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TORONTO 2018 Discovery

Nikos Labôt • Director

“I wanted to focus on people who try hard to fulfil their dreams”

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- TORONTO 2018: Greece’s Nikos Labôt talked to us about his debut feature, Her Job, which brings the aftermath of the Greek financial crisis to Toronto’s Discovery section

Nikos Labôt • Director

We caught up with Nikos Labôt to discuss various aspects of his new film, Her Job [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nikos Labôt
film profile
]
, starring Marisha Triantafyllidou in the role of Panayiota, a family woman who finds herself forced to work for the first time in her life. The film has just world-premiered in the Discovery section of the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival.

Cineuropa: Why did Panayiota have to be your heroine?
Nikos Labôt: A few years ago, I was writing another script, when I heard a real story about a woman who discovered her new self just by finding a simple job as a cleaner. I couldn’t believe how this could be possible nowadays. In fact, I wanted to understand this woman’s world, so the first draft of the film was written almost immediately, in one month. Then I tried to develop and to illuminate her inner world. So, Panayiota was “driving” this story from the beginning until the end. Her naivety, her romanticism, her fragility, her fears and the fact that she is illiterate created for me, and for all my close partners, a certain vision of a human being which was so precise that it acted as a guide for us all.

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The environment in the film is alarmingly similar to that of Greek society, especially regarding the role/position of women. Where does fiction end and reality begin for you?
Her Job depicts a small part of Greek contemporary reality. Many people struggle to survive every day and unfortunately there are many who live lives much worse than those of Panayiota’s family. Regarding the role/position of many women, the situation is more or less the one described in the film. I’m referring to a certain part of the population who are lacking in education and for whom television plays a dominant role in everyday life. These elements make the story so real and, dare I say, exciting as regards Panayiota’s journey. So, for me, fiction and reality mix together to the point where we can’t tell them apart. And that was one of my biggest challenges.

Are you afraid that the film might not be readily accepted, locally?
On the contrary, I think people are looking for stories which “speak” to them, which remain true to their fears and their problems, but also to their hopes and desires, their small victories and joys.  I hope that the audience will relate to the characters and that they will feel a number of different emotions as they observe, understand, and connect with Panayiota’s inner world. Ultimately, I hope they will adore her.    

What was your experience of working with Marisha Triantafyllidou?
I was very lucky to have Marisha on board and I am very happy with her performance. Both of us wanted to be very precise about each and every detail of her character. At first, we were talking about her fears, desires, etc. Then I gave Marisha all the background information on Panayiota, from her youth up until now. Brick by brick, working on physical and emotional details, we arrived at the result you see in the film. 

Do you feel that the financial crisis has inevitably altered relationships in both the workplace and family environments?
Indeed, the crisis has inevitably changed working relationships and working conditions. Wages and labour rights have decreased. Many people work without social security or in part-time roles. Officially, unemployment in Greece is at 20% and among young people it has reached 50%!  The family environment has been affected too. You can sense the violence that is growing around us in every way – in schoolkids who are aggressive and in working environments where employee anxiety and insecurity is palpable. Depression and low self-esteem reign supreme in families.

Has the crisis been used as yet another excuse to intensify the exploitation of women?
Yes, working women in Greece are paid 15% less than men for equal or superior work. Equality exists only on paper. Though the crisis has also, somehow, worked in women’s favour: in a marked departure from the past, women are now often the breadwinners, and they make an equal contribution to household income. Women spend their income on food, education and healthcare for their children – creating powerful, positive and measurable benefits for society.

I wanted to focus on people who try hard to fulfil their dreams, those who struggle and make sacrifices for their children and for their future, in order to live with dignity.

How hard was it to develop and to shoot Her Job under these circumstances?
Unfortunately, in Greece these circumstances have become a “normal” state of affairs, so I knew that it would take patience and a lot of work. Throughout all the production stages, we had to do a lot to secure a decent budget flow. Together with my fabulous producers, Maria Drandaki (Ηomemade Films) and Julie Paratian (Sister Productions), as well as the co-producer Milan Stojanović (Sense Production), we planned everything so as to deliver a film that would satisfy us, but which would also touch the hearts of the audience. I feel thankful and lucky to have these producers, this cast and this crew by my side but, to be honest, I hope that in my next film things will proceed at a much faster pace.

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