CULTURE

Papadiamantis on Nisyros

Positive reviews from the Athens premiere still fresh, «The Woman Who Missed Home,» Eleni Alexandraki’s second feature film, is testing its strength in the stormy seas of the film market. For the director the film, which is an adaptation of a story by late 19th century writer Alexandros Papadiamantis, was a rather risky undertaking, and she considers the fact that it is playing in four theaters in the capital a small victory. If the public likes it too, well, all the better, especially as it is often hard to impress with books that are turned into films, especially when the story comes from someone as idiosyncratic as Papadiamantis and has such a narrow, all-Greek focus. This was the first hurdle for Alexandraki: bringing to the big screen something that was more academic and dry, without the salt and pepper of this juicily written story. The obstacle was overcome – probably because, explains Alexandraki in an interview, she never felt awestruck by the sheer weight of Papadiamantis. «It’s like I didn’t fear him at all, because I was experiencing his reality on Nisyros.» The film is shot entirely on the small island of the Dodecanese, the filmmaker’s favorite island where she filmed the documentary «It Smells Like Easter» and where she now spends a lot of her time. Indeed, Nisyros is the reason why the film exists in the first place. «Olia Lazaridou [who stars in the film and is also a great fan of the island] and I were thinking about making a film on Nisyros. Papadiamantis seemed a natural choice. In all the years I have spent on the island, I have felt like Papadiamantis has been leaping up before my eyes,» says Alexandraki. The island, in the end, became the true star. The local Skiathos dialect used by Papadiamantis was replaced by the dialect of Nisyros, inflected with Ancient Greek and Italian words and idioms; it is «the most beautiful Greek in the world,» according to Alexandraki. Nevertheless, changing the language of the great writer was another risk the filmmaker took. «Papadiamantis’s writing is like a music score. It is like music and I had a feeling that the local dialect would suit the melody or, rather, the rhythm of the images would suit the rhythm of the language,» says Alexandraki. Local input The small local community played a catalytic part in making the film, especially as the majority of the parts are played by the locals themselves. «It was the most beautiful experience I have ever had,» says Alexandraki about making the film on the island. Initially, the filmmaker received no state funding for the film because, she explains, «they felt that Papadiamantis was being distorted.» Once the film was finished, the Greek Film Center gave the production 15,000 euros. The real help, however, came from somewhere the filmmaker least expected it; from the company Lava, a sister company of the Herakles cement company active on the islet of Gyali where some filming also took place. «I had an enormous amount of help from the local bodies, because things were not going very well at all,» says Alexandraki. «I first read the story 20 years ago and remember how much I wanted to make it into a film. But I stopped there because I thought it would be impossible with so many night shots, so much sea…» Now, the filmmaker looks back on how she made it possible. «We did not choose to make a film that takes place in three rooms. We proceeded as if we had all the money in the world. We didn’t make a single compromise.» The success of the whole operation sends a hopeful message according to Alexandraki. «At a time when Greek filmmakers are having such a hard time finding money to make films, the Nisyros story shows us that films can be made. It is great to see that there are people who are willing to help without expecting anything in return.»