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Gustavo Santaolalla Masterclass (11/21/2008)




Gustavo Santaolalla, the renowned Argentinian composer who has been twice awarded with the Oscar for Best Music, spoke about the way he approaches film musically, about his life and about the way he went into the music industry, during the masterclass he gave on Friday November 21st, at the John Cassavetes theatre.

TIFF director Despina Mouzaki introduced Gustavo Santaolalla to the public saying he is the most important Argentinian music composer. "Gustavo Santaolalla can make a hit with a remarkable ease. His concerts are sold out, with his amazing scores for some of the most unforgettable recent films, like Babel, The Motorcycle Diaries, Brokeback Mountain and 21 Grams. Gustavo Santaolalla is a composer who keeps working with an incredible passion and warmth, and is being driven by his need to offer us the music he has inside of him".

Gustavo Santaolalla spoke at first about the choices he's made in his life from a young age, that have determined his course in the music, production and composing fields, revealing to the audience that he never had a formal knowledge of composition. "When I was 10 years old, my music teacher gave up on me, because, as she told my mother, I had a great talent in listening and understanding music, but not in music theory. From then on, I'd write my own songs forming small bands. Music had close ties to my spiritual quests. I turned to eastern religions and spent some time living in a commune. I knew though that I wanted to devote my life to music".

The political upheavals in Argentina and his own personal quests led Gustavo Santaolalla to leave his country in 1978. He moved to Los Angeles, where he started working as a producer in the music industry. Later on, he created his own record company achieving the recognition he was longing for, while at the same time he was recording the music he'd write for himself. The first soundtrack he did was for the film She dances alone by Robert Dornhelm. "I liked to write music based on the script and the discussions I would have with the filmmaker, and not after the film was shot. I thus form some impressions in my mind and then turn them into a melody, which is then developed into the final composition. After having seen the film I might elongate or cut some pieces short, like I did for Brokeback Mountain".

According to his opinion, music should be used sparingly, since it can destroy or improve a scene. "I don't like films where there's music from beginning to end. The use of pauses is extremely important because silence has the power to ‘draw' the viewer inside the film".

For the music score of the documentary Café de los Maestros, Gustavo Santaolalla said: "Tango was everywhere around us in Argentina. My father was singing tango tunes every morning, we'd hear it on the radio, it's in my genes. I have always had great respect for this music, which is a popular but at the same time a very complex music form. I knew that at some point in my life I'd give in to its magic. I felt like it was waiting for me. Some people compare Café de los Maestros to Buena Vista Social Club, a film that I love, but they have many differences between them".

Santaolalla is currently working on the music score of two new films, Biutiful by Alejandro González Iñárritu and On the Road by Walter Salles. "Biutiful is a very humane story, which is being shot in Barcelona. I went there and recorded Chinese, African and gypsy musicians, who played gospel music. It was an incredible experience. I collect these elements and then go to the neighbourhoods where the shooting will take place and in some way this will all be reflected on the film. On the Road is different, but a great challenge too. It's a very difficult project because the beat generation listened to a lot of jazz, like Charlie Parker's music".


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About Thessaloniki

Mcmahon Vanessa

Vanessa McMahon Covered the 13th and 14th, and 16th edition.
Catherine Esway has covered the 12th edition of Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
Cécile Rittweger covered the  11th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Christine Marik's reported from 49th Thessaloniki International Film Festival
Past coverage from the 10th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival by Bruno Chatelin.

Through its tributes, it focuses both on discovering filmmakers with a unique cinematic point of view, and on the internationally recognized for their contribution to documentary.

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