San Francisco Chronicle Joshua Dylan Mellars 1

North Bay filmmakers take viewers ‘on the road’ at Orinda Film Festival

San Francisco Chronicle
(Excerpt from article)

Today, 30 years later, the North Bay is home to veteran filmmakers such as Parinello and Antonelli and a rising generation of new independent documentary makers, personified by Sonoma County filmmaker Joshua Dylan Mellars, 29.

Mellars’ documentary on tango in Argentina, “Tango Illusions,” and two documentaries by Parinello and Antonelli, “Global Focus — The New Environmentalists” and “Angle of Inspiration,” will be showing next weekend at the Orinda Film Festival….

Unlike Antonelli and Parinello, who traveled west, Mellars traveled south on a seven-year odyssey in South America to film “Tango Illusions.”

“My tango documentary took me to some strange places,” Mellars said. “Some roads led toward my goal. Some were detours. But I learned something from all the places I traveled — the heavy crude fields of the Orinoco, the lobby of Vienna’s Intercontinental Hotel, the street fighting in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo, the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema …” Mellars said.

When Mellars arrived in Buenos Aires, tango’s mecca, he found “beautiful architecture, European-style cafes and tea rooms. … Some of the most cultured and articulate people in the world.”

But there were also signs of social unrest. There were nightly marches to the Plaza de Mayo, drums rolling, pots banging. Shirtless demonstrators wielded slingshots and paving stones, blocking roads and setting cars on fire.

“The political situation was changing rapidly,” Mellars said. “Every week I had to learn the name of a new president.”

While filming his documentary, Mellars covered the crisis as a journalist for United Press International (UPI), and broadcast radio reports for the BBC and the “Marketplace” show for National Public Radio.

Mellars’ documentary has already had a Bay Area screening, a standing-room-only showing this summer at the 19th Wine Country Film Festival.

“I learned that life in Argentina can be as precarious as dancing tango,” Mellars said in an interview after that showing. “And that politics plays a big part in Argentine culture. I don’t think you can begin to understand the tango, without knowing something about the culture.

During the turmoil in Argentina, the milonga (tango dance hall) remained a good place to escape reality, a fantasy world of dance, said Mellars. In “Tango Illusions,” a young dancer explains that sometimes dancing with a stranger makes you feel as if you’ve met the love of your life. When the music stops, the illusion often disappears.

“But those three minutes dancing, that tango ‘illusion,’ can be as real as the everyday life outside the milonga,” Mellars said.

It is the interplay between illusion and reality that makes the works of North Bay documentary filmmakers Mellars, Antonelli, Parinello and Abbe compelling to watch. What they create on film takes us “on the road” to see real places, meet real people and confront real problems.