Silent, ailing ‘Uncut Family’

There are three characters: a son, a mother and a father. With hardly any dialogue, the camera records the characters’ grimaces, glances and vibrations. In his first long feature film, author Costas Zapas is not kidding. When exposing the three members of this Greek family, he exposes them to the public without any makeup: They are scared, hurt, ailing and thirsty for love. They don’t actually speak, but we can hear them. On Mondays and Tuesdays last month, the characters’ pain – sometimes unbearable, sometimes familiar and soothing – filled Bios, where the film was being screened. Shot with a Hi-8 camera, «Uncut Family» gives room to all that we don’t want to come face to face with, the big or small tragedies that go unrecorded and remain hidden in a little bourgeois flat in Athens, fading away when the door opens. A saucepan is on the stove and Zapas lifts the lid. In the case of «Uncut Family,» the steam may bring some tears. The film allows for various readings. How would you define the film’s subject matter? The film deals with a very difficult issue, what we call family and sexuality, taboo issues, not just in Greece but in art in general. There was no particular reason for me to address this particular subject. A rose is always a rose. The film is about the present. We live in this world and we are part of a global society that is showing signs of wear and tear. That’s what I’m documenting. As people, we are condemned to art, just as we are condemned to freedom. There are many people drowning in despair as soon as the door closes behind them. When they go out, their survival instinct dictates a smile, a way to survive. The truth is, however, that it’s very different on the other side of the door. Greek family has been nearly sanctified. Are we changing our views of family life? A great change is under way on an international level. Abroad, people choose their family based on dissimilarities, ideology and life itself. This is not the case in Greece, yet. We are fortunate or unfortunate to live in a country that did not go through a Renaissance and Enlightenment. May 1968 didn’t even make it to Greece. This is where political issues arise: How much political will does this country have to move ahead? One way or another, this will happen because something new is on its way and will prevail. What kind of reactions did you get from the audience? Some people were unable to move at the end of the film, while others kept going to the bathroom. Others burst into tears and waited for the credits to find me or someone else connected to the film in order to talk. Some people would go out, have a double vodka and go back inside. People were saying: «Finally, we can talk about such subjects in Greece.» A woman who’d never been to school came up to me one night, saying that the film had made her realize how lonely she had been in her life. And that she had found something to hang on to. For me, that was enormous. What brings the film’s characters together? What brings people together in general – even beyond the movie – is self-destruction. As people, we choose self-destruction. It’s no coincidence that we are surrounded by so much misery. Things could be better. Somewhere it’s a conscious decision. And that’s what brings the film’s characters together. It’s sounds a little pessimistic, but we cannot go on hiding behind our little fingers. It’s better to face the problem rather than avoid it. Was there some kind of motive behind the film? When you’re in the art world, there is a need to create. If I’m lucky enough and the film offers some space, even going as far as to help somebody, I’ll be very pleased. Why is family life some kind of taboo in this country? There are two issues here. One of them is education. When there’s a lack of education, there are problems. The other issue is religion. Not in terms of faith, but in terms of the power of the Church. As long as there is no political will power to differentiate between the State and the Church, the problems will only increase. The story of a film Costas Zapas is not your typical Greek director. His creative career did not kick off in short films, but in literature – his first novel «Blue Heart» was published by Kedros. His second literary effort will be published soon, providing a basis for his next film script. The director had been trying to make «Uncut Family» since 1996, looking into Berlin and Amsterdam as possible locations for shooting. In the end, the film was shot in Greece. Segments from the film were first shown at the «20ROOMS 2003» exhibition at the Saint George Lycabettus Hotel in Athens. The director of «Uncut Family» is indebted to Grigoris Athanassiou, «the best creative producer in Greece.» It was Athanassiou’s idea, for instance, to introduce the film to the public at an alternative space such as Bios, even though the film had secured regular distribution through New Star. (The film will be distributed in video and DVD form) Bios – where the film was screened on Monday and Tuesday evenings in March – was just the beginning. Screenings will continue at other Athenian venues, while there is considerable demand from other cities as well. Beyond Greece, the film will travel to at least 50 international film festivals as a start. The situation remains unclear when it comes to Thessaloniki, however. It all depends on the Greek Film Center, which will transform the movie (shot with a Hi-8 camera) into film, in order for it to compete for the State Quality Awards at the city’s film festival in November. Produced by Athanassiou, the film’s cast is led by Dimitris Yiannakopoulos, Alex Kelly and Maria Dima. The film’s editing was undertaken by Apostolos Karakasis.

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