Translation By Lisa Darilis
Famous actor and producer, Christopher Papakaliatis, who recently won recognition in his film "What If" ("Av") at the Greek Film Festival, spoke to New Greek T.V. journalist Christos Georgalas about his new upcoming film, which he said is open to the possibility of including some famous American actors. Papakaliatis shared with us his thoughts on topics such as his recent screening of "If" in New York, his vying for the Golden Globe nomination, the economic crisis in Greece, and about his future plans.
Q: Christopher, the film "If" was screened at the well embraced film festival in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The film had proposals to be screened in Paris and Brussels, although it still had one more screening left in New York. The film, which depicted two parallel romantic stories and the game of chance played by those who were hindered, was chiefly accompanied by positive feedback. How do you feel about that?
A: First of all, I saw many people who personally identified with what they were viewing, especially those who were younger, who recently left Greece due to the situation there. I had a very warm welcome from Greeks, Greek-Americans, and even other types of Americans. I liked the fact that another race or people was watching a Greek film. I hope this continues, because it is good for many reasons for our country's issues to be discussed abroad.
Q: You have really portrayed Athens in the most beautiful and colorful way. For example, I myself, upon seen the film, wanted to go to Plaka for coffee. How did you manage to portray such an image?
A: Many have asked me about how we managed to portray Plaka in such a beautiful way. What I say to everyone is that we didn't need to do anything out of the ordinary on our part, since Plaka is beautiful no matter what. It is an area that offers all the fairytale scenery. Simply, we who live in Athens, haven't really experienced it as much as we should have, and didn't give Athens her proper credit. It's pleasing, how every time I pass by Plaka I always notice young adults drinking coffee. It is very busy and chaotic! It is as if in some way it has come to life again!
Q: In other words, you believe that people have begun to revisit and rediscover classical values?
A: I don't know if indeed they are returning to classical values. I do know, however, that they are revisiting them, whether they want to or not. People are changing their way of thinking. Besides, the situation in Greece is such that they have to, generally speaking, to see things with a different eye."
Q: How do you think the situation would be "If" we didn't have the crisis; If we didn't experience this situation, which seemed to have risen up "in one night?"
A: I disagree that we "experienced" this in one night, since I believe that it is something that has been building up for years now. This isn't going on only in Greece and in Athens.. All of Southern Europe is suffering from this, as we see countries such as Italy, Spain, and Portugal having similar problems. If you ask me, I would tell you that I don't think that they are simply paying the consequences for poor mishandling. If we search within history, we'll see that these situations were created as a basis to a plan in the realm of politics. This, of course, is a very "serious" political discussion. The truth is that if these things didn't happen in Greece, some people within the country would have felt better, would have been more optimistic and would have been able to continue dreaming. Because, let's not lie, things in Greece are extremely harsh. As optimistic as one wants to be, they can not be ignorant to reality.
Q: During the years of prosperity, we saw in our country...flares of light. We saw people on television, cinematography, and in other areas, disappear in one night. You, however, continue to create and to speak about the crisis through your films. How do you feel about that?
A: This phenomenon of "flares" in our country is worldwide and timeless, it isn't observed only from this period of crisis. From now on, however, there are people who are working hard, working with outcomes and are doing something that they love and believe in. These type of people exist in television, film and in the theater, and surely, it isn't just me. Besides, I want to reiterate that in Greece, we have a lot of accomplished people. Let's not just get stuck on its faults and failures, since in our country there are also many good things, which, perhaps - and I stress "perhaps" - will one day save Greece.
Q: Why did you choose to bring up the crisis within the romantic storyline?
A: When you live in a certain environment, you are affected by it. I could write a romantic story, but that story will unfold within the background or setting I live in. That's how I was influenced by Greek reality. I could not have been affected by the actuality of another country.
Q: I noticed a direct relation in the story of Antonaki and Elenitsa Kokovikou with that of George Konstantinou - Maro Kontou...
A: I am one of those people who believes that you can't move forward if you don't honor the past. I tried to connect the classical relationship of Antonaki and Elenitsa with the new generation, without one generation giving pass to the other. Besides, Antonakis and Elenitsa are a reference to all of us and to the people whom we grew up with.
