Title: Dancing with Maria
Country: Italy, Argentina, Slovenia
Language: Portugese, Italian
Director: Ivan Gergolet
Writer: Ivan Gergolet
Music: Luca Ciut
Maria José Vexenat
This is perhaps my only entrance to this year’s Cairo International Film Festival (9th to 17th November) due to time conflict, it is a documentary about Argentinian dancer, dance therapist Maria Fux, who is still teaching in her studio at the age of 92.
Saw the film in a screening with the director Ivan Gergolet, it is his debut feature, and runs a succinct 75 minutes, opening shot catches the moment when a laser light stunt is implemented in the city centre of Buenos aires. Then the film segues gently into the studio of Maria, already a nonagenarian, with a room full of her classmates, starts her lesson; meanwhile supplements with black and white archives encapsulate her back story and illustrious career path.
Yet, as Ivan discussed in the Q&A afterwards, the film’s main subject matter surprisingly is not about Maria Fux, the living national treasure, whose life experiences certainly are worthy of a screen adaptation. We never see her outside her studio, the talking-head interviews are conducted cursorily so that it leaves much of the space for the participants involved, namely Maria’s students, almost women exclusively, especially those who are with physical and mental disabilities, ranging from handicap, blindness, deafness to Down’s syndrome.
There is no sensational background stories behind these selected targets, they are common people who are manifestly engaged in Maria’s metaphysical edification and submerged into the oneiric realm of self-emancipation from their defects. Unusually, there are no verbosity in oration neither about Maria’s great achievements, nor about her students’ admiration for her methods and charisma, instead Gergolet employs his camera to intimately observe the movements of the class, slithering and prowling with an equally lithesome choreography as the collective moving along together in a quasi-hypnotised enchantment. Under the tutelage of Maria, dancing becomes an extremely personal voyage mystically beckons eternal exploration and most importantly, it is for every and each one, a soul-soothing ritual both aesthetically spellbounding and spiritually fulfilling.
The film compellingly ends with a five-minute arranged choreographic parade on the street and the camera fixated on the balcony of Maria’s office where stands for her own direct angle, with Maria’s students and volunteers galore to salute Maria’s legacy, the vivacious and polychromatic spectacle renders a stunning awesomeness and pays the perfect homage to Maria and the magic of dance!