12 Tangos –
Adios Buenos Aires



Cinema Documentary, Germany 2005, 86’

At the “Catedral”, a 200 year-old granary in Buenos Aires, an Argentinean tango-all-star-orchestra plays 12 popular tangos while the guests of this weekly tango-ball turn in circles to the rhythm. The focus is on 71 year-old professional dancer Roberto Tonet and 20 year-old dancer Marcela Maiola. Tonet lost his pension during the banking crisis; Marcela is preparing her emigration to Europe.

There are other people dancing around them, whom we follow into their real lives in the course of the film: We see the two school children Rodrigo and Fabiana, who live in the impoverished tango district Pompeya. Rodrigo’s parents are immigrants from Bolivia. Fabiana lives alone with her three siblings since their mother had to go to work as a cleaning lady in Spain in order to earn the rates for their humble home. The film cinematically accompanies the mother’s farewell and the four children she has to leave behind.

At the hottest tango-hall in town, we meet the five freaky members of the trash-rock-band „Las Munecas“, too, of course. They live here at the „Catedral“, where they arrange the tango balls and interpret Gardel-songs on their electric guitars. Tango is the expression of crisis and hopelessness, and this connection is made clear through the stories of these tango-dancers whom the current situation cost their fortune, job and income.

In 12 tangos, the film tells the stories of these dancers and their ancestors. Tango, crisis, immigration and emigration organically blend into the context. Stories about past, presence and future of these people lead us to the story behind tango itself, and allow us to paint a portrait of the city of Buenos Aires. „12 Tangos” was on show in German cinemas for 67 weeks. More than 50,000 viewers watched the film in Germany and in Japan. “12 Tangos” was a festival-success in Warsaw, Seoul, Sofia, Kolkata, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Geneva and Yamagata.


“Vibrant documentary about the tango scene and empathetic social portrait of the often unemployed young dancers in Buenos Aires.".
Rolling Stone

"12 Tangos is one of the most erotic and sad films of this cinematic year.“
Kölnische Rundschau

"Worth watching. Knowledgeable, informative and empathetic … without ever being intently didactical. Like a perfect tango, where the most complicated seems like a spontaneous action." TIP Berlin

Written & directed by Arne Birkenstock

DoP – Volker Noack

Camera – Volker Noack, Sergio Gazzera, José Manuel Cajaraville, Toni Hervida

SteadyCam – Sergio Gazzera 

Editor – Felix Bach

Musical Direction – Luis Borda

Choreography – Guillermina Quiroga

Sound Recordist – Gaspar Scheuer

Sound Mixing and Mastering – Migo Fecke, RFGH Studios Cologne, Clemens Haas, RFGH Studios Cologne

Production Manager – Toni Hervida

Editorial Staff ZDF/ARTE – Christopher Janssen

Producers – Arne Birkenstock, Thomas Springer, Helmut G. Weber

Co-Producers – Peter Bach, Hans H. HaakshorstA Fruitmarket Arts & Media and Tradewind Pictures production

In association with ZDF 

In cooperation with ARTE.

Developed with support of Eurodoc and the EU MEDIA programme.