Jose A. Ferreyra
The Argentinean writer, director and producer Jose A. Ferreyra was born on 28th August 1889 in Buenos Aires. He was the son of an Afro-Argentinean woman descended from slaves, which earned him the nickname of ‘Negro Ferreyra’ (Black Ferreyra). Despite his modest ancestry, Ferreyra enjoyed a good education at the best schools. He began his career in films as a painter and set designer, but in 1915 quickly graduated to the rank of writer and director with Una noche de garufa, a film inspired by Eduardo Arolas’ tango. Ferreyra’s debut effort would in many ways lay down the template of many of his subsequent movies. His silent films were usually based in the suburbs and built around – or expanded upon – stories taken from popular tangos. While a tango provided the inspiration for Una noche de garufa, Ferreyra’s next film, El Tango de la Muerte, was based entirely on a tango. Ferreyra also wrote lyrics for tangos which he would then use as themes for his films, although he usually worked without a script, choosing instead to develop the movie’s plot during filming.
Together with Leopoldo Torres Rios, Ferreyra was one of only two Argentinean directors to successfully make the transition to sound, and in fact showed his willingness to embrace the new technology as early as 1922 when he attempted to screen Muchacha del Arrabal with synchronised sound. When he found himself unable to do so he enlisted the support of Robert Firpo’s tango orchestra to provide the music while his wife (and leading lady), actress Maria Turgenova sang the musical theme for each person on screen at the film’s premiere.