Q: How did the meeting with Maro Kontou and George Konstantinou happen?
A: First I wrote the plot and then I contacted them, and discussed it with them. You understand that if they refused, I would have had to write the whole scenario from the beginning.Finally, however, they agreed and were very cooperative and we simply adapted and adjusted certain things during rehearsals.
Q: If we were able to turn back time, what would you not have put in the film, and in the way that we viewed it?
A: There is nothing that I would have excluded from the plot. Since it was my first film attempt, I can tell you that I would have shot certain scenes more "cinematographically." I'm not going to hide it from you that when I saw the film for the first time in a large theater, I began to say to myself "oh...I made a mistake here," or "it should have been done differently there." This concerns the topic of narration, and not in the technical part of it, where the film was pristine - in other words, how the narration was in some scenes. Of course, I believe that I passed on 90% of the messages I wanted to, but some things should have been done differently.
Q: Did you want to do other things, but found yourself restricted by the budget?
A: The budget always restricts you, with or without a crisis going on. However, during this time, not only does it restrict you, but it compels you to find other ways, which many times, can prove to be creative.
Q: If I gave you paper, an unrestricted budget and whatever stars you wanted for your next film, what would you do?
A: The same thing I do now, but things would simply be easier.
Q: Give us some details about your new film.
A: I'm not quite ready to tell you, I have written it, I am editing it, and the plot needs a little more work. The production, under the condition that everything goes well, will begin in a few months. What I can say is that it is based on three romantic stories. The distinctive aspect of this is that every couple is mixed, as it consists of one Greek and one foreign partner. So, it will probably be necessary for people to come to Greece from America and other parts of Europe for the filming, something that is a goal of mine: for us in Greece to communicate more effectively with those abroad.
Q: Have you concluded on any names?
A: We are still discussing this.
Q: Will we laugh or cry with this film?
A: I think that, as it happens with all my productions, we will both laugh and cry.
Q: In relation to the current situation in Greece, do you believe that we will laugh or cry at the end?
A: I am trying to remain optimistic, but I can't be a fool. I believe that the situation there is very difficult, and whoever lives in Greece understands this. As long as these politics continue to be implemented, and the moment you see those responsible for having us reach this point undertake the task of saving you, then you don't have a lot of leeway in hope.
Q: Have you ever thought about leaving Greece and going to work abroad?
A: First of all, I believe that I am not a characteristic example of a Greek at this time, as I am one of the few who have the luck to still do something that they love and still be able to live off of it. Greece is a large part of my inspiration. So, I want to continue to do my work and to live in a country that gives me a peculiar strength to do whatever it is I do. In addition, my family is here, so are my friends, my reflections, and naturally, my home, where I enjoy to write. I would not want the moment to eventually arrive when I am compelled to pick up and leave Greece. Aside from that, even if this does happen, I will not stop from referencing to Greece, who inspires me. Besides, my job requires a pen, paper, inspiration, and imagination. The issue is clearly sentimental.
Q: In the film, the voice of Hroni Missiou is heard saying, amongst other things:"We leave the most sentimental things. We make ourselves a cemetery of murdered expectations and desires." Is this an expression that defines you?
A: When I personally heard about that excerpt, I communicated with Hroni Missio and asked him for permission to use it. He immediately gave me his personal approval. The tragedy is that he died the day of the premier. When I heard about that, I was in shock, as we weren't aware that he was battling health issues.
Q: You are turning 40 years old. Do you think that is a converging point of your life?
A: In reality, I have reached 40. As for the "converging point," they've been telling me that since I was 35. One idea is everything. What I want is to move forward. I am very lucky that up until now I am still accomplishing things. I believe that when you want something very badly, crisis or not, you will accomplish it.
Q: Do you have a relationship with anyone during this time?
A: No, but I had one when I was writing the film.
Q: How did "If" contend to be considered for nomination for the Golden Globe Awards?
A: The film was considered eligible to run for the Golden Globe nominations. This, that it was "considered eligible," is something very important and very intense to me, not only for now, but for all future projects. I would like to thank those responsible for the film festival in Los Angeles, who attested to the film and promoted it, of which I was informed about afterwards. Independent of what the outcome will be, it is of great importance that "If" is competing for this purpose.