Searching for truth in the reality that surrounds us

Between cinema and theater, between a film that has just been finished and a play that is just due to premiere, director Laya Yourgou is firmly rooted in the realities of the society that surrounds her. From the aftermath of 9/11, which radically changed the world we live in, to the fate of immigrants living in our very homes, the subjects she picks for her work in the cinema and the theater find their roots in our immediate environment, in the problems and emotions of «simple folk» – and that in itself is something that makes her stand out from her Greek peers, especially in cinema. On screen The film she has just wrapped up, based on her own screenplay, tells the story of a young Russian woman working in a Greek household as a carer for a physically disabled woman. Over time she develops a relationship with the woman’s son and their liaison causes a chain of reaction in the family circle. The title of the film is «Lyubi,» from the Russian word for love and which is the young carer’s name, and the role is played by a Russian living in Greece, Zenia Kaplan. «There is something of an edge in the screenplay, but also something very moving about it,» says the director. «I am interested in clean stories and think that people need to see things that will touch them.» The cast of «Lyubi» also includes Alexis Georgoulis, Nikos Georgakis, Lena Kitsopoulou and Olga Damani. Now that the film is ready, it may be screened at mainstream movie theaters as early as next month, although, the director says, distributors may wait until next season to release it, as «Greek films have been doing too well recently. Nevertheless,» she adds, «I have received positive responses from the distributors I have shown it to so far.» On stage Meanwhile, at the Altera Pars Theater (123 Mega Alexandrou Street, Kerameikos), the stage director Yourgou is preparing to open a contemporary American play inspired by the events that came after 9/11, on Saturday. «Crazy Eyes» is by the controversial up-and-coming playwright John Buffalo Mailer, son of the influential writer Norman Mailer. In «Crazy Eyes,» a conservative Wall Street trader (played by Thanos Samaras), who is swept up in the paranoia of the Twin Towers aftermath, makes a citizen’s arrest of the storekeeper of his local minimarket and leads him to his home. The storekeeper is an American of Arab descent, and the cause for the trader’s blow-up was a «suspicious» white powder he saw on the store counter and mistook for anthrax, at the time being used by terrorists to mail to various people. Enter the trader’s housemate (played by Pygmalion Dadakaridis), a politically correct sort of fellow, and the fiancee (Faye Xyla), a scientist and intellectual. Their initial reaction is one of horror and they try convince the trader to release his «prisoner.» Gradually though, «they are drawn into the sense of panic, the arbitrary energy of the fascist figure, who believes that he is truly committing a heroic act…,» explains the director. «I was interested in the ideological conflict between the three characters and in the manner in which even they, who argue such different viewpoints, end up agreeing with the most radical opinion. And it is not just the the political dimension of this conflict that interests me,» she goes on to stress, «but also the fact that what occurs between them, ends up separating them. By the end, none of them are the same. The events that take place tear down the fiber of their ideologies, even the relationship between the couple. Because these things put people in the eye of the storm.» And what was the director’s approach to the play? «Realism,» she answers. «I don’t think that there is any other way to do it.»

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