This exceptionally rare film was shown once at the Venice Biennale in 1979 with a running time of 177 minutes and then apparently shelved. The Euro-Western/Camp actor Terence Hill ‘starred’ in and bankrolled it and supposedly his agent advised him that its further distribution could be damaging to his international career.
Under his cosmunym FERMAGHORG, Birri spent more than ten years elaborating this pataphysical essay film which also works as an experimental sci-fi rendering of Thomas Mann’s The Transposed Heads (the same source for Jodorowsky’s recently recovered La Cravate). As he says in the lecture I’ve translated below, the film contains all of the elements from his earlier work (the anti-animation of La primera fundación de Buenos Aires, the dialectical, rapid cutting style of his early documentaries) and much else besides. It communes with Lettrism, Czech New Wave, Carmelo Bene, Actionism, Arte povera, to name only what immediately comes to mind. Throughout the film, Birri probes the politics and history of cinema culminating midway through in a series of distressed interviews with filmmakers including Rossellini, Godard, Nemec (in absentia) and Mekas.
Fernando Birri (Santa Fe, Argentina, March 13, 1925) is an Argentinian film maker and theorist. He is considered by many to be the father of the new Latin American cinema.
Birri was born in Santa Fe, Argentina. After being involved in theater and poetry, he went to Rome to study film-making at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, from 1950 to 1953, and appeared in the 1955 Italian film Gli Sbandati. In 1956 he returned to Santa Fe, to form the Film Institute at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral university. A year later he started filming scenes of poverty and human misery in lower-class Santa Fe. The project, billed as a “survey film”, spanned three years, and filming wrapped up in 1958. Before screening the resulting 33-minute documentary, Tire dié, Birri first debuted with a short film in 1959, called La primera fundación de Buenos Aires. The documentary itself premiered in 1960, earning Birri critical acclaim and paving his way for further projects of similar nature… read more