Human Rights Film Festival

Amerika Square screening was held at the New York launch of the Global Migration Film Festival organised by IOM – UN Migration at 3 UN Plaza – Danny Kaye Centre.

Cinema and Migration. It’s a magical bond that began over a century ago when filmmakers, many of whom were immigrants themselves, began making movies about a world on the move. Their films brought the dramatic, poignant and comic stories of migrants to diverse audiences, through a language of images and emotions that were meaningful to every culture.

The Global Migration Film Festival was launched by the UN Migration Agency (IOM) in this spirit. The festival features new films that capture the promise and challenges of migration for those who leave their homes in search of a better life and the unique contributions migrants make to their new communities.

IOM’s first Global Migration Film Festival in 2016 took place in 89 countries. Some 10,000 people attended 220 screenings at cinemas, universities, cultural institutions and other venues. The festival hosted 13 feature films and documentaries and nearly 200 short films about and by migrants, as well as dozens of post-screening discussions and side-events.

This year’s festival will take place from 5 – 18 December 2017 in countries and venues to be announced later this year. All screenings will be free of charge.

Screening of Amerika Square in Zurich at the Human Rights Film Festival

Amerika Square - Film Review - Kolkata 2016

Vassilis Kukalani is part of a panel after the screening of Amerika Square in Zurich at the Human Rights Film Festival.

Since 2015, the Human Rights Film Festival Zurich takes place each year on the occasion of the International Day of Human Rights on 10 December. The programme reflects a variety of human rights themes in different geographic and social contexts. We show compelling films that combine a convincing artistic language with the exploration of pressing human rights issues. Topics include flight and migration, the war in Syria, women’s rights, LGBTI-rights, responsibilities of multinationals as well as the relation between resources, energy and human rights. Panel discussions after the screenings widen the scope of the programme and offer the possibility to contextualize and discuss the films. The festival thus offers a platform for passionate dialogue between films and human rights.


Amerika Square - Film Review - Kolkata 2016

Salon talks to Oscar hopefuls about their chances to break out and upset the favorites in a competitive field.

The best foreign language film Oscar is intensely competitive. The prize is often awarded to established filmmakers who have “name” recognition, or benefit from a big studio campaign. But every year, there are always one or two films that spoil the frontrunners and favorites by making the shortlist or becoming one of the final five nominees. In the past few years “Embrace of the Serpent,” from Colombia, and “Tangerines,” from Estonia, were long shots that earned Oscar nominations.
The foreign language film Oscar selections for the shortlist are generally composed of titles that appeal to voters because they connect on an emotional or visual level. The filmmakers can sometimes be fresh new voices in world cinema that rout auteurism. Or they are films that make the cut because they are either popular, middlebrow entertainment, or exotic, edgier fare.
This year, there are several titles that could break through and have a chance at Oscar glory and generate attention to a country’s national cinema. But the prize is so idiosyncratic, it can be hard to predict whether voters will honor a bold cinematic voice or a straight-up crowd-pleaser — or both — with a place on the shortlist. Two European films in competition this year are possibilities.
“On Body and Soul” (Hungary), by writer/director Ildikó Enyedi, won four prizes at Berlin, including the Golden Bear. While the film is visually striking, its plot is peculiar. Two lonely slaughterhouse employees, Endre (Géza Morcsányi), who has lost the use of his left arm, and Mária (Alexandra Borbély), who has Asperger’s syndrome, fumble toward romance after they discover they share the same dream. The film, which is both s-l-o-w-l-y paced and contains some gruesome scenes of animal butchering, may be a slog for some viewers, though it has impressed audiences in advance screenings.

Long shots in the best foreign language film Oscar race

In contrast, “Amerika Square” (Greece) is a realistic drama that toggles between two timely stories. In one, the struggling Nakos (Makis Papadimitriou) bemoans looking for work and wanting to rid his neighborhood (Amerika Square) of foreigners. In the other, Tarek (Vassilis Koukalani), a Syrian, is trying to get himself and his daughter safely into Germany via Greece. The film is an urgent drama that depicts how, as one character states, “Those who want to leave [Greece] can’t, while those who can do not want to.” “Amerika Square” is taut and compelling, and it would be nice to see it get shortlisted if not nominated, but its chances are slight at best.
Salon spoke to six foreign language filmmakers about the possibility of being shortlisted for this year’s Oscar.
Writer/director Annemarie Jacir’s “Wajib” (Palestine) is a moving drama about a father and son (real-life father and son Mohammad and Saleh Bakri) driving around town delivering invitations to their daughter/sister’s wedding. Jacir reveals much about the characters in just a single line of dialogue, and she coaxes nuanced performances from her two actors.
This is the third film by Jacir to be submitted in the category from Palestine, and the filmmaker explained that it has become a “much more formal and organized process” than in previous years. She recalled, “When I was last put up, for ‘Salt of the Sea’ (2008), the Ministry of Culture didn’t know what to do. Now they send out an email during the year to all filmmakers, and ask them to officially submit.”

