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SUNDANCE 2018 World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Babis Makridis • Director of Pity

“In my next movie, everyone will smile constantly!”

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- We sat down with Greek writer-director Babis Makridis to talk about his sophomore feature, Pity

Babis Makridis  • Director of Pity
(© Margarita Nikitaki)

Returning to Sundance, the film festival where his debut feature, L [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Babis Makridis
film profile
]
, premiered six years ago, Greek writer-director Babis Makridis is now taking part in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition with his sophomore feature, Pity [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Babis Makridis
film profile
]
. Retaining many of the elements that originally brought him to the spotlight, the director delivers a deadpan comedy that deals with the pleasure of feeling sorrow. We had a chance to chat with him about the power of sadness, the evolution of his work and his second collaboration with his friend, writer Efthymis Filippou.

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Cineuropa: What was the inspiration behind the main idea for Pity?
Babis Makridis
: Inspiration always comes from watching humans, and from watching yourself. Everyone, on a sliding scale, wants to give or receive pity; it’s a universal feeling among humans. Our story is more about what people do to receive pity. It is an examination of such behaviour when taken to the extreme.

So do we really need to stay sad while watching your film, or is the movie trying to trick us into feeling like this?
You don’t have to feel sad while watching the film, although the protagonist wants you to. He is trying to be sad; that’s his trick. He believes that once he’s managed to achieve absolute sorrow, then he can receive ultimate and timeless pity from others.

Similarly to L, you’ve delivered a deadpan comedy that is finely balanced between the naivety of your heroes and the absurdity of the script. What has changed this time around? Is Pity gloomier?
Pity has a clearer storyline than the previous movie, and I believe it does not leave any unanswered questions about the character. L was dreamier, more surreal and more open to the viewer. Pity is certainly gloomier and funnier, in a way.

Regarding the script, you’ve collaborated with your friend Efthymis Filippou, who once again shows off his skills in writing lyrics. How was it working with him?
It is always a pleasure to work with Efthymis – first of all because he is a friend, and secondly because he is really an idea-making machine. As soon as you start talking to him, a gate opens in his brain, and generates ideas and thoughts. And yes, I genuinely think his songs are always wonderful.

No one ever smiles in your films; do you enjoy creating sullen comic heroes that exist within glossy environments? Is this contradictory to your experience working in advertising?
The environment and how the heroes act depend on the story you have each time. We chose a glossy atmosphere in Pity because we did not want to have a miserable or sad image. We wanted a mood that would be contrary to the mood of the character. I think as a director you have to do what the plot requires you to, and not decide according to the medium and whether you are working on a film or an advertisement. Maybe in my next movie, everyone will smile constantly. That would be scary [laughs]!

As was the case with your debut, your follow-up film is premiering at Sundance and will later travel to Rotterdam. Your production team has also remained almost entirely intact since then. What is the key to this success, and what do you expect to happen with Pity?
In my opinion, the key is to collaborate with people who you can trust and who you enjoy working with, because they can help you realise your vision better than anyone else. If you find them once, then stay with them. It would be stupid to change them. The only dream I have for Pity is to touch as many people as possible.

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See also