Capturing Dance on Screen: A Conversation with Our Last Tango Writer and Director German Kral
Written and directed by German Kral (The Last Applause, Música Cubana), OUR LAST TANGO tells the life and love story of Argentina’s most celebrated Tango dancers Maria Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes. They met as teenagers and danced together for nearly fifty years, becoming international stars and making the Argentine Tango famous around the world before a painful separation tore them apart. In German Kral´s documentary the virtuosos reunite to open up about their journey, recreating incredible Tango-choreographies with the help of a group of young dancers from Buenos Aires including acclaimed dancer Pablo Verón (The Tango Lesson).
As a practising dancer of theatrical and contemporary jazz, the film Our Last Tango, directed by German Kral aroused emotions inside of me that I struggle to describe. Its execution was done in such a way, so that every shot held a meaning and beauty.
And Maria Nieves was shown to be quite the inspirational character!
Now read the interview held between myself and German Kral, who himself was born in Beunos Aires, Argentina, where Tango was born. Kral, both director and writer is known for Our Last Tango but also Musica Cubana (2004) and Images of the Absence (1999).
The Fan Carpet’s Tremayne Miller had the opportunity to talk to Writer and Director German Kral for the release of Our Last Tango…
In the director’s statement I was provided with, you mention your first meeting with Maria Nieves, did this occur by pure chance or were you expecting to come across her?
I definitely wanted to meet her, as I knew María Nieves and Juan Carlos Copes as the greatest Tango couple of all time. I made an appointment through a dancer I knew with her. So, when I met her, it was not by chance but I never imagined that María would be such a great character!
Why was making a film about Tango so important to you?
I never intended to make a film “about Tango”. The first idea was to make a film about old milongueros (Tango dancers) from Buenos Aires. But when I came across the story of María Nieves and Juan Carlos Copes, I knew that I had to throw away the original idea and that the film should tell María’s and Juan’s story. The film was never “about Tango” but about their story.
What challenges did you face?
The whole process of making the film, from the first written sentence to the first private screening of the finished film, took four years and was extremely difficult. I feel that every step was an incredible challenge. Starting with finding the right protagonists, followed by raising the money, and putting together the production and last, but not least, to have María and Juan together on a stage again…But along the way, the Filmmaking Gods started to help us. I’m very grateful to them!
Please could you explain the process you went through in gathering together the dancers and choreographers that you did.
From the very beginning of the creation of this film I counted on the great help of Pablo Fidanza, a Tango dancer and good friend of mine, who took care of all the matters related with the dancing aspects of the film. He did many castings with some of the best dancers in Buenos Aires and so we found our great dancers. He also proposed for me to work with the choreographers who we chose for the film, who are some of the best Tango choreographers in Buenos Aires. Our dancers and choreographers worked very hard in very difficult conditions and did a wonderful job. I am extremely grateful to each and every one of them.
What aspects of the film do you think sold it to co-producers, Nils Dunker and Dieter Horres?
Dieter Horres is a producer from Munich, who has a lot of experience and is also a very good friend. We have known each other since our studies at the Munich Film School. After he came onto the project, things started to flow. Nils joined the project a little later. We also knew each other from the Munich Film School and that means that we have a big trust in each other. With Nils’ help, we were able to produce the film in a very powerful way. I’m very grateful to both of them and we intend to do my next film together also.
What do you like about the Tango style?
I just love Tango. It is as simple as that.
My door into the world of Tango were the lyrics. Not many people outside Buenos Aires know how beautiful, how profound and how truthful many Tango lyrics are. Some of the Tango writers were great poets, who were able to tell in three minutes stories about life and about the realisation of life’s truths.
What made Maria Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes stand out as a dance couple, do you think?
Juan Carlos Copes and María Nieves are without doubt the greatest Tango couple of all times. They are responsible for bringing Tango into the world.
When Tango was starting to die in Buenos Aires due to the normal change of the music of the new generations, and the arriving of new music styles to Buenos Aires in the mid-fifties, Juan Carlos Copes decided he would not accept the death of Tango. Being a lover of Gene Kelly’s films, he proposed himself to do the same that his master had done, but with Tango. He then started to rehearse the Tango choreographies, together with Maria Nieves and other Tango dancers in the basement of a factory. In 1955 they put the first choreography on the stage of a theatre. From then on, until today they have never stopped dancing, and bringing Tango to the whole world.
But I think that after you see the film, you will find the best answer to your question. It was this mix between hate and love, combined with a great passion towards Tango and a hard-working discipline, that made possible that you would feel so many things while watching them dance… And that is what made them so great. They were artists.
How did Wim Wenders influence you?
Wim Wenders’ films have always been extremely important to me. His films gave me the strength to take the decision to become a filmmaker myself. I came from Buenos Aires to Munich because I wanted to study at the same film school where he had studied. I feel his films are very special and very inspiring. I admire very much his courage to tell the stories he wants to tell, the way he thinks is the best for them, making no big compromises. And I admire very much his attitude of not letting down. Either if he makes a worldwide acclaimed film like “Buena Vista Social Club”, or “Pina” or “Paris, Texas” or films that were not that successful, he always starts his new project and goes for it. That attitude is very inspiring to me.
Finally, do you already have other projects underway, and if so what is their content?
I’m working on a fiction project. It tells the story of a man who wants to leave Buenos Aires at the end of 2001, the time of the biggest economic crisis in Argentinean history… It is a tragicomic story and has a lot to do with Tango music. Let’s hope that the Filmmaking Gods are on our side again!
OUR LAST TANGO IS OUT NOW