Jacir continued, “It’s very special and important to be nominated. [Palestine] has not been represented very often. It’s only in the last decade [since 2003] that we’ve been nominating films. We’re making films not just for ourselves, but for an international audience. It’s about connecting with people and getting our stories out there.”
One of the things that could hurt Jacir’s chances with “Wajib” this year is that the film does not have U.S. distribution. “We are trying,” she claimed. “We have some offers. I know people that have distribution and people backing them and they have extra screenings and ads . . . The point is to get people to see the film. If it’s easier for them to see the film, that helps. I rely on press, and word of mouth . . . I don’t know if not having distribution affects the campaign. Maybe we’ll get distribution through the campaign? I hope we have a chance. We’re doing the best we can. But I know so many things are random.”
Jacir is nothing if not realistic about her chances. “People don’t flock to see Palestinian films. Maybe they are not interested; they think it’s going to be a downer. People aren’t expecting to laugh, and that it’s got to be really serious, but I have more humor in ‘Wajib.’”
What might work in Jacir’s favor is being a female filmmaker, and from the Arab world, as well. “In countries with an independent film scene there are a lot more women filmmakers,” she observed. “If you go to Dubai, half the films, not just documentaries, are directed by women. At Venice, one out of 21 films are made by women.”
She concludes with some thoughts about what a nomination could or would mean for her. “It’s important. It’s about the burden of representation. I don’t represent Palestine. My characters don’t represent anyone except themselves. Because there are so few films [from Palestine], you have an audience that wants you to answer all the questions. To represent Palestine and what’s going on. I make films that are reflecting social reality, and have flawed characters that I know. I believe in poetic license and being free to make a film about one story, but there are many stories.”
One of the best-poised contenders for the shortlist is “Thelma” (Norway). Director Joachim Trier’s genre film, made in the Stephen King mold, might just connect with voters. Thelma (Eili Harboe) is a student from a strict religious background who falls in love with Anja (Okay Kaya). As she embarks on a same-sex romance, Thelma discovers she has telekinetic powers.
“We never expected it to be the Norwegian contender. It became a hit for its unusual mix of genre and human elements,” Trier explained. “We won the Norwegian Film Critics Award.”
The Norwegian Oscar selection committee chose ‘Thelma” because, the filmmaker said, “The film played with Norwegian folklore elements. It’s a modern version of the tale of the witch. It’s a supernatural film about a girl from a religious background becoming a lesbian.”
Trier believes that academy members have embraced his film because it is not political or intellectual. It features superb sound design and strong visual elements. There are also several dramatic and virtuoso set pieces. “As we developed it, we told a human story, not a horror film,” he indicated.
While Trier’s 2006 feature debut, “Reprise,” was submitted for the foreign language film Oscar that year, “Reprise” did not have any momentum behind it to be a real contender. Its theatrical release missed the nomination deadline, and with that critical moment passed, the film failed to gain any traction. Which is why Trier is more upbeat this time around. “Thelma” received a theatrical release in November, after screening at the New York Film Festival, AFI, and elsewhere. He said, “The reviews are coming in and they are wonderful. I’m taking it one day at a time. I hope academy members are open to a film that has a genre element. My fingers are crossed. I’m grateful for an opportunity to try.
John Trengove confessed he was “blown away” that his feature debut, “The Wound” (South Africa), about a love triangle that develops among Xhosa caregivers during a manhood ritual, was chosen to represent South Africa this year. “It was never part of the intention. We were making a gay film. But there was a lot of heat and momentum behind the film and good will upon release.”
An independent jury from the country’s National Film and Video Foundation selected the film after considerable deliberation. “The Wound” was chosen most likely because of the significant international attention it received.
“We are a marginal outsider with a fringe project, so it’s about making noise and getting people to see the film,” Trengove said about campaigning for a spot on the shortlist. But the slow rollout strategy of patience — letting the film “percolate” through film festivals, picking up awards, as well as getting a theatrical run in the states — has paid off. “People have become interested in ‘The Wound’ for all sorts of reasons,” he observed.
One factor in the film’s favor is its exotic portrait of a South African manhood ritual. “I think the thing to do is dig our heels in and make a lot of noise, and not to be middle-of-the-road and not be scared to challenge or divide audiences. That characterizes the film. I think the exotic aspect intrigues the audience, but we also touch on toxic masculinity and the consequences that has on our society. It’s queer-themed, but a look at the culture at the moment; it’s finding an audience by tapping into these nerve endings.”
Director Pat Collins’ biopic of sean-nós singer Joe Heaney, “Song of Granite” (Ireland), is luminously shot in black-and-white, with the actors speaking mostly in Gaelic. Given that the film’s subject may not be well known to voters, and the film takes an experimental approach in presenting Heaney’s life, “Song of Granite” has an uphill climb to get shortlisted.
Collins is pragmatic about his “experiential” film’s chances. But he claims the film is finding an audience. “It is rare to see an Irish language film. The [official] screening in Los Angeles was gratifying. There was an enthusiastic response, and I was pleasantly surprised with how well it has been received.”
He continued, “We have a promoter working on it, and I’m learning as we go along. I presume it’s a long shot as it’s not a mainstream film, but the one advantage is the look of it: The cinematography is great. And Ireland and Irish music has an awareness even if this isn’t your standard Irish music. The film echoes cinematic periods, like neorealism, and cinema vérité — these are elements cinephiles will hopefully be drawn to.”
“Newton” (India) Writer/director Amit Masurkar’s entertaining anti-establishment comedy sends the title character (Rajkummar Rao), a by-the-book government clerk, into the jungle to make sure there is a free and fair election. Of course, things go sideways.
Masurkar seems to be not unlike his film’s genial title character when it comes to the awards. “We read the rules and think they are fair,” he said about the campaigning practices. “It doesn’t benefit people to campaign a lot. We have screenings, and not just official ones. We have good publicists on board. I’ve been available for Q&As and we are showing the film to students.”
“Newton” was nominated by an independent film federation in India, which Masurkar described as a committee consisting of one to two representatives from each regional film industry (Hindi, Bengali, etc.). They are editors, cinematographers and producers from all different parts of the country. Twenty-two people watch the submitted films and decide on the Oscar entry.
“It makes us happy to represent India,” the filmmaker said, “because this story is from the heart of India. Literally! We shot it in the middle of the country. It’s a big deal for us that this film is being watched by an international audience and getting this kind of exposure.”
What was especially gratifying was how this film, made on a $1.5 million budget, collected $5 million in the box office in India when it was released in September.
“Recognition at Berlin and Tribeca validated our efforts,” Masurkar said. “The film was reviewed and we [secured] a good deal with Amazon Prime in January, which helps us get seen. We’re doing a small theatrical release in January, with Eros, the Indian distribution company that handles Bollywood films in the U.S. and Canada. They have a strong presence in the South Asian diaspora. It’s important that the film is seen by a regular and wider audience.”
What might get “Newton” on the shortlist is that the film is a comedy. Given the many heavy and heady dramas submitted in this category, a nice, light film (albeit one with a political point) may just have an edge this year.
It was a rare accomplishment in 2014 when Mauritania landed in the top five nominees with “Timbuktu,” its first-ever submission for the best foreign language film Oscar. Such a feat might be repeated again this year with “Félicité” (Senegal). Alain Gomis’ remarkable film, set in Kinshasa, Congo, is the first-ever nomination from Senegal. The story has Félicité (Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu), a singer in a bar, trying to raise cash to help her son, Samo (Gaetan Claudia), who needs an operation after a motorcycle accident. “Félicité” won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as many African film awards.
“It’s a big honor, and there is big pressure to be the first selected film. It’s a long journey to the ceremony. Everybody [in Senegal] thinks we’re going to win the Oscar,” Gomis said.
The filmmaker hopes members of the academy will discover his film and encourage others to see it. A nomination has the power to boost the national cinema. “It’s modern African cinema. It’s not just the story, but another kind of storytelling,” he explained. “If the Oscar [process] can help us have that connection and intimacy, and reach an audience, that’s important to us.”
But just getting submitted to compete was a process. Gomis said, “There was no [Senegalese] Oscar committee. We needed to form a committee to choose the film. It was selected by the Center of Cinematography. We sent it to the Oscar folks, and then, to qualify the film, we had to prove it was released in Senegal for seven consecutive days, which is difficult, because there are few theaters here, and no distribution. It screened here and there, so we had to negotiate with them to make them understand the truth of distribution.”
He continued, “The film is set in Kinshasa, Congo, so, because the crew was Congalese, we had to prove it’s a Senegalese film made in another African country.”
Another hurdle was the application form on the Oscar website. “We went through all the questions and requirements, but Senegal didn’t appear as one of the countries to submit! We had to get them to add it! But now it’s done. The next one will be easier!”
Nevertheless, despite the effort, Gomis is optimistic. “I hope there will be one African film on the shortlist, and I hope it will be us.”

