As a filmmaker, programmer, projectionist and film archivist, Leandro Listorti (b. 1976) enjoys a unique relationship to film from multiple angles, all of which are evident in his latest film Herbaria, which is both meticulous and lyrical, scientific and passionate. Located in Buenos Aires for most of his life, Listorti was a programmer at the prestigious BAFICI Film Festival from 2005 to 2015, is a founding member of ARCA (Archivo Regional de Cine Amateur) and a co-founder of the production company Maravillacine. He currently manages the film archive at the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, from which he culled pieces of unfinished films to compose his previous work The Endless Film (2018), a work fashioned out of the culture of disappearance in Argentina and its effect on film history. His films have won numerous awards and accolades internationally, and as a film archive and theater, we are especially thrilled to welcome Leandro Listorti to the HFA to screen and discuss the wonderful world of Herbaria.
Listorti’s experimental documentary ponders the care and preservation of both plants and film. Conceptually pressed together like dried flowers onto grainy images often carrying the residue of photochemical reactions, the two subjects connect and diverge as the film’s historical, artistic and scientific layers are placed upon one another with enlightening translucence. Through the magic of film, botanists and film archivists work side by side, in their various laboratories in Argentina or Germany—countries whose histories also intertwine—meticulously and methodically conserving their respective materials. Listorti peppers this mix of archival botanical films and his own documentation with facts and figures (“Since 1750 about 500 species of plants have disappeared from the planet. That is more than twice the number of extinct birds, mammals and amphibians combined,” and “close to 80 – 90% of silent films have disappeared… Approximately only 50% of 35mm sound films survive…”), while allowing the wildness and mutations to break through, following tangents that sprout up through the surface cracks. For instance, experimental filmmaker Narcisa Hirsch, who lived in both Germany and Argentina—and is also featured in our ¡Rebeladas! program this fall—describes her relationship to the plant world, and another filmmaker buries his film in the soil as part of his process. Likewise, the film lingers on the subjectivity and artistry involved in many scientific processes. Like plant species, film can last a long time, if taken care of, under the proper conditions and in a hospitable environment. Listorti’s own patiently paced, careful lyricism posits saving and preserving plants, history, art and culture as the antithesis to the world of commerce and the advancement of homogeneity, enabling biodiversity in all aspects. Organic, delicate, mortal yet resilient, both film archives and endangered plants belong to greater ecosystems that suffer greatly from their disappearance. – BG