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Robert Manthoulis

A director & his alter-ego

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- In Lilly's Story one Greek director makes a film about another Greek director making a film about the country he was born in and still yearns for

Robert Manthoulis

Robert Manthoulis is a European filmmaker who was born in Greece, but fled his homeland after the generals took over in 1967. He now lives in France. Lilly’s Story (in Upstream in Venice), is loosely based on his experience of life in exile. It is a film within a film, about a director writing a political story about the homeland he was forced to leave many years ago.

Is this a film about memories?
”Memories are part of our daily existence, but I don’t think that those flashbacks in the film are really flashbacks from my life. None of the characters has had an easy life, they are anti-heroes, but wonderful people nonetheless. The history of Greece, all the persecution my country has endured, is a heavy burden we all bear. So many simply didn’t have the strength to resist and went mad. I know lots of Greek refugees in Paris and they all battle with their memories every single day of their lives. I think that young people today have trouble understanding the balance between the past and the present.”

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Why are you still an exile? After all Greece is now a free country.No Man’s Land.”

How real is Lily’s Story?
“There’s a scene where an entire family suffocates to death in a refrigerated lorry. A few days ago I read an article on the front page of an Italian daily about five Kurds who suffocated to death in a refrigerated lorry.”

Is this a Greek film, even though it was made with Greek, French and Slovenian money?
“A great poet once said, ‘Wherever I go, Greece goes with me.’ This is a European film. I received help from the Greek Film Center, Eurimages, and as a result, we’re doing quite nicely thank you.”

What can you tell us about the Greek film industry in general and film production in particular?
“There are the greats, like Anghelopoulos, and there are also lots of young talents. Greeks are a film loving people; before the advent of television, they were Europe’s biggest filmgoers. Except for the state broadcaster, Greek TV does not help cinema. You have to look elsewhere for funding. That’s what we did here. We have maybe three or four extremely talented directors, but the films they make are not on a par with their talent. The reason for this is the current state of our film industry.”

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