Greek crises brought to screen at BIFF

9:00 PM PST 11/23/2017 by Ariston Anderson

Director Yannis Sakaridis’ ensemble drama examines displacement from multiple perspectives, but refuses to pass judgement.

With its strategic position between Africa, Asia and Europe, Greece has found itself unwittingly at the center of the refugee crisis over the past few years. The country has become the first entry point into Europe for 1.2 million refugees since 2015. Yannis Sakaridis wrote his FIPRESCI award-winning drama Amerika Square in response to the current situation. It’s a rare work that looks at multiple sides of a very complex situation and has been selected as Greece’s Oscar entry in the foreign-language film race.

What Sakaridis didn’t know when he started shooting was just how much the real-life situation around him would parallel the film’s storyline, as the crisis became more and more dire. When he shot the film at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, there were nearly 7,000 people arriving to the country each day. As his shooting locations became flooded with refugees, they ended up becoming a part of the film, playing various extras in the background.

The film takes place in and around Amerika Square, a gathering point for refugees trying to find a way out of Greece. “Basically what you see in the square and what’s happening in the film was exactly what was going on,” says Sakaridis. “We went to shoot in the square and literally there were people everywhere, like in Casablanca, waiting for a piece of paper or for a smuggler or for a fake passport in order to get away.”

Amerika Square - Film Review - Kolkata 2016

In Sakaridis’ film, three different stories converge in the square. Nakos is an unemployed racist Greek who dreams of the more prosperous Athens of his youth. He lives at home and can’t find a job. There is a mass exodus of young Greeks from the country while more and more immigrants are filling his apartment building. He blames the thousands of refugees living in his neighborhood for his own struggles and fantasizes about ways to get rid of them. He ends up hatching an ill-conceived plan to poison their food.

Billy is a tattoo artist who tries to help an African singer, Tereza, a young victim of exploitation. They meet when she comes to him for a tattoo that says “Refuse to sink.” Billy covers Tereza’s previous “Property of Mike,” tattoo, and vows to help her escape Greece by boat.

Tarek, a Syrian doctor, and his daughter have escaped the war but find themselves stuck in Athens, trying to find their way to Northern Europe. Tarek negotiates an escape plan with a smuggler named Hassan which requires handing over his life savings.

For Sakaridis, it was important to show the various sides of the story, rather than just paint one group as good or bad. “This banal racist is sort of old-fashioned. He realizes that his area is full of foreigners suddenly, and he can’t move,” says Sakaridis of Nakos. “We see him with love and we try to understand him. We don’t just blame him.”

And while Billy has a similar educational background as Nakos, Sakaridis says he sees the world in a completely opposite way. “This is not a class thing. You’re not born a racist,” observes Sakaridis. “You become a racist when something clicks in your mind, an imbalance.” It’s only when Nakos encounters the kindness of Tarek that he realizes the horror of his actions.

“It was really desperate people in a really horrible situation,” says Sakaridis of the time. He remembered filming one refugee from Afghanistan and giving him some money afterwards, who then took it and rented a hotel room for one night so he and all his friends could shower. “This guy hadn’t had a shower or a bed for months.”
Greece entry Amerika Square

In addition to the symbolism of Amerika Square as a place of different nationalities coming together in search of a better life, the symbolism of the tattoo plays a large role in the film as the one thing no one can take away.

