Filmed in Buenos Aires in 1988, Apartment Zero features a very young Colin Firth as Adrian Leduc—a reclusive cinema buff with a mentally-ill mother. American Jack Carney, played by hunky Hart Bochner, answers a newspaper ad to share Adrian’s apartment & everyone in the building falls for him, including Adrian. Of course, no 1980s movie based in Argentina would be complete without a Dirty War subplot.
What does all this have to do with Recoleta Cemetery? When Adrian’s mother dies, she is buried there. A reader of this blog suggested I watch Apartment Zero just for the cemetery scenes… thanks for the recommendation, Manuel:
The tomb used in the movie was easy to identify, belonging to Álvaro Barros & family:
I’ve read that Highlander 2 used the cemetery for a single scene, but I’ve yet to find the footage. Know of any other movies filmed here? Let us know!
Every so often, I’m surprised by people’s interest in Recoleta Cemetery. Most appreciate its beauty as well as enjoy Argentina’s history condensed into four city blocks. And many people admire the cats… but no one loves them more than Blake.
Blake Kuhre contacted me several months ago about his plan to make a documentary telling the story of Recoleta Cemetery’s most famous living residents. Marcelo did some investigation as to their well-being & care several years ago, but Blake went even further. He actually managed to interview the woman who organizes & pays for keeping the cats healthy & happy. Access we couldn’t get in 2010!
Blake talks about his inspiration for the documentary on the Kickstarter project page:
Visitors from all over the world visit Recoleta Cemetery expecting to just pop in and see a few famous tombs, take in the gorgeous architecture, then check it off their list and move on to their next spot. But before they leave, so many are smitten with the dozens of friendly cats that have been part of Recoleta Cemetery for many years. How did they get there? Who’s taking care of them? How can I help? These were all questions we asked ourselves 7 years ago when we first visited, and it killed us to return home to the US, back to our day jobs, all the while wondering and wishing we had closure.
By contributing to our campaign, you’ll help help preserve the legacy of the Guardians of Recoleta for many years to come. We say “Guardians” because cats are very independent and no one actually “owns” them, the cats themselves are de facto guardians of the cemetery, our main character has been their Guardian for 20 years, and you’ll also become a Guardian by contributing to our campaign. Ideally, we’d like to see every cat adopted but the truth is even if this goal were achieved, people will still use Recoleta Cemetery as a dumping ground for their unwanted felines. Your donation will help get our documentary made and distributed, spread awareness to the situation and cause, champion pet adoption, TNR, and help us establish & partner with a Buenos Aires non-profit to ensure every cat will continue to receive care.
With three weeks left for the campaign, Blake’s project became a Kickstarter staff pick and was featured in the Film & Video category. 25% of funds have been raised as I write this… please help spread the word & contribute!! I’ll be donating as well as giving an exclusive tour of the cemetery for some lucky contributors.
Thanks for the support!
Update (03 Oct 2014): Very happy to report that Blake reached his goal, so the cat documentary will become a reality! We contributed USD 500 to the project & will soon be hosting Blake in Esquel. More behind-the-scenes production news soon…
Update (24 Nov 2014): With funding secure, Blake got to work scheduling interviews. I offered to fly to Buenos Aires, but he had a better idea… why not film my interview where I live? Brilliant. Blake spent only one evening in Esquel, but I was able to show him a little of what makes Patagonia special. The scenery will be a good counterpoint to the cemetery, & I’m happy about my first big screen appearance!
Update (06 Dec 2017): Featured in the New York Times, Blake’s documentary premiered at the first NY Cat Film Festival in December 2017. At last! No word yet from Blake as to how it went, but here’s what the NYT said:
…That practice [catch, neuter & rerelease] has fueled debate, and another documentary, “Guardians of Recoleta,” by Blake and Adrienne Kuhre, explores an alternative. The film looks at feral cats in Buenos Aires, particularly the doted-on “guardians” of a major tourist attraction, the Recoleta Cemetery. Well-meaning Americans take some of the cats to Chicago, converting them to indoor pets, with decidedly mixed results.
“These cats had hundreds, if not thousands, of people interacting with them, and they’re now sort of under house arrest,” Mr. Kuhre said in a phone interview. “They’re not exposed to the elements, but is their quality of life better?”
