December 6, 2013
Actor, scriptwriter, psychiatrist Diego PerettiTuesday, September 10, 2013
‘Whoever says there’s no room for debate is telling lies’
February 25, 1963, Buenos Aires.
Studies: elementary school at Cangallo Schule, secondary school at Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires.
Profession: graduated as a physician and psychiatrist from Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA). Quit his medical practice to devote himself to acting, which he started as a stress-relieving activity. Peretti is also known as a screenwriter.
Trivia: die-hard fan of River Plate soccer club.
Diego Peretti has climbed high. As high as the third floor. That is, the third floor of the ingenious, three-tier scaffolding devised for the stage adaptation of the French coming out comedy Le placard. He gives directions to the stage manager from up above, and calls his press agent out loud, asking for patience while he climbs down to the proscenium and all the way back to the last row of seats, where the interview with the Herald is to be conducted.
The French film Le placard, about a businessman who pretends to be gay to avoid downsizing (it would be a case of discrimination) was released in 2001. Over the last 10 years, social prejudice seems to have eased somehow...
Adaptation was inevitable, in principle, not so much because the play had to be brought up to date in a temporal sense, but rather because of the differences between French and Argentine societies. This is the norm rather than the exception when you stage a local adaptation of a foreign work.
But sexual orientation prejudice is not as strong now. Was it necessary to adapt the original book to this new scenario?
Well, as you say, it is not “as strong” now as it used to be. But prejudice and discrimination are still out there, to a lesser degree, of course. A decade ago the same-sex marriage law (passed by Argentina ’s current administration) would have been unimaginable but it was eventually promulgated and accepted. However, there are examples of prejudice. Take, for instance, a children’s cartoon show in which the characters are seen in ambiguous situations. Almost everyone, or a lot of people at least, will be rife with indignation. “My children shouldn’t be watching this,” they will say.
You are an actor and also a psychiatrist. How does this affect the perception of others, I mean, knowing that you have a background in a highly dissimilar — and respected — profession?
I’ll tell you this, it’s not so much about discrimination, it’s more about perception, as I often insist. In my case, knowing that I’m a physician — more to the point, a psychiatrist — journalists tend to see me as someone in a higher position than others, and then the perspective changes.
Does this happen frequently when you’re interviewed?
I would say so. That’s when I tell myself: what a good strategy it would be to let others think that I’m intellectually superior. I am an actor, it’s what I do, but the information that I’m a psychiatrist is similar to a rumour in that, even as second-hand information and not as first-hand experience, people will react differently.
I take it, then, that apart from discrimination (in a comic tone), a play like Le placard is more about rumour and its consequences rather than difference.
Just picture a hypothetical scenario about the evil of rumour: if people hear that a certain man crossdresses at night, even if they do not believe it, they are probably going to react and think differently about him, they are going to address him in a different manner. What I mean to say is that prejudice always affects communication. This prejudice, this intolerance is absurd to the point of stupidity. The social media are a very good example of how rumour works: anyone is subject to defamation, and once the rumour starts, it becomes viral.
Earlier on, we were discussing perception. What’s your perception of the current state of affairs in the cultural arena?
I do believe that discussion and controversy are ubiquitous now, lots of issues are being discussed now that were previously shut down. I think the current (socio-political) situation resembles an open meeting. While these meetings may at first start as a class struggle, they open up new possibilities to converge on common-interest issues. It’s the kind of discussion we’ve owed ourselves for two centuries. I think that, as long as everything is open to discussion, with freedom — as is the case right now — we’ll be fine.
And which are the topics and issues we Argentines discuss and talk about?
Truth, rumours, political operations. What’s really important is that information flows, even if we’re not sure whether it’s true or a lie, and I mean this from every angle, from every end of the political spectrum. There’s open discussion in bars, academia and social gatherings. The topics include not only cultural, scientific or sports politics, but also more specific issues, such as transport problems and solutions, the mass media.
Some people argue that, right now, there’s no room for debate...
No debate? Meaning what, exactly? Whoever says there’s no debate, well, I’m not labelling liars, but they’re definitely not using the right words. Name any topic, you’ll see that there’s plenty of debate, turning on the radio is simple proof of this. Fact is, not everything is black and white, not everything is about (journalist Jorge) Lanata. Granted, he’s like the tip of the iceberg, a reflection of what’s going on, perhaps.
What’s your opinion of State-run channel La TV Pública (Channel 7)?
Its quality has increased a lot. When Gerardo Sofovich was at the helm of Channel 7, it was a garbage can, though I don’t mean this as an offence to those who produced good work. Channel 7, back then, was the network channel with the lowest rating. Well, right now its ratings may still be low, but the State-run La TV Pública, Canal Encuentro and INCAA TV currently enjoy very high standards of quality. (Laughs) And I’m not referring to En terapia (the award-winning series Peretti starred in).
What does Argentina need to become a better country?
Historically, Argentina moves in sync with the rest of Latin America. You see, dictatorships once spread all over, and then they were replaced by democratic governments. It seems to be contagious, as though the powers that be, up there, decided, for some unknown reason, what the situation should be like in Latin America. This continent has been gripped by violence on many occasions, but we should say no to violence. A friendly bout is alright, but not when it comes to a matter of life and death. Discussion over different viewpoints is found in industrial and rural unions, everywhere. But violence is out of the question. Democracy is the only answer. There is no other way.