“Tattoos are the only thing you can carry without having the danger of losing it,” says Sakaridis. “You can lose your money, your clothes, but the tattoos are always there. People coming from Asia or Africa would get a tattoo before their journey, such as ‘I love my mom,’ or ‘Jesus saves me.’ But the most famous one at that time was ‘Refuse to sink.’”

Sakaridis believes his film represents a particularly tough time for Greece, but fortunately today the situation is much better. “Our minister of migration, considering the situation, has done more than is humanly possible,” he says of Ioannis Mouzalas. “You go to Athens and you don’t see people living in the streets. They are able to find shelter.”

Sakaridis recently showed the film in a modernized refugee camp (one with A/C and WiFi) outside of Athens with Mouzalas. The migration minister is a doctor who has led efforts to combat the refugee crisis since 2015, and has himself slept in camps more than 50 nights this year. Many refugees came up to them afterwards, recognizing their own stories in the film.

Mouzalas provided his own metaphor for Sakaridis that has since stuck with him, one that also mirrors the film: “He said to me that with the refugee situation, you will never have a sort of bliss at the end. It’s not like childbirth. It’s more like finishing a cancer operation. The patient still lives, somehow in better conditions, but you haven’t actually gotten rid of the cancer. It’s just a very sober reaction to it. There’s no glamour in this work.”

Γιάννης Σακαρίδης

Yannis Sakaridis – Thessaloniki film festival 2016

Interview With Director Yannis Sakaridis

We sat down and spoke with director and editor Yannis Sakaridis, the man responsible for the critically-acclaimed movie “Amerika Square”. After making a splash at film festivals around the world, including the LAGFF (Los Angeles Greek Film Festival), “Amerika Square” has been picked to represent Greece in the race for Best Foreign Language Film nominee.

Sakaridis, who also co-wrote the script, told us about the inspiration for his story, “Amerika Square”‘s reflection of modern Greek society, the state of Greek cinema, and what it’s like to be in Los Angeles trying to get nominated for an Academy Award.

Tell us a little about what inspired you to create this script.

When I came back from London, after 18 years, I went to Amerika Square and I felt this area was closer to whatever I was doing in London. This was a neighborhood that was closer to the center of town, had a multicultural feel to it, and it was a neighborhood that had a lot of background, a lot of artists.

I got interested in that place and I started writing something on how a local person reacts to all this inflow of refugees – at the time it was a lot of African migrants. So when all the Syrians started coming we did more research and I co-wrote the script with a young writer who had just finished a novel called “Victoria Doesn’t Exist”, and we based the racist character on that novel.

So we put all our research and work together, and I wanted to do something which was political with a touch of reality, a recognizable sort of social background, but at the same time fast, a lot of storytelling, and then also funny. So we put all this mix together and then we developed it, and we based the Syrian guy on a true story.

Watching the film, it felt like a lot of the main Greek characters reflected the prevailing Greek viewpoints on immigration – do you think the film could change anyone’s mind in Greece?

The film follows a story in a way that we don’t blame people, or we don’t say “this racist guy is really bad”; there is empathy with all viewpoints. We understand where he’s coming from and we understand that you’re not born racist, you just become one, and also that we as a society have a need to educate these people and show them the other way.

So we don’t really want to dictate something, we just want to show the situation and peoples’ positions and raise questions about issues, and people can take whatever they want from it. Of course we hope they might change. After all, movies are a spiritual thing; you sit in a darkened theater and watch something with friends and loved ones and sometimes that can change your mind – that’s what we hope.

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Amerika Square Trailer

What was the casting process like for this film?

While we were developing the story, we knew some of the cast as we wrote the script. So I knew Yannis Stankoglou would play the tattoo artist, and Vassilis Koukalanis was in my mind for the Syrian guy. So we definitely work towards the actors and the actors bring a lot of themselves into the character and vice versa.

As far as preparation, I don’t do a lot of rehearsals, I do a lot of talking with the actors and I fully trust them. So then when we get on set we fully improvise the script, and we don’t do a lot of takes so it looks very much like real life. That’s the way I like to work, I think probably informed by my British background, and people like Mike Lee and Ken Lodes, who keep the script to themselves and let the actors react to it.

I’m more experienced as an editor than a director. I loved going to London and work on really good projects from a very young age, did a lot of feature films, documentaries for British television, lots of trailers. I can edit, so I can bring something together, so I have confidence on the set that I can bring all this together.

What was it like to switch into the director’s chair from editing?

Editing, like writing, is very lonely work, so when you get into the director’s chair it’s a little scary – you think what are these people doing here? It’s a little intimidating, but after you realize the power structure and the dynamics on set, it’s great – you get to work with really amazing actors, and I care about the actors a lot and let the rest of the films sort of evolve. The actors I worked with, I knew they did incredible work in the theater, and they bring a lot of experience and a lot of concentration into their work.

57ο Φεστιβάλ Κινηματογράφου Θεσσαλονίκης
What do you think of the state of Greek cinema?

However, there is still a lot of interest in Greek art, and because cinema is a mirror and reflection of a society, people want to see Greek film to suss out what’s going on there. Thte last few years, there have been a lot of Greek films in festivals, that have won international awards, and I’m in a position where I can say now that there are different styles of Greek films, and “Amerika Square” is very close to poetic realism with a bit of humor. That’s always popular, and we won four or five different audience awards, so the reception of the film has been great, and we sold the film to six different countries.

So in general, our generation has brought Greek cinema to the international stage, and at the same time we have started proving that there is not only the Lanthimos style, there are different styles as well. There is a variety of different genres coming out of Greece now. I still see however that though this movie did very well in other continents, European Film Festivals still have very specific ideas about what they want from Greek cinema, and it definitely is still in that known Lanthimos style. In the few European festivals we went to, we did win awards so we still did relatively well, but we did better in Asia and Africa.

