CULTURE

Cinema, politics and spices

Does cooking make politics? Can spices learn astronomy? Can a childhood love resume after a 40-year absence? These are a few of the questions to which director Tassos Boulmetis’s new film will attempt to provide answers to. Starring George Corraface, the film’s title is ambivalent: «POLITIKI Cuisine» is a Greek play on words. Is the film’s title referring to «cooking politics» or perhaps, more simply, to the fine art of Istanbul cuisine? «I will leave the public to add the accent,» says the director. The film’s leading character, Fanis, is a 40-year-old astrophysicist with a talent for concocting recipes, who comes from Istanbul. Having abandoned the country in 1964, at the time of the expulsions, he returns to the city to meet his grandfather and ends up finding his first love. Following earlier shoots in Istanbul and Lavrion, filming is continuing in a house in Athens’s neighborhood of Kallithea. On the day we visit the set, the scenes are relatively straightforward, but this particular day is not going to be an easy one. It is raining nonstop, and the leading Turkish actress, Basak Koklukaya, is suddenly taken ill and has to abandon the set. The delay causes irritation. Standing in front of a camera, Corraface and Turkish actor Tamir Karadal are shooting a short scene from different angles. Meanwhile Boulmetis, together with cinematographer Takis Zervoulakos, is trying to get back on schedule. Boulmetis himself was born in Istanbul, and just like the film’s hero, he was expelled from the city in 1964. Does this make the film entirely autobiographical? «There is an autobiographical aura,» he concedes. «But the relationships and the plot are entirely fictitious.» Has his collaboration with his Turkish colleagues eased the pain of past memories? «My relationship with the Turkish world is a very good one. I feel that in a certain way they are expressing their regret for what happened back then. I think, however, that this stance has to do with a certain circle of educated people, rather than general public opinion,» says Boulmetis. «Most people look at the film’s sentimental aspect rather than the political aspect.» «This is a story about something missing, a repressed emotion,» says Corraface. «Instead of avoiding his trauma, he allows it to put pressure on him, he lets it express itself. In the end, he will feel complete. The film has nothing to do with preaching. It’s about the lives of simple people being influenced by the fact that they were considered Greek in Turkey and Turkish in Greece. This is a story about those who found themselves on the fringes of society.» For Corraface, who lives in France and has built an international career (he appeared in the title role, opposite Marlon Brando, in 1992’s «Christopher Columbus: The Discovery,» directed by John Glen), taking on Greek parts has to do with his past. «To use the film’s terminology, there are a lot of spices in Greece,» says the actor. «Greek stories seem to have other bases and Greeks see their lives in a different way from the rest of the world. I work in Greek films because I don’t want to be cut off from my Greek roots. It started in my family. We lived in Greece, but we were France’s Greeks.» With a budget set at 1.5 million euros, «POLITIKI Cuisine» is a Village Roadshow Greek-Turkish-French production, co-produced with the Greek Film Center, Filmnet, ERT and Cinegram. The trilingual music score (English-Greek-Turkish) was composed by Evanthia Reboutsika. Besides Corraface, the cast includes Tamir Karadal, Basak Koklukaya, Stelios Mainas, Renia Louizidou, Ieroklis Michailidis, Ersi Malikenzou and Tassos Bandis.