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BLACK NIGHTS 2020 Competition

Jo Sol • Director of Armugan

“Accompanying my father at the end of his life was the inception of this path”

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- We took the opportunity to chat with Jo Sol about Armugan, one of the titles playing in main competition at this year’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Jo Sol • Director of Armugan

Cineuropa had the chance to speak with Spain’s Jo Sol, director of Armugan [+see also:
trailer
interview: Jo Sol
film profile
]
, one of the main competition films presented at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. The story revolves around the titular man, played by Íñigo Martínez. Armugan has a disability that strongly hinders his movements and lives in the mountains, accompanied by the vast sky, the sheep and a personal aide, Ánchel (Gonzalo Cunill), who has worked in the palliative care unit at a hospital. When someone calls for Armugan, Ánchel helps him down the mountain and leads him to the person who requires his assistance. Armugan is a “finisher” — in other words, he has the skills and knowledge to help those who are dying — which is why people are afraid of him, as they sense that he knows something they do not.

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Cineuropa: First of all, when and how did you kick off the project?
Jo Sol:
In 2018 I was in Cuba preparing a film, a comedy with music and plenty of colour. I came to Barcelona for Christmas to greet my family. My father fell ill and after 40 nights he died at home, in peace, in my arms. It was a brutal and luminous experience at the same time, full of deep revelations. My previous project no longer made sense and I set myself to reflect and write about my experience focusing on the collective need to look death in the face, to be prepared to live up to one of the most transcendent moments of life.

The film is rich in silences and possesses a sort of peculiar magic realism. How did you work on writing the story and building the characters’ world?
I see an observational approach rather than magic realism, at least this was my intention. My character is the result of a set of alien experiences, and in turn the observation of nature, of reality, of all those changes that compound it. Armugan has no time for words, because he has all his existence to document those changes, to be alert to the mindful details. He abstracts himself from the noise of the world to penetrate into the present moment and to reveal its impermanent nature. This gives him his natural wisdom; his empathy for all that is alive, visible or invisible.

What was the biggest challenge on set?
I could refer to any of the artistic challenges that involve the ambition of representing situations as simple and at the same time as complex as those that Armugan poses. Honestly, the riskiest thing was to keep my protagonist safe. Iñigo, my lead actor, came from a life-or-death open brain operation, but for him, this film represented much more than one more job. Having him on set, with his body exposed in that limit of absolute fragility, gave us the exact tone for what we were narrating.

How has the making of Armugan changed your relationship with time and death?
Any film begins long before it is produced, in its author’s mind. For me, the formidable thing about Armugan is that it was financed and produced only six months after the event that generated the whole adventure. Accompanying my father at the end of his life was the inception of this path, and the real magic was the power of this story to take life in such a timely manner and  while overcoming major difficulties. Even now, premiering amidst this pandemic — and in this context — proves what the film tried to explore in terms of inner feelings. That’s the real power of this film — it became a metaphor itself!

Are you working on any new project?
I just came back from IDFA where I presented my new project, entitled Burn the Cuckoo’s Nest, a documentary about LSD’s second coming. It is a fulldome and VR experience as well as a multi-format film. I’m very excited about this project, which can contribute to transforming some paradigms of documentary narrative and immersive experiences, but also presents a solid approach to new intersections between science and philosophy.

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