Since you’ve been to a lot of international film festivals with this movie, what do you see the reaction being to Greek films abroad?

Well Greece is generally loved as a country and a culture, so it’s easy – China, India, everywhere you go. We’ve been in trouble for some years of course, and we’ve been in headlines – a lot of people, taxi drivers and such abroad, kept asking me “are you having problems there, what are you going to do, etc.”. Even refugees were asking “how are you surviving?”

How do you feel representing Greece at this level, with your film in the running to be a Best Foreign Language Film nominee?

I never in my wildest dreams thought this would happen. I had planned to be starting another production in the UK right now, and I got this news and I got a bit overwhelmed. We realized, we barely have money to even go to LA, nevermind advertise our film and everything else that is needed. But here we are, we’ve made it work, and we’re going to try to show our film to as many people as possible, make as much noise as possible, and see what happens.

Of course, we are still in the running as one of 92 countries for five final selections, who are all campaigning in LA from early September to mid-December, so I know there is still a lot of work to be done. But hopefully, the Academy Board members will connect with the story and vote for our film.

Το «Amerika Square» (Πλατεία Αμερικής) του Γιάννη Σακαρίδη θα είναι η επίσημη πρόταση της Ελλάδας για τις υποψηφιότητες των Όσκαρ Ξενόγλωσσης Ταινίας 2018.

η ελληνική πρόταση για τα φετινά Όσκαρ

Το «Amerika Square» (πλατεία Αμερικής), η δεύτερη μεγάλου μήκους ταινία του Γιάννη Σακαρίδη – τέσσερα χρόνια μετά το «Wild Duck»- σε σενάριο του ίδιου, του Βαγγέλη Μουρίκη και του Γιάννη Τσίρμπα, βασισμένο στο βιβλίο του τελευταίου, «Η Βικτώρια Δεν Υπάρχει» (εκδ. Νεφέλη), είναι η φετινή ελληνική εκπροσώπηση στην επετειακή 90ή απονομή των βραβείων Όσκαρ.

Μετά από ένα μακρύ ταξίδι σε διεθνή κινηματογραφικά Φεστιβάλ, από το Busan μέχρι το Chicago και από την βράβευσή του με Ειδική Μνεία για την ερμηνεία του Βασίλη Κουκαλάνι, με το βραβείο της Fipresci της Διεθνούς Ένωσης Κριτικών και με το Ειδικό Βραβείο της Επιτροπής Νεότητας στο 57ο Φεστιβάλ Κινηματογράφου Θεσσαλονίκης, αλλά και το Βραβείο Ίρις καλύτερου μοντάζ, που επιμελήθηκε ο Γιάννης Σακαρίδης, στην 8η απονομή των βραβείων της Ελληνικής Ακαδημίας Κινηματογράφου, το «Amerika Square» μπαίνει τώρα σε τροχιά για τα βραβεία Όσκαρ

Η ταινία ετοιμάζεται στα τέλη Σεπτεμβρίου να ανοίξει σε περιορισμένο κύκλωμα σε κινηματογράφους της Νέας Υόρκης και του Λος Άντζελες από την Corinth Films, με το Hollywood Reporter να σημειώνει πως είναι μια από τις καλύτερες ευρωπαϊκές ταινίες για τις οδυνηρές επιπτώσεις του προσφυγικού.

Στην υπόθεση του έργου, ο Τάρεκ, πρόσφυγας από τη Συρία, βρίσκεται με τη δεκάχρονη κόρη του στην Ελλάδα με σκοπό να μεταβεί στη Γερμανία. Με τη βοήθεια του Χασάν, ενός διακινητή μεταναστών, καταστρώνουν το σχέδιο εξόδου από την Ελλάδα, με πλαστά διαβατήρια.

Ο Μπίλι, ένας ροκ σαραντάρης, ιδιοκτήτης μπαρ στην πλατεία Αμερικής, έχει βαλτώσει με τη μοναχική ζωή του. Όταν η Τερέζα, μια μουσικός από την Αφρική, έρχεται να κάνει τατουάζ στο παράνομο τατού studio στο πατάρι του μπαρ, ο Μπίλι την ερωτεύεται. Η Τερέζα, όμως, προκειμένου να πραγματοποιήσει το όνειρό της αποφασίζει να μεταναστεύσει στη Γαλλία.

Ο Νάκος, παλιός φίλος του Μπίλι, ζει ακόμη με τους γονείς του, μισεί τους ξένους που του έχουν πάρει την πλατεία και θέλει να γίνουν όλα όπως παλιά. Έτσι, καταστρώνει ένα σχέδιο «εξολόθρευσης» μεταναστών. Γίνεται, όμως, ένα μοιραίο λάθος.
Το μοιραίο λάθος του Νάκου γίνεται η αφορμή ν’ ανατραπούν τα σχέδια της Τερέζας και του Τάρεκ, αλλά και η μοίρα του Μπίλι.

Amerika Square has won Best Feature in the OPEN FRONTIERS CONTEST 2017 held by Ventotene Film Festival Vassilis Koukalani was there to pick up the award!


Amerika Square has won Best Feature

Paramount’s Jim Gianopulos presents director Alexander Payne with 2017 honorary trophy

LAGFF Orpheus Awards

Amerika Square won at LAGFF Orpheus Awards the top prize of best feature film (at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival) Sunday evening.

Son of Sofia” received the runner-up Special Jury Prize for features. The films were, respectively, the opening and closing night pictures at the fest.

As part of the ceremony in front of a full house at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, Paramount CEO/President Jim Gianopulos (above, left) presented Oscar-winning writer/producer/director Alexander Payne (right) with the 2017 Honorary Orpheus. Payne screened an extended clip from his upcoming social satire “Downsizing,” set for distribution by Paramount in December.

