by Rob Sykes, Contributing Blooger
For the film producer looking for cheaper options for Victorian England, World War II France, or even Mumbai, the railway stations of Buenos Aires offer a huge opportunity! Filming under their grand arched ceilings or outside their exquisite entrances can transport movie goers back in time. This is in part what caused Variety Magazine to name Buenos Aires one of the best location doubles in the world.
The main stations of real interest are Retiro (which is actually three stations in one), and to the south of the city, Constitución. Both are grand buildings, both inside and out, in fact Retiro was declared a national monument of Argentina in 1997. The station interiors especially, offer wonderful shooting opportunities, allowing both Retiro and Constitución to ‘play’ a variety of other stations. Whilst Once station may also offer opportunities to those searching alternative, cheaper filming options, thanks to its Renaissance revival style architecture.
For obvious reasons, Retiro station was used, though playing itself, in the 90s blockbuster version of Evita starring Madonna. However it is perhaps only recently, that the industry is really beginning to take advantage of Buenos Aires’ train stations’ abilities to play other roles. For example this coming year the station at Constitución will be seen on screen masquerading as a Spanish train station in Roland Joffé´s Spanish Civil War epic There Will be Dragons. Oscar winner for best foreign language film The Secret of Their Eyes filmed the emotional climax of the film in Retiro station (a still of which can be seen on many posters fro the film).
Retiro and Constitución stations were actually built by a team of British architects and engineers in the early twentieth century. This gives them there suitability to play British stations, think Victoria or Charing Cross in London. Although they were built around fifty years earlier, their broad front entrances and arched ceilings inside allow similarities to be drawn. Of course both Retiro and Constitución were built in a French-style, making them suitable also for stations in Paris and other French cities at the beginning of the twentieth century and beyond. Not to mention other British colonial outposts, the main hall at Constitución can easily double as Mumbai for example.
Film permits for the train stations are often granted but it is best to plan for weekend or night shooting, and to use a local production company who can talk to the various government and private entities who control the stations. San Telmo Productions has ample experience in getting these types of difficult permits.