The place on diagonal 73 between 28 and 29 is silent. The petrol-colored shelves are half empty. Most of the films that filled them have already gone home to their new owners, this time, permanent ones. In the background, Nachothe business owner, helped by his mother and sister, organizes the mountains of DVD boxes that still survive the closure of Videoclip, the last video club standing in La Plata. This December is the last one, so he is selling each film of the more than 29,000 that he had available for 300 pesos.
The first movie that Nacho remembers seeing is Jaws, by Steven Spielberg. “I couldn’t believe why he heard the music but didn’t see anything,” he says of the iconic scene that he honors on his body today with a tattoo. His childhood education was pure “blockbuster”, movies, precisely, rentable in the video on the corner. “Back to the future, The Matrix, all that raised me. A fan of Star Wars, of Alien. And of musicals. Rocky Horror Picture Show blew my mind,” he says.
He started working at Videoclip in 2011. In 2017, the owner at the time offered him membership. “He had another business, he was never there. I started to put my hand in more, to get more picky. I don’t like to bring everything because I know that people at that time did not consume everything, but rather specific things. So I became more selective “, it states.
His story is that of many movie buffs: he skipped school to go to the movies. His present mother attests that she is telling the truth. If she wasn’t at school, she was at the movies. “I always wanted to work in the video store. I studied for a couple of years at the Faculty of Fine Arts, and I liked it, but this was more powerful for me. It was the interaction with people, the feedback. There are clients with whom we chat for hours. “Sometimes it forms like a couch here. Because people come asking for a movie, but they tell you their problems,” he says.
The present sneaks in to tell stories that belong to the past. But it seems that the past is the one that is hidden, because for him the video store continues to be part of his today, even though he has to hand over the key in less than three weeks. His friends and family helped him at the time to become owner of the video, as today his mother and sister give him a hand by searching the archive for the films that people bring to the counter, this time to take home and not have to return them. They can only help with that. If it’s his real job, no one else can do it.
The customer is always right
A tall, lanky teenager enters the store asking for Nacho. They answer that he is busy, although the person requested becomes visibly nervous. He wants to take care of the boy. He politely stops the interview with Buenos Aires / 12 and helps him as he can, without remedy. Even though he tries to explain that he no longer rents movies, the teenager continues to ask if the ones he is looking for are available. “Then tell your mother to make a list and send it to me. I’ll look for them for you,” he tells her, affectionate but firm.
The teenager leaves, empty-handed and visibly confused. He didn’t quite understand that the video store was closing, that it might be one of the last times he borrowed movies and returned them.
“Many different types of people come here. Not just older people who don’t understand technology. Different people, with developmental delays or degrees of autism. For those people… It’s like a refuge to come here. It’s a distraction,” says the owner of Videoclip.
Customers who do know what is happening walk around the store looking for what to take. They ask Nacho, who tries to remember and searches attentively on the computer. “If it’s what I think… I’ve been looking for that movie so much,” laments a man who asks for a specific title. Some recognize movies as parts of their lives. “I saw this one, do you know where? On a bus when I came from Mar del Plata,” remembers another. “Do you have Cinema Paradiso? It’s my favorite movie,” asks a girl who has just entered. Someone laughs at the illusion. “That was one of the first to fly,” says Nacho.
“They’re showing this one on Netflix,” a woman comments to her husband while they walk. But not everything is on the platforms, despite its required and constant presence in our lives. “I’ll tell you an example. Last year or the other, Cobra Kai broke out among the kids, everyone was crazy about the series. And the parents, seeing that the kids were fascinated with the topic of martial arts, wanted them to watch Karate Kid, the ones from the eighties. Without knowing this, I had bought the original Karate Kid movies. 1, 2, 3 and 4. And they weren’t on Netflix. They took them out of my hands, it was impressive,” he remembers who, briefly, defeated the platforms.
The law of the word
They survived economic crises, and even the famous flood of 2013 (“as the wall had given way, the films escaped”). They not only survived but triumphed in the pandemic, a moment that could have been lethal for the business. “We were closed for only a week and people bombarded us with messages. There was no cinema, the internet was exploited. The streaming platform was also very overloaded, everything had already been seen. Faced with people’s demand I said well, let’s open, with protocols but we opened,” he remembers.
Although many entertained themselves even more than usual with the computer during isolation, those most affected by COVID were also the most affected moviegoers: older people, who do not fully understand the internet. To those, Videoclip delivered the movies to their homes. “That’s where you really felt the vibe of the video store. Because people needed it,” says its owner.
Streaming platforms are slaves to the laws of the market. They take and put titles depending on their views, their success. On the other hand, Nacho’s law was and is the law of the film buff’s word. “A lot of this, almost all of it I would tell you, is chatting with the client. Chatting, talking about tastes. Learning the client’s tastes and thus knowing where to direct them,” he says.
To speak well you have to know. When a client asked, Nacho tried to investigate, to have the perfect answer when he decided to return. Thus, he dedicated himself almost completely to the craft of cinema.
“For example, comedic movies at one point began to become scarce. Because they weren’t coming out, there were a lot of action, horror, or children’s movies coming out. And I started searching. I said, well, there has to be something. So you start researching. You Google, “You read reviews, you watch videos. All that stuff,” he says.
“They asked us for a lot of drama movies and then they never took them. Then you have them all there and you want to recommend a drama movie to a client. “No, life is for drama,” they tell you. “Do you know everything, kid? What do I have to pay?”, he imitates, and laughs.
If the pandemic was one of the golden eras, what happened? Nacho’s face, which until a moment ago he remembered with joy, visibly darkens. He is no longer financially sustainable. He lowered the movie rental too much, he needed to start selling the ones he had to recover the investment. Although he started marketing PlayStation games, he didn’t arrive either.
“Someone there is putting it off. You don’t want to let it go. Because it’s like a pair of one. Not like a son, but it’s like a pair. The thing is, I love cinema,” says Nacho.
Regarding the future, an unknown that hovered over the entire interview without ever materializing, Nacho affirms that “you don’t know what life is going to bring you.” He reveals that he would like to study something related to psychology. “I focused a lot on interacting with people and I think I’m good at that. I’m going to take the plunge and see what happens,” he thinks.
And the movies? “I will always like movies, they will always accompany me. They told me that I have to do something with the ease of speaking. Something about streaming, speaking on a movie program. We’ll see,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.
They say that when God closes a door, he opens a window. Perhaps the closed door on diagonal 73 opens a window somewhere. Meanwhile, we’ll see, as Nacho says, shrugging our shoulders. We will watch movies, whether they are our own, borrowed or from someone else’s.