Joked Gianopulos: “I love Alexander so much I went to Paramount just to be with him again.”

“Square,” directed by Yannis Sakarides, is a hard-hitting intertwining ensemble drama set amid the crisis atmosphere of contemporary Greece. “Sofia,” from Elina Psykou, while contrasting in style, is also rooted in the country’s immigrant predicament.


Amerika Square won the Audience Award in China at the Beijing International Film Festival in Forward Future section

Βραβείο Κοινού στη Κίνα… Amerika Square Won the Audience Award in China at the Beijing International Film Festival in Forward Future section after an incredible week in Beijing Film Academy where I did a masterclass, lived and felt the heart of Chinese cinema.

Well done to Yannis Tsirbas Yiannis Stankoglou Minos Matsas Vassilis Koukalani Alex Theo Doraki Spyros Aravositas Rea Pediaditaki Venia Vergou George Theo Ksenia Dania Patra Spanou Antonios Vallindras Sultan Amir Giorgos Mikrogiannakis Alexandros Voutsinas

Audience Award in China Audience Award in China Audience Award in China

Βελούδινη τζαζίστρια κι ανερχόμενη ηθοποιός, η σαγηνευτική πρωταγωνίστρια του Amerika Square Ξένια Ντάνια μεγάλωσε με τον μπαμπά της να παίζει δίσκους ασταμάτητα και τη μαμά να τραγουδάει gospel και τζαμαϊκάνικα χιτάκια.

Ξένια Ντάνια

ΜΟΥΣΙΚΗ: Οι δίσκοι του μπαμπά να παίζουν πρωί, μεσημέρι, βράδυ, κλασσική, jazz, blues, soul, reggae και ό,τι άλλο μπορεί να είχε όρεξη να ακούσει, και η μαμά να τραγουδάει gospel και τζαμαϊκανικά χιτάκια όσο έκανε δουλειές. Κάπως έτσι μου συστήθηκε η μουσική από πολύ μικρή και κάπως έτσι συνεχίζει να υπάρχει στη ζωή μου. Πάντα όταν διάβαζα έβαζα μουσική, με αποτέλεσμα τελικά να μην διαβάζω, αλλά να κλείνομαι ατελείωτες ώρες στο δωμάτιο μου να μαθαίνω τους στίχους από τα τραγούδια που άκουγα, να τα τραγουδάω, και στο τέλος να τα ηχογραφώ κιόλας. Εκείνη την εποχή άκουγα πιο πολύ old school hip hop RnB και είχα εμμονή με Whitney Houston, Beyonce και Alicia Keys. Μεγαλώντας έγινα πιο ρετρολάγνα και έτσι αγάπησα την Jazz και Soul. Οι αγαπημένες μου μεγάλες κυρίες και ανεξάντλητη πηγή έμπνευσης είναι οι Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan, Abbey Lincon, Betty Carter, Aretha Franklin και Roberta Flack.

ΒΙΒΛΙΑ: Η αλήθεια είναι ότι για πολύ καιρό το διάβασμα δεν ήταν στις άμεσες προτεραιότητες μου, ξεκινούσα ένα βιβλίο το άφηνα στη μέση και μετά δεν το ξανάπιανα ποτέ. Τα τελευταία χρόνια αυτό άλλαξε κι άρχισα σιγά-σιγά να αναπληρώνω τον χαμένο χρόνο. Διαβάζω στο μετρό, πριν κοιμηθώ, και γενικά όποτε έχω λίγο χρόνο να ξεκλέψω μέσα στη μέρα. Το καλοκαίρι διαβάζω πολύ περισσότερο, φαντάζει ιδανικό να είσαι στην παραλία ή σε ένα δροσερό μπαλκόνι και να διαβάζεις ένα ωραίο βιβλίο. Το πιο πρόσφατο βιβλίο που διάβασα και με ενθουσίασε είναι τα Γράμματα στη Νόρα, του James Joyce: επιστολές που έστελνε στη γυναίκα του — η απόλυτη αποτύπωση του έρωτα, της φωτεινής και σκοτεινής πλευράς του «άνευ ορίων άνευ όρων».

ΤΑΙΝΙΕΣ: Εδώ έχουμε ένα μεγάλο πρόβλημα: αδυνατώ να συγκρατώ τίτλους και σκηνοθέτες. Γενικά δεν πηγαίνω πολύ συχνά στο σινεμά, προτιμώ την άνεση του σπιτιού μου – και ναι, είμαι από αυτούς τους λίγους πλέον ανθρώπους που πηγαίνουν στο βίντεοκλαμπ. Θα δω λίγο πολύ τα πάντα, από χολυχουντιανά blockbusters μέχρι ανεξάρτητες ταινίες. Αγαπώ τον κλασσικό κινηματογράφο — κάτι στο μαυρόασπρο με ιντριγκάρει. Και για κάποιο λόγο που ακόμα δεν έχω καταλάβει μου αρέσουν πολύ τα θρίλερ. Από τους αγαπημένους σκηνοθέτες (που θυμάμαι) είναι οι Tarantino, Kubrick, και Fellini. Μου είναι πολύ δύσκολο να διαλέξω μία αγαπημένη ταινία αλλά η πρώτη που μου έρχεται στο μυαλό είναι το Pulp Fiction.

INTERNET: Σχέση μίσους και πάθους. Δεν πολύ συμπαθώ τα social media, τρώνε πολύτιμο χρόνο από την ζωή σου χωρίς να προσφέρουν τίποτα το ουσιαστικό, και πιστεύω ότι έχουν ίσως περισσότερο αρνητική επίδραση στη κοινωνία παγκοσμίως παρά θετική. Το πιο ενοχλητικό είναι το ότι κάπως σου επιβάλλεται να είσαι στα social media, είτε το θέλεις είτε όχι. Βέβαια, υπάρχει το youtube και το google που κάνουν τη ζωή μας πιο εύκολη.

