Filmmaker’s debut gets award-winning attention

Ektoras Lygizos’s unusual psycho-drama “Boy Eating the Bird’s Food,” which participated in some 30 film festivals last year and has already won a number of awards, including for best picture, best new director and best male lead (for Yiannis Papadopoulos), also bagged the first prize at the recent Crossing Europe Film Festival in Linz, Austria.

This odd film even has an odd poster, a sparse composition featuring the black silhouette of a human head which appears to be gazing upward with a large blue beak-like protuberance.

Lygizos, 37, was inspired for “Boy Eating the Bird’s Food,” his debut feature, by Knut Hamsun’s 1890 novel “Hunger.” It follows Giorgos, an educated young man who has become alienated from friends and family, sinking into a state of moral bankruptcy and desperation.

How would you describe Giorgos?

He is a young man who likes to sing and likes to share his art, something that, because of the circumstances, he cannot do, so he hasn’t even got enough money for food. But he is dignified and overly proud.

Is it an allegory of the economic crisis or is it about the existential angst of the artist? The story does after all start with the word angst.

The crisis was the ideal setting for the story, but the film is not about the crisis. I don’t know if it’s about the artist’s angst or more generally about the angst of the creative person who would like to belong to a system and to be able to give. I made my hero an artist because in today’s society in Greece the artist is not considered a useful individual. From the moment that a society no longer wants to pay him and abolishes the institutions that support him, it is as though it is telling him that he is no longer needed.

There are moments when the film seems to be about fasting and not hunger.

I would say that asceticism is a choice in an environment of deprivation. A healthy reaction. In the case of my hero I think it makes him look like a monk. Of course once you let this go on for too long, it dries you up.

The anger and violence we have seen on the streets are not in your film.

They didn’t have a place in it; maybe because the psychological and physical violence experienced by the protagonist is so very evident. He keeps swallowing it without ever venting.

Where would you place your work in the general context of Greek cinema?

I feel a part of a generation that is doing its best on a daily basis and is doing so in true cinematic terms. Our films may seen weird, but their points are very clear.

This is your first feature film. How was it?

I was lucky. There were people willing to work without being paid and I was able to find 10,000 euros. It was a collective-style project. We are just starting to cover our costs.

Can low-budget movies make a profit?

Sure, as long as you don’t set the bar too high from the start. You have to be able to stand up for anything you do. Even someone without any talent at all can make good if he’s honest and doesn’t expose himself stupidly.