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True events inspire gripping Rotterdam opener Wasted Youth


“Some films have to be made now or never, and Wasted Youth is definitely one of them,” said Argyris Papadimitropoulos and Jan Vogel the day they learned their joined effort would open the 40th International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR, January 26-February 6) and compete for its Tiger Awards. After its gala screening at the festival Wednesday and a select press screening in Greece yesterday, one must admit they’re absolutely right.

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Based on the most shocking event recent Greek history has to offer its collective subconscious, Papadimitropoulos describes his film to Cineuropa as a project of urgency. “Jan would often work in Greece, we’d done several commercials together and he’s well aware of the social climate in Greece,” says the 34-year-old filmmaker who was crowned box office king for his feature debut, Bank Bang in 2009.

Papadimitropoulos continues: “While going over a project we had landed, we started discussing several recent events and the changes Greece underwent because of them, so we thought there should be a film about it and we decided we’d be the ones to do it.”

“That was nine months ago,” the director adds. In June 2010 they started filling their rented downtown Athens office with mood pictures from all over the city, and lining up a series of interviews with teenagers hanging out at the nearby skate shop. “Since we had no script, we decided we’d work non-stop every day for a month, see what we could come up with and then go shoot it for another month,” he says of the film that wrapped by the end of July.

Broken up in dual parallel action, the story follows a young skateboarder setting off for a normal day of kicking back and skating with friends, and a distressed, middle-aged man who tries to cope with his obligations as a breadwinner in a job he despises in the midst of an economic crisis that terrifies him.

Amateur actor Harry Markou’s raw performance as the skater grants the film its sense of immediacy, as do his real-life friends Arthur Kivilioff and Jason Wastor, who also star alongside him. “Using amateurs was an artistic choice from the get-go,” Papadimitropoulos explains. “We weren’t going to cast professionals to pretend they’re kids,” he says.

Long-time envelope-pusher Yannis Economides and Greek wave new entry Syllas Tzoumerkas (directors of festival favorites Soul Kicking [+see also:
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and Homeland [+see also:
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respectively) also appear in the film, adding a symbolic seal of approval to this latest addition to the recent surge of social and political commentary to be found in local indie titles.

A seal well deserved indeed. By the time Wasted Youth is done with its painfully naturalistic, Gus van Sant-like documentation of the grimness of everyday life and adolescence’s willful disregard of the struggles survival demands in such a suffocating environment, the film’s final scene grips viewers by the throat and shows them, hard as fact, the ruthlessness they can expect to rip from it.

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