ΤΗΛΕΟΡΑΣΗ: Δεν βλέπω τηλεόραση σχεδόν καθόλου και όταν θα δω συνηθώς βλέπω παιδικά, ή άμα πετύχω καμιά ταινία. Επίσης, πολύ πλάκα έχουν οι ειδήσεις που σπείρουν τον πανικό και την καταστροφή.

ΣΠΟΡ: Όταν ήμουν μικρή έκανα πρωταθλητισμό στο τριπλούν, αλλά λόγο τραυματισμού τα παράτησα και έπειτα δεν ασχολήθηκα παρόλο που μου άρεσε πάρα πολύ. Γενικά σαν παιδάκι είχα περάσει από διάφορα αθλήματα. Σαν ενήλικας δεν ήμουν τόσο δραστήρια και γυμναζόμουν σπάνια. Βέβαια, από φέτος που σπουδάζω υποκριτική, και έχουμε μαθήματα κίνησης και χορού, μπορώ να πω ότι έχω αρχίσει να βρίσκω πάλι την φόρμα μου.

ΤΑΞΙΔΙΑ: Από τα μεγαλύτερα μου όνειρα είναι να ταξιδέψω σε όλο τον κόσμο με τα αγαπημένα μου πρόσωπα. Υπάρχουν τόσα απίθανα μέρη πάνω στη γη, που μου φαίνεται αδιανόητο να μην πας να τα δεις. Άγνωστοι τόποι, γλώσσες, κουλτούρες που πρέπει να γνωρίσεις. Το πιο σημαντικό ταξίδι που έχω κάνει ήταν στα 18 μου στη Τζαμαϊκα — ήταν ένας άλλος κόσμος, ένας πολύ όμορφος άλλος κόσμος. Γνώρισα συγγενής που μέχρι τότε δεν γνώριζα, είδα πόσο άπλα μπορείς να ζεις και να είσαι χαρούμενος, πραγματικά άλλαξε όλη η κοσμοθεωρία μου.

ΓΕΙΤΟΝΙΑ: Μεγάλωσα στο παλιό Ψυχικό – όχι, δεν είμαι πλούσια, ούτε μένω σε βίλα, να το διευκρινίσουμε, γιατί συνήθως με κοιτάνε λίγο περίεργα όταν μιλάω για Ψυχικό. Βρήκε φθηνό οικόπεδο ο παππούς και το πήρε. Είναι ωραία η γειτονιά μου, έχει πολύ πράσινο, ησυχία, πολλά παρκάκια, τα σπίτια δεν ξεπερνούν τους 3 ορόφους, κι είναι σπάνιο φαινόμενο να δεις αυτοκίνητο χρονολογίας πριν του 2015, αλλά είναι κι εκτός πραγματικότητας. Προτιμώ το κέντρο, είναι πιο αληθινό. Μου αρέσει η βαβούρα του, μου αρέσει που μπορείς να συναντήσεις οποιονδήποτε στο δρόμο σου. Όλοι είναι εκεί. Περισσότερο γειτονιά μου όμως νιώθω τον Νέο Κόσμο, όπου έμενα για αρκετό καιρό.

ΤΩΡΑ: Στις 23 Μαρτίου βγήκε από την Feelgood η ταινία του Γιάννη Σακαρίδη Amerika Square, που είναι κι η πρώτη ταινία στην οποία συμμετέχω. Ήταν μία τρομερή εμπειρία για εμένα δεν θα μπορούσα να ήμουν πιο χαρούμενη. Είμαι στο πρώτο έτος της Δραματικής Σχολής του Ωδείου Αθηνών κάτι που το ήθελα πολύ. Και επίσης με την μπάντα που τραγουδάω τα τελευταία χρόνια, το Sera Bellos quartet, κάνουμε διάφορες εμφανίσεις σε μαγαζιά στην Αθήνα.


Πλατεία Αμερικής: 4 καλοί λόγοι για να δεις την ταινία που γλεντάει τον Νεοέλληνα

Παράξενο ή όχι, στην ταινία του Γιάννη Σακαρίδη (που κάνει πρεμιέρα για λογαριασμό της Feelgood την Πέμπτη 23 Μαρτίου), το σινεμά είναι δέντρο. Το δάσος είναι ο ελληνικός μικρόκοσμος, όπως κανένας δεν τον απεικόνισε ως τώρα. Οι μετανάστες, οι (νεο)Έλληνες, οι άνθρωποι χωρίς μελόδραμα, χωρίς κορόνες, χωρίς υπερβολές. Το φιλμ είναι αστείο, πολύ αστείο διάολε, γιατί μας δείχνει όπως είμαστε στ’ αλήθεια.

Αν λοιπόν ψάχνεις λόγο να δεις την Πλατεία Αμερικής, πάρε τέσσερις πολύ πιο σημαντικούς από σκηνοθεσίες και τρικ.

Πλατεία Αμερικής

Γιατί σου δείχνει ότι ο νεοέλληνας δεν είναι ρατσιστής, ούτε φασίστας. Μαλάκας είναι…

Η πιο μεγάλη μαγκιά της ταινίας, είναι αυτός ο πρωταγωνιστής. Ο Νάκος. Ο νεοέλληνας. Ο σύγχρονος νεοέλληνας, όχι εκείνος του ’80. Ο τύπος που σ’ όλη του τη ζωή δεν έχει κάνει τίποτα. Σαράντα χρόνων μπέμπης που τον ταΐζουν οι γονείς του, και που ακόμα ψάχνει λόγους να νιώθει αδικημένος. Όπως γκρινιάζει ένας μπέμπης, όταν τον αναγκάζουν να μοιραστεί τα παιχνίδια του με τ’ άλλα παιδάκια. Το τελευταίο παιχνίδι του Νάκου, είναι η πλατεία (Αμερικής). Και τ’ άλλα παιδιά, οι μετανάστες. Οι ξένοι. Αυτοί που δεν ανήκουν στα μέρη του. Οι “καινούριοι” του σχολείου.

