Maria Karagiannaki • Producer of Anti
"It’s not just historical because the entire story could easily be replicated today"
- We met with Greek producer Maria Karagiannaki of Chase The Cut, who spoke about Vassilis Kalamakis’ project Anti on the occasion of the Cinemed Meetings
The founder of Chase The Cut, Maria Karagiannaki’s recent film slate includes Fokion Bogris’ Amercement (which will enjoy its world premiere at Thessaloniki in November). The Greek producer is currently attending the 42nd Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival - CINEMED, where she is presenting a pitch for the Cinemed Meetings’ Development Grant (see our news) on behalf of the project Anti, which is Vassilis Kalamakis’ debut feature and which is set in Athens in 1973, at the height of the student uprising against the military junta.
Cineuropa: What made you decide to produce Anti ?
Maria Karagiannaki: It’s a local project that looks back over a chapter of Greece’s recent history, but which also allows us to talk about something that isn’t just universal, but which is also taking place today. Anti doesn’t focus on the exact way in which events unfolded in November 1973, but rather on the characters, from the perspective of ordinary people, which allows the film to show that no-one is born to be a hero. But when freedoms and fundamental values are threatened, individuals are prepared to storm the gates of hell to defend what they believe in. It’s more or less what’s happening at the moment with the Black Lives Matter movement or even the Gilets Jaunes: these are people who are reacting to what they perceive to be an injustice and who are demanding better standards of life, even if it puts their own safety at risk. In Anti, of course, it was about fighting against a military dictatorship, but it’s used as a metaphor. The project doesn’t explore the dictatorship as if it were a historical event, nor does it drill down into the many ways in which people were tortured at the time. It follows several characters whose lives are taken over by events and who are forced to make decisions without knowing where this will lead them or what it will trigger. They don’t have all the facts or a clear idea of what’s going on around them: they simply act on gut instinct. Whether it’s those who decide to risk their lives for their beliefs or those who prioritise their families and play it safe, no-one is right in the end: they all suffer the consequences of their decisions.
Who are the main characters?
There are three pairs. Firstly, two students riding the wave of revolution from inside Athens’ National Technical University, who want to change the world but are at loggerheads over how to do so, which leads to a conflict between them. Then there are two hospital doctors who are asked by the regime to inform on any troublemakers, which one of them accepts to do to begin with, but who both end up realising that these “troublemakers” are nothing more than protesters who have been abused beyond measure by the police. They find themselves faced with a moral dilemma: should they close their eyes to the truth for safety’s sake or stand up to the regime and risk their lives? And lastly, there are two 20-year-old soldiers who have just started their military service and are thrust into an environment where they’re ordered to enter the National Technical University in a tank and kill the students, young people the same age as them. This gives rise to another dilemma, similar to that explored in Nuremberg: are we responsible for the orders we obey?
Anti is a historical drama, but it’s not just historical because the entire story could easily be transposed today, into a modern-day context, and it would still work. That’s why I’m convinced that it will speak to viewers from all different countries, but especially in Europe because France and Germany, for example, were the two countries who supported the Greek revolutionaries the most in the 1970s, taking in Greece’s exiled political leaders. For the record, back then, authoritarian regimes were a problem all over Europe. Whether they were on the left or the right was irrelevant: Fascism is Fascism, whatever its colour. Anti’s subject-matter is still a highly emotive topic in Greece and I hope to be able to attract private finance, in addition to the usual public funds, thanks to the brand-new tax incentives system which offers a 30% tax reduction to private parties who invest in film.
Is this project typical of Chase The Cut’s editorial line?
Chase The Cut focuses on emerging filmmakers. There’s no particular genre that I favour over another, but I make a real point of according just as much importance to the quality of a film’s narrative as I do to its artistry. In my mind, this is what will allow film to keep moving forwards, to hold onto its audience for European films and to motivate filmmakers to find innovative ways of telling their stories. I’m not against purely artistic films, it’s just that they’re not what I’m looking for, and there are other producers who are already doing a brilliant job in that domain. I believe it’s important to focus on stories which viewers can connect with, which have meaning, which have something artistic to offer but which, first and foremost, captivate the audience.
(Translated from French)
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