Matteo Gariglio is a Swiss photographer and documentary filmmaker who made En La Boca; a heartbreaking and deeply moving story that appears to be about the dark side of soccer, but is really about much more than that. For 25 minutes, Matteo shows us a family that resides very close to the Boca Juniors stadium in Buenos Aires and practically live off of selling fake tickets for the games. They’re obligatorily a part of a corrupt system in order to survive.
Going into “La Boca” of one of the least safe neighborhoods in the city, Matteo manages to shape up a visual portrait of darkness and, at the same time, the daily joys that this family lives. It faithfully portrays its characters and their reality, where they implicitly cease to be characters and become friends and family.
Why did you decide to do your documentary in La Boca, was soccer your inspiration?
It was a very spontaneous project I didn’t really plan on seeking out this topic. I’m very interested in soccer, but it really came about because I was living half a year in Buenos Aires, very close to La Boca and I started to take pictures during the day -that’s how I do research on the films I make, I take pictures-. I took photos of some fans at Boca Juniors and one day there was a game and they sold me a fake ticket to the stadium. I ran into them several times and began a friendship, they always took me around and then I found it this family ran the ticket business and that’s how I knew I wanted to make a film about them.
It was generally about letting things happen and telling their story. It started out as a photo project and I don’t think I would have been able to do it if I had planned it out, it just happened and then it was very spontaneous. I called a very good friend, he came and we started to shoot right away.
How difficult was it to approach the family?
It was a lot of work. We didn’t know if we’d be able to shoot at the beginning, but when I told them about the film, the father, whom I met first, he said yes one day and no the next. When I met the head of the family, the mother, she was the one who gave me the green light and from there on out it was incredible. We got very close.
How have people reacted to your documentary?
Interestingly, people always ask me if it’s a documentary or if it’s fiction. I shot it in an objective way and we also made a lot of things happen, but the protagonist is always very natural; he let us get close, I think that’s what makes it so believable. There are scenes where you think, how did they do it? I think the main ingredient was really that we became friends with the family, I began to care for them and spent time with them shooting and creating that bond.
In a way they adopted us as a part of the family for that time that we were there with them and I feel they also appreciated that we were there.
How did you come to Buenos Aires, artistically speaking?
The first time I went I just visited and was there for two or three years before shooting. I went to the Sao Paulo International Film Festival, travelled a bit and I had always wanted to live in Buenos Aires. I don’t know why, but it always caught my eye. I worked in projects for hire and I couldn’t start doing documentaries and one day I decided to leave my job and go to Buenos Aires. In some way it helped me leave that world and do my own work, so I began this project.
How long was the process of the documentary?
We shoot the film for eight days, but the project as a whole took four years, because I shot something and then some bad things happened. I don’t want to spoil it, but my protagonist died and it was very difficult for me to continue, and I was studying again, but by the end, two years later, I finished it.
What do you think about soccer fandom in Buenos Aires and Argentina and what message do you want to transmit in your documentary?
I think in some way, La Boca is a portrayal of what’s going on in Argentina. There’s a lot of corruption in soccer cups and fan clubs. It’s not just in terms of soccer, it’s drugs and survival, so the fact that there’s so much corruption reflects upon the tickets for the games and how everything is managed within the stadium. This is where the tragedy is and for the fans, the club is the only thing they can hold on to. They have no perspective, no hope, they live and die for this.
For me it was important to show that state of not being able to do anything. When you’re in poverty, without that perspective, you’re a part of a corrupt system and you need it to survive and at the same time, this system is destroying you. The weakest links in the chain are always the ones who suffer the most, especially in this system, the poor people. I wanted to show that, not being able to get out of there, it’s a vicious cycle and I’m very grateful to the family. It was an incredible experience to get close to them and be their friend.