Είναι ο Νάκος ρατσιστής; Έχει στ’ αλήθεια μίσος γι’ αυτούς τους ανθρώπους; Αμφιβάλλω. Μπούλης είναι, με νταϊλίκι ψεύτικο κι ανώριμο παράπονο. Αν δεν ήταν οι μετανάστες, θα ‘ταν κάποιοι άλλοι. Απλά δεν θέλει να μοιραστεί την τσουλήθρα του με κανέναν. Δεν ψάχνει αίτια κι αιτιατά. Είναι εμβρυακά ηλίθιος, εντελώς απαίδευτος, ξεκαρδιστικά (ίσως) μα κι απόλυτα μαλάκας. Έτσι είναι. Έτσι είμαστε. Ρίξε μια ματιά γύρω σου, μια χώρα γεμάτη Νάκους.

(Υπέροχος, απίθανος, φανταστικός Μάκης Παπαδημητρίου! Χτίζει έναν ρόλο ζωγραφιά).

…Αλλά οι μαλακίες πληρώνονται!

Ωστόσο, ακριβώς επειδή ο Νάκος συνεχίζει επί χρόνια να λογαριάζει τα πράγματα με συνθήκες νηπιαγωγείου, δεν το μπορεί να διαχωρίσει το μικρό απ’ το μεγάλο. Γι’ αυτόν το να “διώξει” τους ξένους απ’ τη γειτονιά του, είναι τεράστιο σαν σταυροφορία αλλά κι ελάχιστο όσο να διώξει τα παιδάκια απ’ την τσουλήθρα “του”. Ώσπου το παιχνίδι του στραβώνει. Γίνεται επικίνδυνο. Γυρίζει μπούμερανκ και του χτυπάει τη μούρη. Τότε ο Νάκος κάθεται στη γωνία. Βάζει τα κλάματα. Μετανιώνει (;) αλλά δεν μαθαίνει. Την άλλη μέρα, ξανά θα ψάχνει τρόπο να διώξει τους ξένους. Ξανά θα γκρινιάζει για την πλατεία του. Όλα αυτά όμως, γιατί το μπούμερανκ δεν τον βρήκε στα γεμάτα. Μια μέρα θα τον βρει, δεν υπάρχει αμφιβολία. Και θα του αξίζει. Κι εκείνος θα μιξοκλαίει τότε, χωρίς να καταλαβαίνει τι συνέβη.

Γιατί σου δείχνει ότι ο Έλληνας όταν θέλει είναι αληθινός μάγκας.

Όμως υπάρχει κι η άλλη πλευρά. Υπάρχει κι ο Έλληνας που αξίζει τον κόπο. Ο Έλληνας που αγαπάει τους ανθρώπους και γίνεται θυσία. Εν προκειμένω, ο Μπίλι (Γιάννης Στάνκογλου). Αυτός είναι μεγάλο παλικάρι. Αυτός είναι ρεμάλι της γειτονιάς, όχι “καλό παιδί”. Έχει μπαρ, είναι της νύχτας άνθρωπος και… παράνομος τατουατζής. Όμως αυτός ο τύπος που δεν ακούγεται καλή παρέα για το γιό σου, που δεν θα τον προξένευες ποτέ στην κόρη σου, έχει μέσα του όλα εκείνα τα στοιχεία που ψάχνεις στις ασπρόμαυρες ταινίες του Κωνσταντάρα. Ο Μπίλι έχει μπέσα. Έχει φιλότιμο. Γίνεται θυσία. Ο Μπίλι αγαπάει κι ερωτεύεται. Σου δίνει το χέρι για να μη βουλιάξεις. Δεν το λέει, αλλά το κάνει. Αν τελικά αναρωτιέσαι πού διάολο πήγαν εκείνοι οι άνθρωποι της παλιάς ελληνικής ταινίας, ψαξ’ τους σ’ ένα μπαράκι στην πλατεία Αμερικής. Κι αν θέλεις, ζήτα τους κρυφά να σου χτυπήσουν τατουάζ στον πάνω όροφο.

Γιατί αρνείται να βουλιάξει!

Refuse to Sink. Αυτό ζητάνε όλο και περισσότεροι μετανάστες να τους “χτυπήσει” στο σώμα τους ο Μπίλι. Μια υπόσχεση και μια ελπίδα. Πως αυτοί δεν θα πνιγούνε στη μεσόγειο. Ότι θα φτάσουν ως το τέλος της διαδρομής. Με έναν παρόμοιο τρόπο, ολόκληρο το φιλμ αρνείται να βουλιάξει. Αρνείται να είναι απαισιόδοξο. Οι κακοί κερδίζουν (τι νουάρ θα ‘ταν αλλιώς;), οι φελλοί επιπλέουν, όμως στο τέλος της μέρας κάποιοι άνθρωποι συνεχίζουν το ταξίδι. Και τελικά η ελπίδα ζει, το όνειρο επιπλέει, η ταινία του Σακαρίδη χτυπάει κι αυτή το τατουάζ της. Μπορεί τα σύνορα να είναι μπίζνες. Μπορεί οι άνθρωποι να είναι μπίζνες. Όμως υπάρχει ελπίδα, κι όσο εκείνη υπάρχει αξίζει να υπάρχουμε κι εμείς.

Η ”Πλατεία Αμερικής” έρχεται στις αίθουσες την Πέμπτη 23 Μαρτίου, από τη Feelgood.