At forty years old, Adrián Biniez still looks at the world with a type of boyish wonder. His guileless observations of the everyday are imbued with newness and then trussed into stories. This sensibility for details and mannerisms that can be spun into fiction benefits one profession in particular: that of a filmmaker.
His first feature, Gigante, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Berlinale. This year, Biniez comes to the Tribeca Film Festival with his second film, El cinco de Talleres (or El Cinco). A passionate but aging soccer player named Patón (Esteban Lamothe) is ejected from yet another game for aggressive play, so he decides to retire and reinvent himself. El Cinco seems like a stadium movie filled with testosterone, obscenities, and maniacal fandom and it kinda is… but then it is also not. Really, it’s an emo soccer movie about growing up in life and love.
Upon meeting, Biniez and I spent the first five minutes sharing our mutual admiration for Julieta Zylberberg who plays Ale (Patón’s wife) and who also played the vengeful waitress earlier this year in Damián Szifron’s Relatos salvajes. “Julieta is a natural,” Biniez says. Indeed, the performances in El Cinco are the backbone of the film. There is a palpable energy between the co-stars that pulses throughout, mostly due to their immense talents but also partially as a result of Lamothe and Zylberberg being a couple in real life.
“When I was little and played at being a film director, I imagined that I would shoot Spiderman not in New York but in my neighborhood.”
The goal for Biniez was to tell a story about two people who are going through a disruptive change, in this case the end of Patón’s career, but not necessarily a crisis. “Things between couples can go up, down, get to the edge of break-up, and then go back up again,” he says. “Life between spouses can be schizophrenic. I was interested in that, and that’s perhaps why it’s such an ambiguous movie.” The greatest asset of the film, its ability to explore the intimacies of a working-class couple entering a new stage of their partnership, has also been its greatest challenge as audiences are sometimes disappointed to find that El Cinco doesn’t fit squarely in the sports film genre. Still, Biniez is optimistic, “It’s the kind of movie that will slowly find its audience.”
With a chiseled physique, a quick temper and short on words, Patón in many ways represents the classic alpha male. Yet, he is gentle and even docile before his wife, with whom he has a friendship that goes beyond sexual chemistry. “In couples that have been together for a long time, sexual play doesn’t always lead to sex. It’s more of a game or a type of non-verbal communication,” Biniez says. Moreover, with Patón, he has been able to externalize details of the male psyche, one that is filled with insecurities, vulnerabilities and even frailty. “I wanted him to be a complex character because masculinity is much more complex than what it seems, and it often gets reduced to stereotypes.”
Before becoming a filmmaker, Biniez was the lead singer of a rock band, “I sang and threw myself on the floor and stuff like that,” he recalls. “We started playing shows in Uruguay quite often and the next thing I knew I was on a vacation that wasn’t going to end.” Though born and raised in Buenos Aires, Biniez has lived in Montevideo full-time for almost twelve years. However, it was crucial that El Cinco be shot in the same places he grew up. “When I was little and played at being a film director, I imagined that I would shoot Spiderman not in New York but in my neighborhood, with buildings that are much smaller and not as pretty but still my neighborhood.”