You don’t get to hear my Southern accent in the following trailer, so you’ll have to seek out the documentary for yourself:
After filming for Globe Trekker on a hot & steamy February afternoon earlier this year, producers couldn’t give me a firm estimate about the release date. I guessed October… just about right. The Buenos Aires city guide episode aired in Europe at the end of October & at the beginning of November in the US.
I liked that the segment focused on important figures other than Eva Perón. Obviously her life (& death) story draw many people to the cemetery. But after years of documenting & guiding there, it’s refreshing that Roca could share a little of the spotlight along with Firpo & Rufina. And that’s my patented Rufina casket lid slide move. No copying!
Who else learned Spanish by watching the tv series “Destinos” besides me? There must be a few people who remember the scene filmed inside Recoleta Cemetery.
Produced in 1992, 52 30-minute episodes of “Destinos” taught viewers Spanish grammar & conversation in the format of a telenovela/soap opera. Lawyer Raquel Rodríguez is hired by Don Fernando to uncover a family mystery. As Raquel seeks clues in Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico & México, the series does a good job of exposing learners not only to fantastic scenery but also region-specific variants of the language.
In Episode 12, Raquel travels to Buenos Aires to meet with Arturo. At 16:50, he takes Raquel to Recoleta Cemetery & reveals more about his family’s past. Dedication plaques shown in the episode are only props,& the exact location of filming was easy to find since there are only four diagonal walkways in the cemetery… looks pretty much the same today, except for the new sidewalk tiles placed in 2003:
In January 2012, the folks at Pilot Film & Television Productions contacted me about helping them with a new Buenos Aires episode of Globe Trekker. Of course I agreed. The idea was to show the production crew around the cemetery… essentially give them a tour of the highlights. Evidently I passed the test, because they wanted me to appear on camera with their presenter. Excellent!
The producers returned earlier this week & brought the camera crew with them. We ended up filming 3 hours inside the cemetery—much more than I originally thought—which will be edited down to a few minutes. I wonder what will be kept, what will be cut & most importantly, how I will look/sound on television :-)
Judith, the presenter, filmed a short intro first then we did a bit about Aramburu & Eva Perón. Roca came next, followed by Firpo, Rufina & eventually Eva Perón. Unfortunately there was no time for Liliana. Even though that doesn’t sound like much, we had to do several takes for each tomb plus scenes of us walking through the cemetery. We left with the security guards hounding us out.
Since I had no idea which tombs they would request or how much time they wanted to spend on each, everything I said during the taping was completely ad-libbed. And although lifetimes & influence are difficult to sum up in a few words accurately, I think I managed to do ok.
The only way to know will be to see the final result. The producers could not give me a release date, but they will send me a DVD when it’s finished. Or maybe I’ll see it on cable tv first! I’m guessing October-ish & will definitely post some screen captures in this blog.
Many thanks to the Pilot crew & the crash course about working in front of the camera!
Update (Nov 2012): The show has been released… read about it in this post.
Typical for an election year, cultural offerings in Buenos Aires have increased over the past few weeks. Incumbent officials provide a few months of frenetic activity in an attempt to erase 3.5 years of neglect. Last night in conjunction with Earth Hour, the city sponsored “La Noche en Vela” (Candlelight Night) with different cultural activities across the city. Recoleta Cemetery participated with an announced video projection on the entrance gate beginning at 21:00. Ironically, entrance gate lights had been shut off to support Earth Hour but a multimedia show which undoubtedly used more electricity replaced them.
Although starting on time, someone had made a big PR mistake. Instead of projecting on the main gate, the show took place on a smaller service entrance. Much less engaging. In the beginning, various images of vaults displayed while an actor dressed as a caretaker paced back & forth ringing a bell. Eventually the caretaker character appeared in the video, opening the gate for spectators to look inside. More vault images raced by like a passing train while a women desperately tried to escape her inevitable death. As she laid to rest—accompanied by a cat—more still images were projected. Videos below are from various moments of the show:
Even though the tombs of Pedro Ferré & Luz María García Velloso were incorporated into the show, there was little attempt at historical narrative. The timing of the show seemed a bit off as well… certain parts went very fast while others seemed to last an eternity. Many of the crowd of approximately 500 people drifted in & out, commenting that they did not understand the purpose of the show. I think an effort to incorporate information about the cemetery’s history would have been more appropriate than the overly dramatic theater skit. While mildly entertaining, Candlelight Night at Recoleta Cemetery could have been much better.