The ‘Plato’s Academy’ helmer talks about his latest effort, «Unfair World», which received the awards for Best Director and Best Actor (for Antonis Kafetzopoulos) at the 59th San Sebastian International Film Festival.
How would you describe ‘Unfair World’ to a prospective viewer?
‘Unfair World is about a police officer who wants to be fair even though he knows the world around him is not. It’s the story of a person who believes in honesty even if no one else does. I’m not interested in addressing a niche audience. I make films for everyone, but at the same time I don’t like selling the viewer short. I’m not going to dish out phony sentimentality or easy laughs. Our main concern while making ‘Unfair World’ was to get our point across in the most honest way possible’.
‘Plato’s Academy’ was your first Greek film in terms of production, location and distribution. What did you learn from this process and how useful was it while preparing for ‘Unfair World’?
With ‘Plato’s Academy’ I discovered how good it felt to finally make a film in my native language and work with people who had been born and raised in the same city that held so many childhood memories for me. It was pretty heavy stuff. That and meeting actor Antonis Kafetzopoulos was what led me to relocate the script of ‘Unfair World’ from Germany to Greece. And it wasn’t just the language, it was the looks, the facial expressions, a sharply pronounced word… The non-verbal communication was a real revelation. Other than that, making a low-budget film is not that different from one place to the next.
Where did the idea of ‘Unfair World’ originate?
In 2003 me and Dora Masklavanou started writing a made-for-TV-movie for a German network. We had a really hard time with the format so we ended up abandoning it. We still liked the conceit though – a cleaning lady who, unbeknownst to her, cleans up a crime scene – so we kept at it, only this time around we wrote for the big screen.
At a time when Greek cinema is gaining international acclaim and ‘Plato’s Academy’ was both a critical and a box office success, you still had to fund ‘Unfair World’ yourself. Did you do it by choice?
Greek cinema is not gaining international acclaim. It was a mere three films that stood out in the festival circuit, one of which rightfully made it to the Oscars. If homegrown cinema’s going to be recognizable abroad we still have a long way to go. We don’t even know what Greek cinema really is. I made ‘Unfair World’ because I had to. It was a very deep-rooted desire and it simply had to be done. That’s when the country went into credit crunch mode and the Greek Film Center shut down the minute we had submitted our script. What was I supposed to do? This country has its own rhythm and I have mine. Luckily, a brilliant array of people agreed to work on special terms and the film ended up getting made out of love and circumstance.
Do you feel your films have a specific nationality?
No. They have me and everything that’s made me who I am.
‘Unfair World’ has a little bit of that sweet despair of Aki Kaurismäki and a smidgeon of the comic tradition of Jacques Tati. How conscious were you of there influences?
Very. I was also influenced by Hitchcock, Jarmusch, Tsiolis, Melville, old detective movies, Claude Sautet, the Monty Python and old westerns.
Do you feel that Antonis Kafetzopoulos has become your go-to-actor, the man who can transform your thoughts into action?
Antonis is one of the most expressive actors I know. And one of the smartest ones too. What I enjoy when working with him is communication. If it took us ten minutes to discuss his character in ‘Plato’s Academy’, in ‘Unfair World’ it only took ten. That was enough. The rest we discovered as we went along. I think we share the same aversion to discussing a part or a screenplay too much. We’d rather explore it on set. It requires a mutual trust, which was there from the start and has never been betrayed.
Little people in a big world – that seems to be the common thread to all your films. You appear to be very interested in the triumph of the common man over the unpredictability of life. Is that true?
I am attracted to insignificant characters with commonplace passions. There’s nothing more beautiful that watching the average man suddenly rise beyond mediocrity when his world comes tumbling down, when life delivers an unjust blow or when love comes knocking on his door.
What kind of audience reaction would make you happiest when it comes to ‘Unfair World’?
I just want people to enjoy the film and to feel like they’re watching their own lives on the screen.
What’s would be a fair world to you?
Unfortunately there is none.
// Unfair World //
Synopsis: Sotiris is a police interrogator. One day he decides to pardon every poor person to whom life has been cruel. Intending to save an innocent soul, he goes as far as to kill a corrupt security guard. Dora, a lonely cleaning lady who leads a breathless life trying to make ends meet, is the only witness to the crime. Although Sotiris and Dora like each other, love, honesty and justice are anything but easy to combine.
Director: Filippos Tsitos Screenplay: Filippos Tsitos, Dora Masklavanou Production: Alexandra Boussiou Co-Production: Neue Road Movies (Berlin) Photography: Polidefkis Kyrlidis Editor: Dimitris Peponis Music: Jose Van der Schoot Cast: Antonis Kafetzopoulos, Theodora Tzimou, Christos Stergioglou Sales: Films Boutique
Fillipos Tsitos Bio //
Born in Athens in 1966, Tsitos initially studied marketing, taking on a variety of jobs as photographer, music video editor/assistant director and radio host. In 1991 he moved to Berlin, where he studied filmmaking at the German Film and Television Academy. His third short, ‘Parlez-moi d’amour’, was awarded the 1995 German Short Film Award, while ‘My Sweet Home’, his first feature, premiered in competition at the 2001 Berlinale. His second full-length narrative film, ‘Plato’s Academy’, first screened at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2009, wining Antonis Kafetzopoulos the Golden Leopard for Best Actor.
In the gallery you can find photos and the official press book of the film.
Watch an exclusive interview with Fillipos Tsitos right below