How much do you enjoy the absurd?
I enjoy the freedom that the absurd provides as a canvas in which characters can offer solemn lines, without realizing the stupidity in which they are submerged. In that sense, an absurd premise that works seriously was the guide to reach the tone I was looking for in this story (written by Gabriel Nuncio and his father, Abraham Nuncio). When I was developing the short film, I realized that it was all about the language: the framing, the production design, the sound design, how to play with the music, where and what song to play, the tone of the performance… everything had to be serious. Very serious. Also, I did not want to create a direct criticism of our leaders and politicians, but to build a small universe in which we could enjoy the journey with the president and his advisor, leaving the criticism to exist only in the absurdity of the plot.
How did you work on the president’s various activities while he’s speaking with his advisor?
This is a president who has no political desire. He might have had it before, but now that’s gone. He is tired. And as he knows the end of his political life is near, he is now working on a better life to begin after all of this is over. He is also helping time pass by, while learning dancing steps, fishing, chopping wood himself. I wanted to be close to him, to have him pardoned before we understand his true standing on this issue. So we solemnly approached each of those activities, creating an arch between them. A little arch. In another level, through these activities you also get a sense of his inner world, filling the blanks yourself; this works not only toward him, but toward that Mexico you will never get to see in this story. We rehearsed a lot to build strong motivations to evoke the past and the present of these characters. We worked hard on trying to tell a lot of what’s out of frame, in another time, not told in this time frame. It was a beautiful and very creative process.
Where does the ending song come from?
I created it with Federico Schmucler, a good friend and an amazing musician. Looking back at it, I am surprised how easy this process was: we sat down and we had the structure and the melody, with several tracks already recorded, in less than an hour. I wrote the words in French, a language I do not speak, imagining an ode that would summarize everything that just happened. Creating the illusion that this song could be sung in a tavern by drunk and proud people, remembering the history of their ancestors. It was a joke on a joke, so I felt comfortable with that. My friends shouted the choruses along. The president, Jacobo Lieberman, who is also a musician, played the saw, and I sang the lead vocal because I am shameless. It was a lot of fun.
How much are you interested in having fun with politics and do you have further projects on this theme?
I really enjoyed imagining these characters in the world of politics, but I’m not sure that this will be my next step. I did Mamartuile because I felt comfortable with the humor of this story and I wanted, as a foreigner, to observe the Mexican idiosyncrasy from a distant point of view. I believe that politicians, in our developing countries (I am Argentinian by birth), lend themselves naturally to humor and absurdity. Our rulers are usually so far from their people that they often seem to live in a different universe. This provides some freedom when it comes to imagining a story with credible characters saying ridiculous things. But this freedom can also be found in the artistic elites of our countries, and as I want to explore morality through humor, it may be in that world that my next project will happen.
Would you say that the short film format has given you any particular freedom?
I quickly understood that the short film is a genre in itself, and therefore, that certain rules had to be respected. At least that was the path I chose to carry out this project. For me it was very important to have a very conceptualized cinematic language, and to respect it from beginning to end. I drew each shot, studied the costumes of the characters in their worlds as if they were part of a whole life. With the production designer (Oscar Tello), we include elements in the background that refer to a very studied cosmogony. I collaborated with a very proactive and modern photographer (Matías Penachino), whom I asked to do his most formal work. And that I did with every department. In other words, by my own choice, I experienced the process quite far from freedom. Something I learned from the short film, when making Mamartuile, is that there is a common ground with a feature film: the relationship with the audience. After watching a feature film, we do not remember each of its actions. We remember the characters, the anecdote, certain atmospheres and certain emotions. If the short film is well done, those elements will remain with the audience with the same force as a feature film.
Mamartuile is being shown in International Competition I4.