There are topics that we’re interested in that have harsh realities, but we want to tell the story in a way that the people involved aren’t victims. When you put someone in the role as a victim, you dehumanise them. It’s easy to say: “Well I’ve never lived in a villa, I’ve never been that poor. These people are just victims and they’re always going to be like that. What is there to do?”