Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 22 October 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 22 OCTOBER 2016 19 ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS G reek film has continued to make a name for itself worldwide, and among its offerings is Park, the brainchild of Athenian filmmaker Sophia Exarchou. Despite being her debut feature, the low-budget production has received much acclaim and was screened for the first time Down Under last night in Melbourne at Delphi Bank’s 23rd Greek Film Festival. Now 10 years on from the Athens Olympics, the film is set among the abandoned athletic facilities and nearby luxury resorts, home to a group of badly behaved young boys who have no real direction. Instead, they spend their days completing 'alternative' versions of Olympic events, which generally include mocking one another, aside from organising dog fights for cash. The protagonist is 17-year-old Dimitris (Dimitris Kitsos), the elder of the group, who is often seen being shadowed by Markos (Enuki Gvenatadze), a young boy he has taken under his wing, and together they look after their fighting pit bull. While their situation is depressing, Dimitris manages to get some casual work through his mother's new boyfriend and also develops a romance with 24-year-old Anna (Dimitra Vlagopoulou). But both of these scenarios are at times turbulent due to his vices and inability to control his temper. Although many have drawn the conclusion after seeing the film that Exarchou was seeking to present a commentary on the Olympic Village and its abandoned state following the 2004 event, in an interview with Neos Kosmos the filmmaker revealed that, while there is some truth to that, it's not where the initial inspiration came from. "At the beginning, my main idea to make the movie was that I wanted to tell a story about a group of kids who live in a deserted and abandoned place where the social environment gives them no future and no hope; that was a starting point," she says. In her search to find the perfect setting, one that was not a typical Greek neighbourhood but rather, universal, she stumbled upon the village. "I wanted a place that could be a little bit abstract, that could be anywhere in the world. When I found the Olympic Village it was very interesting because it said so many things; it said so many things for Greece, of course, and what has happened in the last 15 years here. All the preparation and excitement for the Greek people over the Olympic Games and the collapse that came after that." But aside from Greece's financial downfall, for Exarchou the site was also symbolic of western civilisation as a whole; a place that has become deserted and essentially a no man's land as a result of human action – and paradoxically, lack thereof. Having wrapped up the production just weeks before its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last month, the filmmaker admits that making a feature film in Greece at the moment poses many challenges, but counts herself lucky for having secured funding pre-production after being selected for the Work-in-Progress Award for Most Promising Project at Karlovy Vary, among various other development prizes. "It's a very difficult situation in Athens right now. "I was kind of lucky because for the production I had won some awards for the script, so we had some money to do the production and the castings, which took months because we had to find all these kids," which, she says, aside from the financials, was actually the biggest challenge. Being amateurs, not only did the young actors need to have the right skill set, but also work well together as a group, resulting in a rather extensive casting process. But as the financial crisis continues in Greece and Exarchou confirms people are growing increasingly weary of financial difficulties, lack of employment opportunities and tax hikes, when it comes to creativity she admits there is a bit of a silver lining. "Because we feel all this energy from all the things that are happening, there's a lot in our minds − so there's a lot to talk about. We have this energy that we have to do something, so that's good because it's inspiring," Exarchou says. "And because everybody in the film industry knows each other and things are difficult, everybody's helping each other. Everybody is inspired by each other." After having worked on Park for some four years, for Exarchou and her crew this next step feels almost surreal, with their work now being viewed and shared by people across the globe. And while the film has received prestigious praise from the get go, and to follow at the TIFF and San Sebastian Film Festival respectively, the filmmaker says she's not about to get ahead of herself. "I didn't expect it and I also didn't expect that people would write about this movie, so it's exciting," she says, attributing her low expectations to Park being a Greek language film, which aren’t always as accessible for audiences abroad as those in English. "I'm looking forward to seeing the film with different people in different countries; seeing their reactions. But I'm waiting to see how it goes − I'm still anxious as it's still the beginning for the movie." While she is caught in the whirlwind of having completed her first large-scale production, for some reason it's not surprising to hear the creative has already started on her next idea, though she says it's nothing she can really talk about just yet. Guess we'll have to stay tuned. Sophia Exarchou being awarded the new directors award at the San Sebastian Film Festival. PHOTO: SAN SEBASTIAN FILM FESTIVAL.
15 October 2016
29 October 2016