Argentine Competition

3 questions for Martín Solá

The director of Metok discusses his film, that is part of the Argentine Competition.
3 questions for Martín Solá

Without a doubt, Metok is not only the main character, but also the heart of the film. How did you meet her and what was the work with her like?
We couldn’t travel there many times because of the cost and the distance: traveling from Argentina to India-Tibet is difficult. So, what I did was to look for local contacts for a long time. I can spend two years trying to find the best local fixer. Then they become part of the film team, I explain what I want and they set up a casting session, and when we get there we start to see everyone and we end up choosing the lead. This is how I came to meet Metok. What I do think is very important to clarify is that when I put together the shooting plan I think about three months: the first month is to choose the character and locations, the second is the shoot, and the third is in case we have to reshoot things that went wrong. Working with Metok was very easy: she is very smart and calm. Before starting the scenes or situations, I would tell her what we wanted. She didn’t know anything beforehand, and she managed to do everything very naturally. Above all, she helped us a lot when we got to filming with her family, with her mother. In that situation. she carried the film on her shoulders. For this to happen it is important to live with the protagonists, not just film them. That is, eat together, sleep in the same house, have coffee, and so on. We were able to do that with Metok many times and I think it helped her to commit to the film.
What was the production and shooting process like in such a complicated context?
Many things related to production are answered in the previous question. What I would like to add is that, while shooting on location, one always has to have a plan B and C. I’ll give an example so you can understand: when we were in Sirinagar (Kashmir) we had to cancel a location due to a war conflict with Pakistan. In those moments, the importance of a local fixer is essential not only to save your life, but also to find location options and shoot quickly. Luckily, we were able to do it because we were very well advised.

Your films move away from the cinema of "denouncement" that usually addresses these issues, but that does not mean they stop being political. Why did you decide to approach these conflicts and do it in this way and what do you think cinema can contribute to us for thinking about them?
What I can say is that I believe in the idea of opening, of going out to film very complex realities such as Palestine, Chechnya or Tibet, not from a closed, fanatical and binary ideology, something that is very fashionable today. A lot of people speak as If they had had an epiphany: they think they are "beautiful souls" who give evil a name and from there they judge all of reality with "moral superiority." I will put an example to illustrate what I mean by the idea of opening. When we filmed Hamdan, the first part of the trilogy, it was difficult for me to be in front of a man who had committed a terrorist attack. I quickly understood that I could not judge him, and I opened myself to allow his reality to enter the film. If I'm happy with the trilogy, it's because we meet the other, but the real other: in Palestine, a "terrorist"; in Chechnya, a very religious Sufi man; and in Tibet, a girl who joined a monastery at the age of seven. And I think we did not film them from a stand point of fanaticism: we did not believe that our "western values" were superior to theirs. There are people who criticize my films for not reporting more. Escaping from a cinema that has a binary vision of the world for me is a necessity. In addition, with the argument of "denunciation", they leave aside the cinematographic form, the raw material with which we build our films.