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Amancio Williams, the man behind the architect

Argentine architect Amancio Williams.
By Pablo Suarez
The documentary Amancio Williams, la película, by Argentine filmmaker Gerardo Panero, is an informative, very detailed, and quite engaging take on the life and work of the late Amancio Williams, a key figure in Argentine architecture and a member of the Movimiento Moderno Argentino. Widely regarded as one of the most important architects of the first half of the 20th century, Williams was also an influential theoretician who designed many groundbreaking projects. He’s probably most famous for having designed Casa sobre el arroyo for his father, composer Alberto Williams, in the resort town of Mar del Plata.

Unlike many documentaries that focus solely on the artist’s work — and in so doing neglect the human side of it — Amancio Williams, la película goes for a more wide-ranging approach. At first, much of the film revolves around the celebrated Casa sobre el arroyo, which sadly turned into ruins as a fire destroyed it a long time after it was built, and then places its gaze on his many other projects, some of which never got to be built.

Williams was such a perfectionist, so obsessive an artist that he demanded absolute excellence and nothing but. In the end, when it came to actually materializing his designs, not a lot of them were all that feasible — on the contrary.

It may come as a paradox that such a gifted, avant-garde artist who really wanted his designs to become a reality could not compromise some of his principles, which ultimately became a prison of sorts. This and other aspects of his personality are explored by resorting to precious archive footage and to a series of carefully-selected interviews with the people who knew him best — that is to say next of kin, friends and those who have studied his oeuvre. Gerardo Panero’s insightful documentary also addresses Williams’ relationship with Le Corbusier, as well as his contributions to the Casa Curutchet. So as you get to be familiar with his work, you start to be aware of who the man behind the artist really was. But since he was such a complex individual, a full and definite picture is never drawn. Which is a good thing, because this way there’s always a layer of slight mystery as to why he made some decisions and took unexpected actions. So if you are acquainted with Williams and his work, this is a chance to know more interesting facts and opinions about him. Otherwise, it’s a good excuse as any to discover a unique individual who left indelible traces in the field of Argentine architecture.

Limited release: Centro Cultural General San Martín

Production notes:

Amancio Williams. La película. (Argentina, 2013) Directed by Gerardo Panero. Produced by Alexis Abarca. Cinematography: Daniel Hermo. Editing: Jorge Gentile. Music: Alberto Williams. Running time: 77 minutes.

@pablsuarez

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