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Santiago Mitre • Director

“Politics swallows up everything”

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- CANNES 2017: Argentinian director Santiago Mitre talks to us about The Summit, a production with Europe that is taking part in Un Certain Regard and delves into the chiaroscuros of politics

Santiago Mitre  • Director

Spanish, French and Argentinian producers were involved in The Summit [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Santiago Mitre
film profile
]
Santiago Mitre’s third feature as a solo director. The Buenos Aires-born filmmaker surprised everyone with his feature debut, The Student, before stirring our consciences with Paulina [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
. We talked to the filmmaker as he presented his new movie in the Un Certain Regard section of the 70th Cannes Film Festival.

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LIM Internal

Cineuropa: Why did you choose the Spanish title of La cordillera (lit. “The Mountain Range”)? Also, the film has different titles depending on the country, such as El presidente and The Summit.
Santiago Mitre: We began working on the idea of a presidential summit in Chile, where the Argentinian president would be faced with a family problem in the midst of the discussions about a big regional integration project. Privacy and family secrets thus start interfering in the middle of this political construction process. When we thought of Chile, the image of the Andes mountains immediately came to mind and was really imposing: these mountains cross the whole continent, acting as both a link and a boundary. The mountain range summit sounded good as an idea that some head of state might have. Then, the thing that happens with almost all titles happened to us: you pick one and you get used to it, and you even become fond of it. The change to the title in other countries is the distributors’ call.

How did you get this co-production with Europe off the ground?
From the start, I worked alongside Maneki Films in France and La unión de Ríos in Argentina. Then we were privileged because K&S Films came on board and took the reins, and it was through them that we got in touch with Mod in Spain, at the previous edition of Cannes. The co-production was there from the beginning and came about in a very natural way. It’s a great honour to have these production companies backing me up.

The Summit boasts a magnificent international cast: was this a dream come true?
I wrote the film thinking of Ricardo Darín, and he was the first person I told about the idea: I don’t know if I would have continued with the project if Ricardo hadn’t taken such an interest in it. It was a pleasure and an absolute joy to share the set with him. He’s a perfect actor from a technical point of view and a fantastic team member. I worked with Dolores Fonzi on Paulina (she was the one who first approached Ricardo, while they were shooting Truman [+see also:
film review
trailer
making of
interview: Cesc Gay
film profile
]
): she’s an impressive actress with a powerful performance you won’t see anywhere else. Érica Rivas has immense technical ability and great sensitivity. I always write with the actors in mind: the characters end up being built through them. Then we gradually started putting together the rest of the cast with Mariana Mitre and Javier Braier, the casting directors, and we ended up cobbling together a stunning group of Latin American actors: I’m a great admirer of Paulina García and Alfredo Castro, Daniel Giménez Cacho is a genius, and Elena Anaya is magnificent. I’m very proud of the dedication that everyone displayed on the film… and the result they produced.

We’re getting fed up with politicians. Have they stopped being human?
Politics swallows up everything, it becomes everything, it’s the centre of everything. Some time ago, I got the chance to talk to a former president, and he surprised me by telling me that you’re never more alone than when you have power. That’s an interesting idea. Power cuts you off, shuts you away, surrounds you, and it’s never enough: what is sacrificed in the process? What gets handed over? How do you pay for it? When I tried to think of ideas for this film, the Faustian metaphor popped up as a possibility. And I call it a metaphor because this movie doesn’t have a Mephistopheles or a Faust. That’s why the film toys with those two storylines: one that’s political and another one that’s fantastical. They complement and overlap with one another.

(Translated from Spanish)

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