Greece’s presence at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival which began last week will be marked this year by “Pari,” an ambitious endeavor written and directed by the Iranian-born Siamak Etemadi that explores the themes of love and longing, of separation and seeking.
Set in Athens and the anarchist haunt of Exarchia, the film, which is among the critics’ top picks in the festival’s Panorama section, tells the tale of Pari, an Iranian mother, housewife and a Muslim, and her desperate search for her son, who has gone missing while studying abroad.
She makes her way to Athens, where she is “a stranger in a strange land,” with a different language, customs and clothing, and where, in the process, she gradually sheds her own identity.
“There is more to her underneath this persona. Her longing to see her child becomes the driving force taking her further and further into an unknown world,” 48-year-old Etemadi says, adding that “just as in the poems of the Persian sufis, [it is] ultimately a story of the possibility of rebirth.”
Among the film’s major contributors is the seasoned and award-winning editor Panos Voutsaras, who is no stranger to the sort of intricate challenges posed by a project like “Pari,” not least because lots of the dialogue is in Farsi.
“A fundamental aspect of an editor’s job is to be a good judge of the material he or she has to work with so its meaning and spirit can be highlighted and conveyed in the best possible way,” Voutsaras, 47, tells Kathimerini English Edition.
“Judgment is key and working in a different language, Farsi in this case, made the effort to ‘read’ the scenes an even greater challenge,” he says.
The task to capture and convey the story line’s thematic nuances was coupled with the testing objective to depict the sometimes ominous atmosphere of Exarchia – a powder keg always ready to explode and the frequent arena of clashes between excitable youths, convinced of their anarchist credentials, with riot police.
“Reenacting the chaos of the riots in Exarchia for one of the film’s major scene was among the more compelling challenges and we studied real footage riots to reproduce their pulse,” he says.
Voutsaras, whose accolades include the Hellenic Film Academy Award for Best Film Editing and the Hellenic Film Academy Award for Best Sound, is among a crop of talented Greek editors which have established a foothold in the industry.
The most renowned is Yorgos Mavropsaridis, known from his work with filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos. He was nominated for an Oscar for the 2018 period comedy “The Favourite” and won an Eddie award for the Best edited feature film for the same movie. He is also a member of the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“This was fully deserved, 100 percent,” Voutsaras said, noting however that Mavropsaridis’ success does not mean that the floodgates have opened for Greek editors.
“It doesn’t really make a difference where you’re from. What is fundamental is the proper chemistry with the filmmaker. Movie making is a collective effort.”
“Pari” is Etemadi’s first feature film and features a cast of Iranian and Greek actors. It is a joint Greek, French, Dutch and Bulgarian production.
It will be screened at the festival Tuesday.