Overlooked by his own country, Greek filmmaker is given the nod by Venice

Christos Petrou has become the envy of many a young Greek filmmaker, even though the 37-year-old director has twice been rejected by the entry panel of the country’s Drama Short Film Festival – once in 2002 with his five-minute experimental documentary «Meat» and again this year. Neither of his two short films were considered as having the right stuff to compete in the festival. But his luck turned just a few weeks after his second rejection: His latest production, «P.E.O.Z.,» was selected to participate in the short-film competition of the 62nd Venice International Film Festival, running from August 31 to September 10, making Petrou the only Greek entry on the prestigious festival’s program – not too bad for the overlooked director. «The title [could be translated as ‘P.E.N.I.Z.’] is a bit of a play on words,» explained Petrou, «but is nevertheless relevant to the subject.» The film shows the character Zacharias (played by Giorgos Pyrpassopoulos) waking up one morning to discover that he has lost his penis. The film does not, however, dwell on this revelation too much. There are less obvious references made, at least as many as can be made in the 11 minutes of the film’s duration. «It is a comedy,» insisted Petrou, though he prefers to describe the film as a «comic-tragic psychodrama.» And despite the «promise» held in the title, the only nudity is in a photograph of Petrou himself as a baby. «My mom saw the film and she had absolutely no problem with it. In fact, she liked it a lot,» said the director. Going it alone The Greek Film Center did not show the same enthusiasm. «Every time I go to the center, there is an overwhelming sense of inertia. You have to waste so much time to achieve even the smallest thing, and I must admit that I simply don’t have the courage to go through with it,» said Petrou, who has so far funded all his productions himself, «without a single cent» from the state. Even now that «P.E.O.Z.» has been given the nod from Venice, the Greek Film Center hasn’t moved a muscle. «I went to them so they could help me with the production of the second copy and the subtitling, but I still haven’t heard anything from them. In the end, I did it myself,» Petrou commented. Short films are normally seen as a prelude to a longer project, but not always. «I like the short duration,» explained the director. «This is why I have worked on commercials and video clips. I got bitten by the cinema bug when I was in college.» On the future of Greek cinema, Petrou sees «a new generation of straightforward, unpretentious young filmmakers that will change things. There are a great deal of pretty uptight people in the industry but things cannot remain as they are forever.»