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If you’re not familiar with the intricacies of Argentine slang, you’re likely to miss the clever bit of wordplay in the Spanish title of Una Banda de Chicas, Marilina Giménez’s vivid portrait of the Buenos Aires underground music scene (now available on Amazon Prime Video as well as the free streaming platform Cine.Ar Play). “Una banda” translates both to “a band” and “a large group of.” In this sense, it’s the perfect title for a film that seeks to capture the plurality of women’s musical movements in Argentina.
The documentary is a fascinating portrait-by-collage of the porteño underground scene, with artists such as Las Taradas, She-Devils, Ibiza Pareo, Chocolate Remix, Miss Bolivia and many others appearing in footage recorded over the course of a decade. And in addition to exposing various types of feminism and examining what it means to be “a girl band,” the documentary captures some truly incredible musical performances.
Una Banda de Chicas is an extremely tactile, sensory experience, conveying the overall feel of the concert experience better than any large production I have seen. It serves as an exploration of different ideological stances regarding female identity in Argentine music, as well as a wonderful introduction to the independent music scene in Buenos Aires.
We had the opportunity to speak with Marilina Giménez, the film’s director, about the process of creating the film and the ideas it explores. A translated version of our conversation is below.
La La Lista: How did you go about finding a narrative core for the film when it encompasses so much?
Marilina Giménez: It was a process that took several years. It first arose as an observation when I was playing in a band, and I started noticing that things were happening that were not only happening to us, but in a more general way. It had to do with gender identity and sexuality — women, lesbians, and trans people, we share certain complications when it comes to doing what we want, when that happens to be a little different from the places that society has for us.
When I was playing in Yilet, we started recording our shows. And when they started to group us with other bands, I thought “ah, there’s so many of us,” and I started filming the other bands as well. And from there came the question of well, if there are so many of us, why aren’t we on the radio? Why aren’t we on TV? Why aren’t we on the music channels? It was difficult to book shows and when we did, we were grouped with other girl bands. Then, these questions started to appear: is “girl band” a genre?
At some point I realized that I had a lot of material, and I thought “I want to make a documentary that explores this.” As you said, it’s very broad. At some point I had begun to investigate the history of women in music, how they had appeared in the 80s, especially linked to democracy in Argentina. Then in the 90s, with the riot girl movement and a certain punk scene. But at some point, I started to focus on that moment in time, the moment that the film covers. I started filming in 2010 and finished it in 2018.
Also as I was making the film and the feminist movements in Argentina began to grow, it became increasingly clear that the film was going to have a choir structure, portraying what was happening, what was happening in the streets, what was happening in the marches and what was also happening in the music.
LLL: Given the enormity of this topic, have you ever entertained the idea of creating a sequel or expanding the vision, trying to find another way to explore similar scenes?
MG: The truth is that what happened to me in so many years of process and recording, I got exhausted, I thought “no, I’m not going to film more bands”. The last thing I wanted to do was to continue with that. But actually, after the premiere in Mar del Plata, a band that I didn’t know and that had been part of the festival contacted me. They were some girls who were art directors of a film that also premiered in Mar del Plata and decided to play a few dates there. So I recorded them, and there is a bonus track of Una Banda de Chicas that is in the middle of that.
Also thinking about this more collective aspect of feminism, it seems to me that it is good that there are different visions about the scenes and that different people can create them. At one point some girls from the north had told me that they were also making a record of some bands, of a whole movement that existed in Jujuy and Salta, and I think Tucumán too, more related to folklore, which seemed incredible to me. I, for example, do not talk about folklore, because it is not my scene. The way we relate to folklore is more like from a place of rejection, because, in a certain context, you are pushed towards having this clear, sweet, soft voice. This idea that if you are a girl, you must play folklore or dance folklore, are things that for me would not be disruptive. But I understand that in another context it is disruptive. It is also not so good to generalize about genres. In fact, the film talks a little bit about that, how each of these bands takes a genre and appropriates it and makes it into a girl band too.
LLL: The film has a very defined aesthetic identity, it’s very tactile. The nightclubs, the lights, the asphalt, it’s like there is an audiovisual identity represented very clearly in the film. Did you think of it that way?
MG: I studied image and sound design. And I think what I got the most out of that career is its treatment of the sensory and design, not so much the narrative. So I’m always thinking about that: in the shapes, in the colors. I knew I was going to make a music film, so it had to sound good, you have to understand what they say, we mixed in 5.1. The film is designed for cinema, all the things that the small subsidy we got from INCAA was not enough to cover in post-production, so we made sure to capture them well.
I had the idea that the film would take place entirely at nighttime, but it didn’t turn out that way, there are some daytime parts. I like the idea of trying to transmit a bit of the essence of each band. They are not filmed the same, each show has its own quirk. The whole aesthetic design was well thought out, even though later on, well, in practice, accidents will happen. I kind of knew it was going to be messy, because of the way the film was shot, due to shooting over a decade, due to shooting whenever we had the chance. This was recorded on three different cameras. But it’s also a little bit about trying to record diversity. It’s like a collage.
LLL: There is some tension throughout the film about the definition of “girl band.” Some say “if there’s a man there, even if he’s in the back playing drums, it doesn’t count as a girl band.” Others say “it doesn’t matter if there are boys, what matters is the name on the top.” Is that plurality part of what you wanted to show?
MG: Just as each band plays different songs, at some point I wanted different types of feminism to be represented. Not to force situations, because I could have easily avoided that dissonance and tried to focus on unity. But no, we are going to show you those differences. They all come from different places, even though we share the same stage. And also sometimes there’s a difference between recording an interview in 2015, and it’s another thing to record it now. In some occasions there was a change of mind around what they were saying and in others not. In fact, what I did a few times was to record things back, to reaffirm if they still stood by their original statements, to see if those comments were going to go or not, so that when the movie came out, it would feel like an accurate representation and not something outdated. It’s interesting to me to leave the audience thinking, “well, does it count as a girl band or not?”
LLL: The film is now available to stream on Amazon Prime throughout Latin America. Or is it just in Argentina?
MG: Yes, Prime Latin America. That was the good news last year, because the film had been touring Europe in 2019, we were in a few festivals, in the USA, in different places in Latin America, including Mexico. But because of COVID a lot of plans had to be suspended and I was really sad about it, because in Latin America is where I feel that the film was less seen and where it had made the least impact. And in the middle of last year Amazon bought the film from us. I didn’t want to say anything until it was final. They finally put it up and in December.
The film is also available to stream on CineAr, for those who are not on Amazon. CineAr is free, you open the account and that’s it. The only difference between [the versions on] CineAr and Amazon is that the Amazon copy is really high quality and in CineAr they ask for an export in 25 and the film was not shot in 25, it was shot I think in 29 or 30. If you have both possibilities, it’s best to watch it on Amazon.