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Manuel Martín Cuenca • Director

“Thanks to Netflix, more people will be able to enjoy my film”


- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2017: Spain's Manuel Martín Cuenca makes a fresh bid for the Golden Shell with The Motive, winner of the FIPRESCI prize at the recent Toronto International Film Festival

Manuel Martín Cuenca • Director
(© Pablo Gómez / Festival de San Sebastián)

The work of Manuel Martín Cuenca (Almería, 1964) has graced the San Sebastián International Film Festival on four occasions now: Cannibal [+see also:
film review
interview: Manuel Martín Cuenca
film profile
was selected for the official competition in 2013, as was Hard Times back in 2005, while two years before that The Weakness of the Bolshevik was featured in the Zabaltegi section. Now, in the festival’s 65th year, he’s taking another run at the Golden Shell with The Motive [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Manuel Martín Cuenca
film profile
, adapted from the novel of the same name by Javier Cercas. The film was recently presented with the International Critics’ Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (see news).

Cineuropa: Besides the FIPRESCI prize, what sort of reception did The Motive have among audiences and buyers in Toronto?
Manuel Martín Cuenca: The film will be shown in most parts of the world, because it’s been bought by Netflix, although we still haven’t covered Asia. It’s also been selected for the Busan International Film Festival, which is the gateway to the rest of the continent, and we hope to close some deals there. In Spain and Mexico, it will be released in cinemas — there are a lot of changes under way in the film scene and cinemas are closing all over the place. Netflix will help us get the film seen by lots of people, in distant countries and even in certain Spanish cities where you don’t tend to find this kind of film.

How and why did the co-production arrangement with Mexico come about — was it to do with having two Mexican actors?
In the screenplay there were characters who were immigrants, who could have been of a number of different nationalities, but I specifically wanted to work with those two actors, Adriana Paz and Tenoch Huerta. Once they were on board with the project we sought out a Mexican co-producer; then in Cannes we established the contacts we needed and closed the deal.

You’ve dedicated the film to Josetxo Moreno, the late distributor and co-founder of Golem.
Yes. Besides the fact that he was a great friend of mine, I want to pay tribute to the figure of the distributor, because Golem co-produced Hard Times and distributed Half of Oscar [+see also:
making of
film profile
when I was starting out as a producer and other companies weren’t interested. For me, they’re like family; I’m very fond of everyone at Golem. I accredit his name because I think he had a great impact on filmmaking in Europe. I only wish he could have lived to see The Motive.

People will be surprised to find you leading a revival of the work of singer José Luis Perales, who composed the music for the film.
In that respect, I like to go against the grain. Spain has so little loyalty, because Perales is a master of melody and composed hundreds of incredible songs for artists like Miguel Bosé and Jeanette — it was him who wrote ¿Por qué te vas? for Carlos Saura’s film, Cría Cuervos. It’s hard to understand how someone held in such high esteem outside the country doesn’t get so much appreciation here. He managed to write popular lyrics that resonated with people. I was looking for a musician who wasn’t too conventional, someone from outside the film world, and that’s how I discovered that the song Se me enamora el alma, which is mentioned in the script, was one of his. I overcame my preconceptions and decided to approach him about composing the score.

Listening is a very important theme in the film’s plot.
I’m really interested in sound — not so much what you can see as what you can hear, which can often be of greater dramatic interest. I like to work with the space beyond the camera, because viewers know that when they’re watching a horror film and there’s lots of blood, that’s fake. But when you don’t see it, you have to draw on your own memories and imagination, and your own demons start to come out. Suddenly, it’s the depiction of what you don’t see that feels real. That’s why it’s much less disturbing to watch a film that’s full of gore than something by Michael Haneke, or my own film Cannibal.

(Translated from Spanish)

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