Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 28 February 2015
12 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 28 FEBRUARY 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Xenia in Sydney The Greek award-winning queer odyssey screens at the Mardi Gras festival NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU Panos H. Koutras' film Xenia officially premiered at the 14th Cannes Film Festival, and was praised as one of the strongest foreign films to have entered the festival. The movie will screen at the Mardi Gras on Wednesday 4 March. Not only was the film a success in Greece and in Cannes, but it received rave reviews in Pink Screens Brussels, Berlin KINO International, Karlovy Vary and Palm Springs International Festivals as well. Numerous nominations across the globe, along with a Best Male Actor Award in Lisboa, the FELIX Award at the Rio International Film Festival and the Q Hugo Award for Best Feature at Chicago International Film Festival, have given it a good head start. Koutras is also the director behind the successful Greek films The Attack of the Giant Moussaka and Strella. Xenia tells the story of Danny, 16, and Odysseas, 18, two brothers born to an Albanian mother and a Greek father who disappeared when they were still children, without ever marrying their mother. Following her death, Danny runs away from Crete and goes to Athens to convince his older brother to grab a major talent show chance and change his life forever. The two brothers embark on a long and onerous trip, fighting against all odds in search of their biological father- played by Yannis Stankoglou- who they drama school and missed a few casting calls as he was either working or thinking he wouldn't be good enough to get the part. "Panos kept looking and someone that hope will provide them with the necessary official documents that will help them obtain their Greek citizenship. There is very little time left for Odysseas to apply for citizenship before his 18th birthday, otherwise he'll be deported. This journey is no simple quest, as the two brothers have been estranged for years. Danny is also struggling with his gay identity, while Odysseas, who left home at an early age, is trying to escape his own demons. Kostas Nikouli (Danny) and Nikos Gelia (Odysseas) are the two Albanian actors, living in Greece, who took their first journey - of many more to come - into the world of cinema. Xenia is an ‘honest’ film revolving and evolving around a human interest story. The script combines brotherly love, racial and sexual discrimination, the financial crisis, human loss, as well as the questioning of values and morals, under a colourful and fun - sometimes funny even - scope. In any case, Panos Koutras and his protagonists nail it. "I was still in school and had decided that I wanted to try and get into drama school, so I started preparing for it. After booking an appointment for an Athens casting calling for Albanian nationals between the ages of 16 and 21, Panos saw me, and the rest is history," says Kostas Nikouli. "In the summer of 2012, I met Niko and we took on a 20-day try-out rehearsal period to see if we clicked as 'brothers' on screen." Nikos, on the other hand, was already in worked at Athens Casting remembered me and put my name on the list." "It was like a sign for me, so I decided not to miss my chance again," Nikos tells Neos Kosmos. "Numerous casting calls and rehearsals thankfully did not let me forget about it, every time I thought 'nah, someone else must have gotten the part'. The rest is history I guess." Filming Xenia took them three months from mid-May till late July, but it was the rehearsals and preparations that lasted several months. Both protagonists were moulded into actors by Koutras along the way of the production, as it was not only their first cinematic experience but the first ever big production, spanning from Athens to Crete, with stops in Kozani, Larisa, Platamon, Salonika, wild forests and mountains on the foothills of Mount Olympus. "Along the way, we too realised it was more about the journey, not getting the Greek nationality, finding our father, or anything else," says Kostas. "Our father isn't the 'Ithaka' in Xenia's case, but the pretext or the catalyst event if you want to trigger an inner, psychological state of realisation." "The two heroes come up with all the answers they were looking for, together, in a reckless, vindictive abandon," Nikos explains. "They learn to belong and to love in an impulsive way and discover themselves through each other. "Finding their father is what's eating the characters up and the main issue, but something seemingly as trivial as a talent show in Thessaloniki is what bonds and keeps them together." Kostas was born and raised in Greece, and even though he didn't have any sexual identity issues as his character, Danny, since he is straight, he still experienced racial discrimination in both countries. "I go to Albania every summer, but they call me Greek." "Some people in Greece judge me by my Albanian nationality. My parents, however, taught me never to forget where I'm really from," he says. Nikos was born in Albania, but mostly grew up in Greece, where he too experiences a certain level of racism. After the film's success, it looks like both ends want to ‘own’ the protagonists. "Even before the premiere at the Cannes Festival, we were struggling to fathom how immensely big it is for two unknown new actors to land such a chance," says Kostas. "The future - our future as actors - will be even harder since we have this success as our springboard and we will have to keep up with that," Nikos adds. Nikos and Kostas have been working in hospitality and construction jobs from an early age, trying to support themselves and family, while chasing the dream of an acting career and a further education. Nikos is starring in a play titled Little Murder Stories at Vault contemporary theatre in Gazi, Athens, while Kostas is finishing his studies. Classification: Unclassified 18+ Run time: 128 mins For more information go to www.mardigras.org.au Kostas Nikouli as Danny in a scene from the film. L-R: Actor Kostas Nikouli, director Panos Koutras and actor Nikos Gelia attend the Xenia premiere in Cannes.
21 February 2015
7 March 2015