Thessaloniki Goes to Cannes Sees Greek Directors Contend With COVID-19
Art and Experience: Greek directors are contending with the coronavirus crisis, on top of their country’s pre-existing economic struggles, by weaving the pandemic into their narratives and project presentations.
That’s one trend that surfaced when five work-in-progress feature films, three docs, were digitally showcased to sales agents, distributors and programmers on Tuesday during Thessaloniki Goes to Cannes, the Cannes Virtual Film Market’s annual pics-in-post industry showcase supported by the Thessaloniki Intl. Film Festival.
“This past month during this pandemic period many of us were cooking, and are still cooking at home,” said director Angeliki Antoniou (“Eduart,” “Donusa”) presenting her drama “Green Sea” which turns on a woman who has lost her memory but not ability to cook, and so is afforded a second opportunity in life.
“Preparing food was very important for most of us; it had almost a healing influence on our souls,” Antoniou added. “Just like it happens in ‘Green Sea,’ though the film is not only about cooking,” she went on to note. Nearly completed pic is produced by Antoniou and Lilette Botassi (Inkas Films) in co-production with German producer Jost Hering’s Jost Hering Filme, with the support of the Greek Film Centre.
Presenting his doc “Esperanto,” about the members of a bird breeding club that explores the communication, language and also the relationship between humans and birds, director Stratis Chatzielenoudas said: “We all have been affected by the COVID-19 situation, so we decided, creative-wise, to include this experience in the project, in the visual material.”
The 65-minute doc sees bird-breeders come together “from all corners of Greece, and also different backgrounds,” united by the belief that their particular calling to establish communication between humans and birds “can unite people around the globe,” he said. “With this film I would like to raise the question: Can we preserve our hope? Our sense of communication. Or are we just (each of us) living in another world trapped inside the cage of our reality?” Plans are for this poetic self-produced doc in Greek, Spanish, and Esperanto to be ready in summer 2021.
The second Greek feature that was unveiled is “Dog,” debuting director Yianna Americanou’s portrait of a boy from a broken home on the cusp of manhood and longing for a stable family life. “It’s a very current film,” said producer Monica Nicolaidou, noting that the pic “talks about stray people (like stray dogs) and their efforts to survive,” once they leave their shelters, which rings an apocalyptic bell. “It’s Yianna’s debut film, based on her experience as a volunteer in shelters for teen-age boys in Cyprus,” Nicolaidou noted, adding they they are eying a December 2020 completion date.
The remaining two presented projects, both documentaries and both close to completion, do not have any pandemic-related tropes. But they do have common elements.
One, “If It’s Not OK It’s Not the End,” is a doc about a three-time boxing champion who reinvents himself in the ring while trying to repair his relationship with his wife and children, from director Salvador Muñoz Saiz. Saiz said that when he began filming the protagonist, Thodoris Ritzakis, he realized real quick how difficult it is to be a boxer in Greece. “Even though he was a three-time champion and had a job as a coach, he was still trying to make ends meet,” he said, going on to add that his doc “is not just about boxing…it’s also about human relationships, dreams and fears, and loss…and almost all of this not happening inside the ring.”
The other, “Made in Vain,” is a deep dive into the world of professional body building in Greece directed by Michael Klioumis who pointed out that they sometimes spend up to €6,000 ($6,700) per month “in order to have all this muscle mass on their bodies.” “When you become a bodybuilder, you become a body builder for life,” he noted. “And that’s very, very interesting and painful to watch,” he said.