Follow @wuba
San Telmo's Secret

by Saba Mohtasham

Photography by Ricky Morales

If you’re on your way to see a movie at Cine Club Buenos Aires Mon Amour, you probably just walked past it. It makes sense - there’s no sign, no way of knowing which one of the residential buildings it could be on this San Telmo street unless you already received the address. After one or two more tries, you’re in.

Now you’re walking down a narrow, dark hallway, wondering if you’re going to end up in a stranger’s living room asking to see “Soul Kitchen,” the latest comedy from German director Fatih Akin, only to be greeted with an expression of ridiculous confusion. You reach the end of the hallway, open the door and let out a sigh of relief, realizing you’ve successfully arrived.

This independent cinema remains one of the best-kept secrets in the city. Playing everything from underground Argentine films to European documentaries, Mon Amour is a cinephile’s dream – probably because it’s run by two cinephiles as well.

Guillermo Cisterna Mansilla can trace his love for films back to age six when his dad took him to a triple feature in Buenos Aires. So when he met fellow enthusiast Carlos Affur in their shared field of information technology, they decided to turn their passion for film into something more while keeping their day jobs. In December of 2007, they, along with three other friends who would soon leave the project for personal reasons, founded Mon Amour, named after French filmmaker Alain Resnais’s “Hiroshima Mon Amour".

San Telmo's Secret

Top: Mon Amour boasts one of the city’s most eclectic selection of films from the international art film scene, from left to right, Yorgos Lanthimos “Dogtooth”, Fatih Akin’s “Soul Kitchen” and Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank”; Bottom: Alain Renais’ “Hiroshima, Mon Amour”.

“This initiative stems from cinephilia, from a pleasure for film, from a passion,” Mansilla said. “It was an initiative designed to share that pleasure, that desire, that passion.”

And so they shared it right out of Mansilla’s apartment in Recoleta. One weekend every month, about 25 friends and friends of friends would gather in his living room and watch a film using his projector and large screen.

The plan to bring people together to watch and discuss a film they couldn’t find in commercial theaters was working – the only problem was not being able to accommodate everyone who was interested, not to mention Mansilla said it was becoming rather uncomfortable having so many people in his apartment every weekend.

“If this could work for a small group of people, why not try to reach more people?” Mansilla said.

They held the final showing in his home in October of 2008, and after a month of converting the new residence into a proper theater with a giant screen and 38 stadium-style seats, they were up and running in San Telmo, a neighborhood with a history of art lovers, ready to take on more people. One problem – they were actually losing customers.

“We didn’t take into account that we had changed neighborhoods,” Mansilla said. “The people who were used to going to Recoleta felt uncomfortable in San Telmo. We had to work a little harder to start building a following again.”

It didn’t take long to find that following, this time attracting a younger crowd as well.

“We’re happy to see new people find out through word of mouth,” Mansilla said. “That means it’s working.”

They rely on mouth-to-mouth publicity, because unless you come across their website or Facebook page, it’s almost impossible to find out about Mon Amour.

“Cineclubs are independent places, they don’t have the budget to publicize,” Mansilla said. “Unfortunately, there still isn’t a way for the not-so-curious viewer to easily find us.”

Not that they had a problem filling the seats. They quickly found themselves playing multiple times a day, four days a week, accommodating about 600 people every month.

San Telmo's Secret
San Telmo's Secret

Top: the renovated 38 seat theater; Bottom: Carlos Affur, co-founder of Cine Club Mon Amour.

With the increase in popularity, the theater focused on keeping its intimate touch. You still reserve through their website, and they give every customer their cell phone number so you can personally call them if you have to cancel.

It’s common to find a full house, with a group as eclectic as their film selection. You’ll see the members who come every weekend, those discovering it for the first time and foreigners passing through the city.

Getting their hands on those films proves to be one of the harder parts of the job. With help from passersby who bring them a copy of an international film, they make sure it doesn’t have a local distributor and sometimes have to place the subtitles themselves. They also always keep an eye out for local filmmakers, occasionally showing the work of film students from La Fuc.

