Friday, September 24

‘Sound of Metal’: Four Latin Americans win the Oscar for making sound a character | Oscar Awards 2021

The movie Sound of Metal, whose sound was edited and mixed by a Venezuelan and three Mexicans, has won the Oscar for best sound this Monday morning. It is a unique film for this category, since it is about a musician who loses his hearing and goes deaf from one moment to the next. Sound and silence, in other words, were two main characters, and the four Latin Americans – Carolina Santana from Caracas and Carlos Cortés, Michelle Couttolenc, and Jaime Baksh from Mexico – managed to bring both to life.

Sound of Metal won The mother of Blues, the other favorite in the same category, and other of the most nominated this 93rd edition of the Oscars as Mank, The father Y Threatening. The four professionals edited and mixed this film in two studios in Mexico, Astro XL and Splendor Omnia, and managed with it to simulate hearing loss, evoke the memory that remains of noise once it is lived in silence, and represent the way in which that artificial implants work for those who want to regain their hearing.

“Putting yourself in the position of the main character continues to be overwhelming for me, it generates a shock”, Carlos Cortés recently explained to El PAÍS when talking about how the sound engineers imagined the experience of losing the main sense with which they work every day. “Indeed in Sound of Metal there is a lot of talk that the topic is sound and hearing loss. But really, the real end of the movie has to do with what happens when you lose something, “said Jaime Baksh. “The movie is about acceptance.”

Michelle Couttolenc (left), Jaime Baksht (back), Carlos Cortés (center) and Carolina Santana (right), sound engineers for the film 'Sound of Metal'.
Michelle Couttolenc (left), Jaime Baksht (back), Carlos Cortés (center) and Carolina Santana (right), sound engineers for the film ‘Sound of Metal’.Berenice Bautista / AP / COURTESY

Santana is in Paris, but the three Mexican professionals were on stage at the gala together with Phillip Bladh (sound producer, who was in charge of recording both the direct sound and the dialogues with the director), and from France he thanked the statuette Nicolas Becker, the sound designer.

“Thanks to the academy for recognizing this wonderful film,” said Becker, who recognized the work of the director, actors, editor, and the three mixers, among others. “Fellini once said that from the history of cinema, beyond style and techniques, what remains of films is their human vitality. If one appreciates it, something mysterious and vibrant remains. I received so much care and attention in Sound of Metal, so much energy, that we believe that for this it was so well received by the public. Thank you”.

Jaime Baksh explained to El PAÍS that editing and mixing the sound in Mexico and not in the United States was one of the great successes of the film, a decision in which Becket played a great role. “In the United States, a sound designer is someone who makes certain special sounds, combines several different sounds to create a new one and, therefore, at a certain point there was even copyright. A movie there can have 10 sound designers, ”Baksh explained. “But here, passing the Rio Grande, the designer becomes like the great guru of the subject. Nicolás Becker does not consider himself as a designer, but as a sound artist, and that is a big difference. Nicolás looks more for the emotional part of sounds, how they lead you to feel things ”.

The four professionals assured that once Baksh had organized all the sounds he wanted in the film, the mixers and the editor in Mexico had a huge space for experimentation to create the perfect sounds (and silences). “Normally you would have a director who is in the back bothering you, or a designer who doesn’t let you do anything other than what he says needs to be done. In this case it was: ‘There are the onion, tomato and so on, now what are they going to cook?’ Obviously the ingredients they put in were not to make a souffle, they were to make a orange pato”, Dijo Baksh.

In the year in which none of the three Mexican directors who previously made history at the Oscars – del Toro, Cuarón, Iñarritu – were nominated, this Venezuelan and the three Mexicans have shown that south of the Rio Grande the sound also plays in the great suspenders.

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