Mark Margindas is the leitmotif of “Return to Raqqa”. It is the most featured in the documentary film, which is accompanied by its directors, Albert Soule and Raul CuevasHe returned to the place where he was kidnapped by one of the ISIS factions, in a house near the Euphrates River. But the film’s approach is, from the outset, more choral. “We wanted to tell the epic of a whole group, Mark was our main character, the vehicle, the reflection,” Cuevas notes. How can families suffer kidnapping? “It’s a horrible story, and that Mark agreed to tell her was appreciated,” Cuevas adds. The problem was how to display it on screen. On the one hand, we suggest the sequence in the animation and on the other hand, the journey itself.
At the beginning of the movie, Marginedas says that it helps him to face what he has experienced and let go of the past. The documentary is not therapeutic. Treatment must be done at homeAccording to Margindas, who took over the war correspondent’s business privileges. “The delicacy we went to has great metaphorical power,” Soule tells us. “We wanted to research the emotional trauma of getting back. Each hostage was taken to many places & rdquo;. Raqqa was then, in 2013, the stronghold of the Islamic State.
To the reactions of Marginedas and other interviewees who were also kidnapped—journalist from “El Mundo” Javier Espinosa, Danish photographer Daniel Rye—added really complicated production logistics. It was filmed before the pandemic. Security conditions were not ideal. Sully explains that the unknown is what we won’t find and how Mark will react to it. Cuevas adds, “It was a very complicated shoot, it coincided with the month of Ramadan, the distance between where we were staying and Raqqa was three hours by car, and filming in the refugee camp was not easy. Of all the working days, very few were productive.” .
The film’s directors and crew faced situations of potential danger. “Borders are closed, we invest 70% of the time in transportation and Raqqa was at a very critical juncture. There was a kind of psychosis of insecurity, Sully recalls. There was a particularly tense moment, which Cuevas teased: “The day we filmed The House on the River was the moment I was most anxious. We were convinced that if something were to happen, the only possible way out was to jump into the river.”
Marginedas has a very strong presence, which has prompted directors to often use the close-up resource to capture his looks, The appearance of a person who has undergone very difficult trials during his captivity. Sully and Cuevas decided to recreate some aspects of this kidnapping through animation. “There was a challenge, how do you know what you don’t have pictures of. Ignore the recreations. The animations allow you to fly higher, it was by far the best solution,” says Soule. Another goal of the film is to reveal the suffering of Syrian civilians during the conflict.
at some point in the movie, Marginedas comments that he has come to terms with the idea of death. And in another scene, he explains that when you’re hungry—and they were very hungry during captivity—the body devours itself to maintain vital signs. It’s all chilling, but told with tremendous transparency and sincerity. Like, for example, when Marginedas and other journalists talked about the group of jihadists from the UK who were called The Beatles: The moment between the beatings was worse than the beatings they had sufferedthe absolute weak point that was the fear that they could enter again at any moment.
“The catalog of atrocities is this … ” Sully comments when referring to the barbaric imagery used in the film. In one of these archival photos, we can see how a member of the Islamic State executes a woman accused of prostitution in the middle of the street. “There’s stuff on YouTube that’s live, that execution, and it’s horrible, but a thorough research mission has been done. They are pictures that will never be erased.” explains Cuevas, who, like Solé, has always kept in mind that some red lines cannot be crossed when showing them.
The kidnappers’ claims were shocking. They demanded 2 million euros for the Danish prisoner and 126 million for the American Stephen Sotloff, who is finally executed and his father is interviewed in one of the film’s most difficult moments. Governments such as Denmark allow private transactions between family members and hostages, unlike the United Kingdom and the United States. If Sotloff’s parents paid, they could be convicted by their own government. Rye was released after a ransom of 15 million kronor (about two million euros) was paid.