Chano Moreno Charpentier —the music world knows him as just Chano— headlined the popular Argentine group Tan Biónica from 2002 until their break up in 2016. For over a decade they have released hit after hit, enjoying phenomenal success. Chano publicly distanced himself from the group & embarked on a solo career but has been surrounded by scandal. Among the more publicized cases are: physical & psychological abuse of an ex-girlfriend, attempted robbery, car accidents & being shot after attacking police with a knife under the influence of drugs. Quite the role model.
Chano recently turned 40 & is making a comeback once again. YouTube algorithms picked up on this & have been showing me older videos of Tan Biónica when then it appeared… our second music video filmed in Recoleta Cemetery. Although just a lyric video, all scenes for “Víctimas” were shot with a hand-held camera inside the cemetery & highlight some of the more famous sculptures:
Opening with over four minutes of historical videos of violent confrontations & death scenes set to the Argentine national anthem, Tierra de los Padres (Fatherland) then switches to the walkways of Recoleta Cemetery. Director Nicolás Prividera uses this final resting place to explore not-so-traditional points of view of Argentina’s complicated history. Whatever opinion leaders had on particular issues during their lifetime, they often ended up in Recoleta Cemetery almost side by side… friends & foes alike.
The second scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie: everyday people —not trained actors— read excerpts written by historical figures buried in Recoleta Cemetery, often at the site of their burial. Prividera explains his concept:
El cementerio de la Recoleta es el más antiguo de Buenos Aires. En 1881, en coincidencia con la formación del estado moderno, se lo transformó en una necrópolis: una simbólica ciudad dentro de la ciudad en la que los mausoleos de los “padres fundadores” trazan un recorrido por la historia oficial. Sin embargo, esta historia también puede ser leída desde la perspectiva de los vencidos…
Recoleta Cemetery is the oldest in Buenos Aires. In 1881, coinciding with the formation of the modern state, it was transformed into a necropolis: a symbolic city within the city in which the mausoleums of the “founding fathers” trace a journey through official history. However, this history can also be read from the perspective of the defeated…
After great debates of Argentine history are spoken aloud, their readers fade away & are replaced by shots of specific sculptures, cemetery caretakers cleaning & repairing mausoleums or the occasional tourist:
Ideologies at odds are presented more or less in chronological order: civilization vs. barbarie as defined by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento· internal conflict as a means for glory in South America according to Juan Bautista Alberdi· immigrants viewed as immoral & anormal by the Liga Patriótica Argentina·Eva Perón dividing people into those who hate, those who are indifferent & those who love ·Aramburu at the hands of the Montoneros · Rodolfo Walsh confronting the military junta· and many others.
As this excellent review by Guido Pellegrini states, the director’s political stance is made clear by his selection of texts & images. Anti-elite & wholeheartedly Peronista, Prividera makes no attempt to balance opinions or explain historical context. This bias can be confusing & mislead viewers who have little idea of Argentina’s many historical twists & turns… something we make an effort to explain in this blog & in our PDF guide. No small task but ultimately worthwhile to gain an understanding of Recoleta Cemetery.
The only other criticism would be a failure to respect architectural heritage. Recoleta Cemetery is almost 200 years old, & its mausoleums need to remain for future generations to contemplate like Prividera has done. But he places his readers directly on the tombs of their author’s texts —sitting, standing or inserted among the statues. While his intentions are good, those type of takes should have never been permitted.
Tierra de los Padres can be seen for free in its entirety on YouTube.
Although not fans of Phil Rosenthal, we’re very pleased he took time to visit Recoleta Cemetery. As part of the Netflix series “Somebody Feed Phil”, episode 3 of the second season took him to Buenos Aires. The cemetery even becomes the main image of the city on Rosenthal’s website:
This travel & food show often takes a break to show some of the city they are featuring. In between eating all manner of choripan with Allie Lazar & a Perón-worshipping steak feast —roughly after the 10:30 mark— Rosenthal strolls inside the main entrance gate of Recoleta Cemetery:
As he ponders the cemetery’s beautiful character, he also visits the mausoleum of Eva Perón. No singing of musical songs fortunately:
Next, someone off-camera recounts an abbreviated version of the tragic story of Rufina Cambacérès… which he finds particularly depressing:
Finally, Rosenthal himself tells viewers about the trials & tribulations of the Del Carril family. Hoping his wife does not wish to turn away from him when they pass away, the visit to Recoleta Cemetery ends.
First aired in July 2018, we would have liked more screen time for Recoleta Cemetery. Naturally. But in a program about food, two minutes of a 55-minute program is very generous & serves to introduce more people to this fascinating place. Thanks, Phil!
Filmed almost exclusively in Argentina, Highlander 2might be the worst movie of all time. The general public wasn’t ready for a climate-disaster science fiction film in the 1990s, nor did they approve of making Immortals from the first movie into aliens. Sets resemble copies of Ridley Scott productions (think Alien or Blade Runner) & the special effects… well, they aren’t that special. Recoleta Cemetery gets a cameo though, so we’ll have to sit through a few minutes of footage.
At 1:02 in the director’s cut, Connor MacLeod (played by Christopher Lambert) visits the grave of his wife, Brenda, who died from solar radiation exposure. No ozone layer = millions of deaths. A flashback scene then shows Connor at Brenda’s bedside in a makeshift hospital. Just before she dies, Brenda makes Connor promise to do something to end humanity’s suffering. End of flashback. As Connor talks to Brenda’s grave, General Katana (played by Michael Ironside) appears & congratulates Connor for talking to the dead.
After kissing a statue of an angel on the tomb of Virgilio M. Tedín, Connor & Katana do a bit of verbal sparring that does not turn into a fight… because their “golden rule” is not to fight on holy ground. On cue, a priest followed by a funeral procession interrupts their conversation & drives the point home:
Katana’s advice to Connor before disappearing is: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. If you don’t take it out & use it, it’s going to rust.” His sword, that is. Connor then walks off screen.
Filmed in the back section of the cemetery, set designers came up with an interesting way to hide adjacent apartment buildings: tarps covered with extra plant life. Bizarre but effective. They’ve added quite a bit of greenery to the surrounding tombs as well to provide a bit of atmosphere. Otherwise we’d see windows & endless air conditioning units:
Brenda’s tomb —which Katana steps on & damages— is a prop set in front of the Art Deco grave of Rufino de Elizalde. Location scouts did a good job in selecting this spot… Art Deco fits in the movie’s aesthetic, & this is one of the few spots in the cemetery that has perspective. The white sculpture at the very end on the right belongs to Juan Alberto Lartigau.
Some blame the economic situation of Argentina in the early 1990s for the film’s failure. Investors took creative control of the film to save money, introduced random changes & broke continuity with the previous movie’s story. Whatever the reason, at least we have one more moment of time in Recoleta Cemetery captured on film forever.
Beginning at time marker 12:10 & running until 13:01 –almost a full minute!– is the first video footage from 1949 of Recoleta Cemetery that we’ve seen. (Clicking play above will start the video at the proper moment.) Uploaded to YouTube by the Archivo Historic de Radio y Televisión Argentina, this video highlights the modernity of the Perón era but also fits in a quick look at Recoleta Cemetery.
Tombs & mausoleums are easily identifiable & still exist to this day… although a few have changed their appearance. Occupying the last few seconds of cemetery footage, the Unión Cívica Radical mausoleum had a multitude of plaques covering the entire obelisk:
As with the tomb of Sarmiento, plaques became so numerous that they were eventually removed & placed by the underground entrance or on the ground surrounding the obelisk:
Enjoy this rare glimpse of Recoleta Cemetery with no tourists & without Eva Perón!