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“A generation in a collapsing environment”

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Syllas Tzoumerkas • Director


- Cineuropa met up with Syllas Tzoumerkas, whose second feature film A Blast world-premiered in competition at the Locarno Film Festival

Syllas Tzoumerkas  • Director

Syllas Tzoumerkas's second feature film A Blast [+see also:
film review
interview: Syllas Tzoumerkas
film profile
 (read the review) world-premiered at the Locarno Film Festival. The writer-director tells Cineuropa about the film's characters and the story's connection to the situation in the country

Cineuropa: You are clearly very interested in the socio-political situation in Greece and how it reflects on your generation, but also in how earlier generations left a heritage of debt that their descendants are now paying for. Maria's frustration culminates in anger and wrath but she seems to be composed enough to plan her "blast". It is a very complex character in a complex situation.
Syllas Tzoumerkas:
The first thing I wrote for the film is Maria's monologue at the women's group, when she strips off of what she was supposed to be, thought to be or even wished to be, and reinvents herself. This is something a whole generation was forced to do in a collapsing environment, but I think the beautiful thing about Maria is that she is unusually mettlesome and confrontational. Throughout the film, she confronts herself, her family, her country and the perception of her sex. And in order to do that, she moves to a place where good and bad, the morals of it all, are not what they used to be. And that, for me, makes her a hero worth watching and investigating. I'm very happy we did this with Angeliki Papoulia, one of the bravest people I know.

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The character of Yannis is very interesting too. The way Vassilis Doganis plays him, he seems like a genuinely nice guy, but we see him cheating on her, although she apparently never finds out. Is it a character who gives in to the stereotypes of a sailor?
He is nice, cheating and all. As for the stereotype, having to serve my obligatory army duty in Greece at the navy a few years back, I can tell you a lot of it is actually true. Anyway, beyond the fun of it all, Yannis is a character driven by lust in the brightest sense. And as years go by, this makes him lose his reflexes and be late to be there for the ones he loves when they need him. I really like his sense of individuality and freedom, and his anti-machismo in a national milieu where all sorts of moronic bullies have never stopped being fashionable. All these characteristics, his being almost exotic in the film's low middle class environment, make it really hard for Maria to do what she has to do.

In your film, the story and the characters are organically connected to the socio-political situation in Greece. A lot of recent films from the territory go for this angle. What is your idea of the modern Greek cinema, is there something you could call a trend/wave, and what would it be?
What I mainly do is to embody social dynamics into characters. Because I think they are interconnected and rooted in one another and this makes both unpredictable. As for the Greek New Wave it's there in all its diversity, and, for me, the best thing about it is that it offers different interpretations of reality both in form and content, going from weird to naturalistic with all the shades in between. And this is vibrant, dynamic and, of course, trend-free.

Production-wise, how did the film come about? It's a co-production with Germany and Netherlands, you were at Nipkow and CineLink, how long, how complicated and how expensive was it to make the film?
The film started its development and production in a very tricky period for Greek cinema, but it managed to be done thanks to the efforts of everyone involved and, above all, the film's producers Maria Drandaki and Titus Kreyenberg, Ellen Havenith and Jeroen Beker. The Greek Film Center also had good reflexes and management, and succeeded in stabilizing the recent Greek co-productions during a very difficult era for the country's finances. Anyway, it's here, despite all the crazy obstacles that occurred along the way, from the overnight shutting-down of the Greek State TV to the renowned conservatism of certain institutions. And, no matter what, it is a film that, in comparison, moved very quickly in all stages and I'm glad for this.

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