Argentina: 20 years of the El Mate free movie and animation school

Escuela de cine el MateFor over 20 years, hundreds of Argentinian children and teens have learned about filmmaking and animation as part of the Taller de Cine El Mate program [es], where kids from the Vicente López municipality of Buenos Aires have the opportunity to participate and explore the process of making movies, free of charge.

Irene Blei and Lucía Cano, who studied teaching and filmmaking, began their labour at “El Mate” open workshop at the Cultural House of Vicente López, where they dedicated themselves to teach children how to make movies and use cameras and creativity to make their own films. The local government covers the school's overhead costs such as salaries, electricity, phone and gas bills; to purchase equipment and supplies they count on donations, fund raising activities and the sale of DVDs with some of their award winning short films.

Last October, the Escuela de Cine el Mate won the El Drako award during the Buenos Aires Latin American Movie and Video Festival [es] , for their documentary movie and project “With our fingers, an online Blog”, a project where more than 2000 children from different public schools in the area created vignettes of their daily life, featuring their fingers and hands in different postures.

The “Con los Dedos” short video shows the process the children went through, drawing their ideas, building the props and then shooting the necessary pictures. All the vignettes, both images and videos, can be seen on the Con los Dedos workshop blog [es].I asked Irene Blei how they´ve managed to keep this elastic, open-door school running free of charge, for more than 20 years:

Llevar adelante esta actividad siendo gratuita ha sido más que difícil, pero no imposible. Fue cuestión de evaluar y hacer consecuentemente, y tal vez tiene mucho que ver con la tolerancia o la flexibilidad. En primer lugar, porque hubo una premisa de partida con respecto a trabajar con lo que hay a disposición alegría y dedicación.
Esto quiere decir: se usa lo que se tiene: súper 8, VHS, un clon de PC Pentium 1 … y cuando hay mejores posibilidades por supuesto también se aprovechan.

To keep this activity free has been very difficult, but not impossible. It was a matter of evaluation and then acting accordingly, and maybe there´s a lot to do with tolerance and flexibility. In the first place, there was the notion that we would work with whatever we had available with happiness and dedication.
This means: we use what we have: super 8, VHS, a Pentium 1 PC clone… and of course, when we have the possibility [for better equipment] we take advantage of it.


Under the Same Moon is a dialogue free stop motion animation short. It tells the story of a group of friends who are placed in different cages, and their need to break free of their respective prisons, it is a poignant reminder of the Dirty War lived in Argentina. If you watch until the end, you´ll see shots of the children´s process to shoot and make the film. Click on the image if you wish to see the video.

The Taller de Cine El Mate has uploaded more than 114 videos on Youtube, both in animation and live action products, all created, produced, shot and edited by their students. They also have done documentaries in the past, like this 1988 film about “the school” but most of their efforts have been directed to incentivating creativity and inventiveness in their participants, skills they can later use in any other area of their lives.Their movies are all very different, not just story wise, but also in the skills used to make them. Check out their animated alien invasion, their stop motion clay animation children´s rights short against abuse, and their hand drawn animation of the local tradition of drinking mate.

1 comment

  • Liz

    Me llega en un muy buen momento, esperanzador saber que estos chicos son tan activos y creativos.

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