“You have to support them and give them a place to be seen,” Mansilla said.

They gave Argentine director Marco Berger a place to be seen and were the first theater in the city to invite him to screen “Plan B,” his recent film about unexpected love. The film went on to play at the MALBA, still running after several successful months.

“We’re the kind of place that also invites directors to engage with viewers,” Mansilla said. “The MALBA’s playing ‘Plan B,’ but you’re not going to be able to talk to him there.” 

San Telmo's Secret

From the film “Plan B” by Marco Berger.

What also makes Mon Amour stand out from the other cine clubs in Buenos Aires, all joined under the umbrella of the Federación Argentina de Cineclubes, is that in January of 2009, they started offering classes in Recoleta.

“In Buenos Aires, there are more film schools focused on production than there are in Paris,” Mansilla said. “But for watching? No, there aren’t many places offering the types of courses and seminars found in Mon Amour.”

Taught by critics and film professors often from the University of Buenos Aires, the classes present topics you probably won’t find anywhere else, such as a course devoted entirely to the work of David Lynch. Whether you’re a film student or someone who has no background knowledge, the objective is the same.

“The focus of our courses has to do with learning how to really see the film and being able to discover a taste for the cinema that they didn’t have before,” Mansilla said. “It’s the most important part of Mon Amour.”

About to celebrate the third anniversary of Mon Amour this December, Mansilla and Affur continue to function on the same goal they had when working out of Mansilla’s living room.

“We’re training the viewer’s eye,” Mansilla said.

