The genre is not quite a novelty to Fadel who is best known for his first two fiction films, “Los Salvajes” and “Murder Me, Monster,” both of which had their world premieres in Cannes. “While they had more conventional narrative plots, they had elements of experimental filmmaking in them,” Fadel asserted, adding: “‘The Enigmatic Element’ is more sensorial, more affecting.”
In this 40-minute fable, shot in the dead of winter in Southern Mendoza, three helmeted figures who either look like bikers or astronauts, wander around a stunning mountainside covered in snow. They communicate telepathically, their absurdist, existential dialogue extracted from the Argentine novel “La Libertad Total” (Total Freedom) by Pablo Katchadjian.
J. Crowe’s haunting electronic sound design, derived from the sounds of the frigid environment, complete the surreal, dystopian canvas.
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Crowe is an old childhood friend as are the three protagonists. “I hired my friends so I wouldn’t have to deal with complaints,” Fadel said, laughing. Working on a spare budget with catered food, drink, lodgings and transportation covered, they filmed all day for nearly a week, hiking up to remote locations in minus zero-degree weather.
“We didn’t take it too seriously and had total freedom to make it,” Fadel recalled. “The plan, before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down theaters in Argentina, was to screen it with live music. Once things go back to normal, he hopes to pursue that idea again. Meanwhile, it had its world premiere at Spain’s leading fantasy/genre film festival, Sitges.
In a departure from his other films, Fadel is adapting a novel, Argentine feminist epic “The Adventures of China Iron,” by Gabriela Cabezon Camara, which was shortlisted for an International Booker Prize this year.
Co-written with producing partner Agustina Llambi Campbell, “The Adventures of China Iron” is set in the 19th century in the Pampas of Argentina where a young woman in a remote gaucho base camp ventures off on a wagon journey with her new friend Liz, a settler from Scotland.
“In a way, it’s a reflection on what would happen if history had not just been written by men,” mused Fadel.
While still unsure about its financing, as film funds have been frozen in Argentina given its economic troubles, Fadel is aiming for a co-production with international partners.
Kabinett was created by Eduardo Constantini, co-founder of the popular auteur cinema platform, Mubi. Now claiming some 1.2 million views from 35 countries, Kabinett has launched music videos, shorts and other works from the likes of Patti Smith, John Lennon, Laurie Anderson, Deepak Chopra, Doug Aitken and Mariano Llinas.