AN INTERVIEW WITH MARTÍN REJTMAN ABOUT ‚SHAKTI‘

Let us introduce you to the Argentinean director Martín Rejtman, who is participating in this year’s Berlinale Shorts competition.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1961, he studied film at the Escuela Panamericana de Arte and then at New York University. After several short and mid-length films, he made his feature debut in 1992 with Rapado (Cropped Head). He is also a writer and he wrote the screenplay for this film based on a story in his short story collection of the same name. The film screened at Locarno, as have some of his other works, including his 2006 documentary Copacabana. Recent years have seen several retrospectives of his work, including in the USA, Spain, Portugal and South Korea.

Rejtman Martin
© Martín Rejtman

Federico, is in his mid-twenties and lives alone in Buenos Aires. The day his grandmother dies, he decides to part with his girlfriend Magda. He fears hurting her. But when the time comes, she beats him to it. She is laid-back, feisty and not even close to feeling hurt. He is however, especially when he learns that she already has someone new. But then he finds the potato knishes in the freezer that his recently departed grandmother gave him and everything changes. Rejtman’s stage is the microcosm of the Argentine society, which he deciphers in carefully composed images with a sparsely told story and a directing approach in defiance of retro realism. Rejtman belongs to the new wave of Argentine film that first gained recognition in Europe in the mid-1990s. According to Dr. Rocío Gordon of the University of Virginia, the key aspect of his work is that the director and author does not tell linear stories in a run-of-the-mill way, but rather refers to an aesthetic of apathy. Within this apathy, comedy gains the greatest of scopes – a unique position in Argentina until now.

Still 3
©Shakti by Martín Rejtman

What is your ambition in the film?

I’m a writer, as well as a filmmaker. In literature I write only short stories, I never wrote a novel. When I started writing literature I did it because it didn’t make sense to write scripts for short films that I would never be able to make. It’s not realistic to plan to make twelve short films in a year, for example, but it makes sense to write twelve short stories and publish them in a collection.

Lately my short stories have become very long (no less than 100 pages). And making feature length films usually takes much longer than one would wish. This is why I decided to go back to the short form in film, thinking that it would be an easy and smooth operation. Of course, it was not.

What do you like about the short form?

 Its apparent lack of ambition. It can also be a healthy antidote against today’s endless chapters, seasons, etc.

Shakti - behind the scenes
Behind the scenes, filming ‚Shakti‘ © Martín Rejtman

SHAKTI in so many ways, seems to be so achieved- so lived. You know the situations by heart- at least it seems so. Is it an autobiographical movie? Where do you find inspiration- for your writing, filmmaking? 

No, it is not an autobiographical movie, although one of the songs that we used to sing in my high school choir was “Climbing up the Mountain, Children”; my grandmother used to cook great potato knishes which I thought were the best in the world, etcetera.

You made few movies, landmarks in argentinean cinema- did you ever feel like you could have made more, you missed something, you made different steps today if restart would be an opportunity?

I made four features, one documentary, one tv movie, and three or four short films so far. I also published  five books of short stories. And I wouldn’t change a coma or a frame of anything I did. Basically because it’s already done. I don’t think it’s wise to think about the past from the present, and a film and a book are also the product of their circumstances which are always unique. These movies and books are my work, and I think they are all part of the same world, that evolves from film to film and from book to book; but they are also documents.

What freed you up in never settling down in only one filmformat but doing what you did and being in competition now with a shortfilm? 

I went to a radio program once to talk about my work and the host, who was a philosopher, recommended me a book, Shunryu Suzuki’s “Zen mind beginner’s mind”. I liked the idea. It seems that once you make a feature then you should only make features! It’s some kind of unwritten law. People were surprised when I decided to make a short: “What for?” But a couple of years ago I taught for two years a short film screenwriting workshop. And I realized that it had been a really long time since I had made a short film myself. It was about time.

What are your future plans?

May be a new short film later this year, and a feature length, “La práctica”, to be shot in Chile, hopefully very soon.

24 films from 17 countries will be competing for the Golden and Silver Bear, the Audi Short Film Award, endowed with 20,000 euros, and a nomination as “Berlin Short Film Candidate for the European Film Awards 2019”.

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