Che Polo Welcomes 2nd South American Bike Polo Tournament
Damas Represent at this Year's BAFIM
Ladies of New Folklore Live
Extranjeros #5 - Liza
A Day with Bandoleiro
Video Premiere for Olga's "Avalancha de Sonrisas"
Extranjeros #4 - Adélaïde
Skateboarding in Alpargatas: A Visit to the Republic of Mataderos
Chili Arrives to Buenos Aires
Daisy Gate
A Home for the City's 'Jazz-os'
"Listen Online, Buy It at Mercurio"
Video Premiere for Chancha Vía Circuito's "Amelia"
The Mixed Grill
Future Sounds of Buenos Aires
WUBA Releases First Print Edition
Extranjeros #3 - Gabi
Lulacruza Releases Road Trip Documentary "Esperando el Tsunami"
An Interview with Rolando Bruno, or How to be a Modern Sandro de America?
Moacir, For the Love of Music
Extranjeros #2 - Evy
Discovering the City Through a Lens
Diary of an Unsophisticated Girl at a Sophisticated Film Festival
Toto la Momposina, Queen of the Cumbia
Bomba Estereo Returns to Buenos Aires
Listen to: Paloma del Cerro
Border Hopping: Astro releases first LP
Extranjeros #1 - Estefanía and Paz
Los Hermanos McKenzie present "Siamés"
Javi Punga, The People´s Singer
Sofía Viola, This Year´s Revelation
My Favorite Night Out: La Fiesta Muda
Val Veneto, Making the Dancefloor Vibrate
Organic City, Pt. V: Green Guerrillas
Party with WUBA
Happy Sundays at the Vuela el Pez
Tomi Lebrero, A Voice for the Curious Porteño
Catnapp, Breakin' All the Rules
Passionaria: Passionately Losing Control with Soema Montenegro
Countdown to Universo Kerpel
Niños en Casting
Organic City, Pt. IV: Community Tune-Up at La Fabricicleta
A Street Art Renaissance
They Call Him Lolo
Pompeya Shakes Up Winter
Fede Lamas and Mónica Heller open BRUTAL
The Bondies present their album "Stereotrip"
Mind Blowing Circus? Yes.
WUBA RADIO: Vol. III - The Lulacruza Mixtape
Behind the Scenes with Flamboyant Paradise
Los Labios
A Night with Marc Van der Aa
Springlizard, Acoustic Dreams
Organic City, Pt. III: Recycled Art at the CC Recoleta
Dietrich Takes Over the IMPA
Systema Solar Closes "Colombian Invasion" Series
Viva Elástico, Pop´s Little Beast
WUBA RADIO: VOL. II - Free Music Weekend
WUBA Raffles Tickets to Bag Raiders
WUBA RADIO: VOL. I - The Colombian Invasion
On Sale & Delivering - Tranq - al - Gatas!
Sidestepper Kicks Off Colombian Invasion
Ulises Conti - Little Concerts
Lustre - A Live Cinema Experience
Late Night Bike Tales
The New Queen Bee
Hippies and Happenings at the MALBA
The Importance of Singing Falsete
Vincent Moon - Temporary Buenos Aires
Kumbia Queers Are Back with New Album !
The Art of Therapy
When All That's Left is a Loaf of Stale Bread
Organic City, Pt. II: A Piece of the Country in the Middle of the City
ZZK's Tremor Brings the Future Sounds of Buenos Aires to WOMEX *Updated!
Ulises Conti: On the Frontier
The History of Fire
Little Concerts for a Single Listener
The Digital Underground
Dreams for Sale
Be A Part of a Record Label - Support Buenos Aires Emerging Culture!
The Time Bomb
A Film from the Other Side of the Tracks
Between Love and a Hard Place
ArteBA - A Few Observations
ArteBA - Who Said the Art World is Stuffy
Tremor's Search for Sounds
Agriculture in an Art Space?
Lysergic Cumbia
Photographic Paintings
Dirty Dancefloor
Organic City
If You Build It...
Buenos Aires plus Cape Town equals Cross Cultural Fun
Unreal Night @ Aula Magna
Limbo Fest Second Edition
FeatBA Launches
Adelantados: Primal Scream Journei
The (BA) Expat Hustle 2.0
Down by Hipodromo: Illustrating Queer Structures & Actors in Buenos Aires
Tranqui Yanqui Keeps it Rockin
Villa Diamante releases "Empacho Digital"
La Internacional Argentina
Graffitimundo Opens in Buenos Aires
Behind the books: Eloisa Cartonera interview
Casa L'Inc
Zizek Club Hits North America Again
Get Out! With WUBA & The Herald
Mamushka Dogs - Indie en la City
Style Me Buenos Aires - My First BAF
Whats Up Santiago
Riding as a Collective
History and the Universe
Festival Buen Dia WUBA & ZZK Style
Twitter With Us
Chillaxeando w/ Animal Collective
Tremor Drops ZZK Mixtape Vol. 5 & Plays Zizek Club Tonight!
Argentine Urban Art @ You - Part 2
Lola Arias & Ulises Conti: Straight to the heart.
Tranqui Yanqui
Argentine Urban Art @ You
King Kerpel
Get Up on Argentina´s Illustrators, Street Artists & Graphic Designers
Zizek North American Summer Tour
Buck Hunter and the Pig City Porkrollers
Desde Buenos Aires Argentinaaaaaaaaaaaa...El Hijo de la Cumbiaaaaaaa
Gulliver: an artist at the door.
Street Food Buenos Aires - Whats Up?
Barrio Chino - A Weekend of Flavors & Images
Lines, Points, Music, Videos!
Nuevo World Order
Da Rin & Estol @ Benzacar
Zizek on Tour - Starts Today!
The Art of Todd Shalom
Sucio - Tropicore Mix
WUBA Turns 3!
New Rave Made in Argentina
Pop-Art in the Pink House
Puta in loveyou* (clothes, not sex)
Shakespeare was Argentine
Living with a Porteño Roomate - Part 2
Advanced Mixology 101
Fran Di Gianni Mix: Yo Soy Así
No al Cierre de Ciudad Abierta
BASE-V @ Hollywood in Cambodia
Disco Shawn´s Argentine Sabbatical
Refusenik Mix: Kold Krussian
Daleduro is Taking Over
Diplo @ Zizek This Wednesday!
Festival Season a Comin
BsAs by Moise Torne
Zizek Blows Out 1 Year Candle
Chau Old Site!
Living with a Porteño Roomate
Mercado del Progreso