Change, power and authority

When a filmmaker is 39 years old and has a conventional job, participating in an event like the Drama Short Film Festival does not follow the usual script of a hopeful, young director looking for the big break that will allow him or her to make their first full-length feature. Christos Nikoleris loves his camera and has been directing for several years now, mostly video clips, as a member of Enorasi. The Thessaloniki-based production company comprises a group of friends, each of whom does a variety of different things, from video clips and television commercials to television shows. Nikoleris is the director of the group and was also the big winner of the 28th Drama Short Film Festival, which was held in the northern Greek city last month. He received the first prize from the jury, the prize from the Union of Greek Filmmakers and was picked by the Greek Film Center, along with another three filmmakers, to receive 7,000 euros’ worth of funding for their next projects. «Protection» is the second short film by the Thessaloniki director, following «Tempest» two years ago, and which stars the same actor, Michalis Iatropoulos. The story of «Protection» has a lot to do with the lead man himself, explains Nikoleris: «I was with my associate [screenplay writer] Panayiotis Iosifelis one day and Michalis was telling us about how Metaxourgeio is changing; how the underworld is slowly leaving the area, along with the brothels, and homes are changing hands and being transformed into trendy restaurants and bars.» Iosifelis wrote the screenplay with Iatropoulos’s stories in mind, and they serve more as a backdrop than as the catalysts for the plot. The main theme of the film is not a struggle between the powers of the underworld, but the unlikely relationship that develops between an underground criminal and a 12-year-old Russian boy, played by Albanian child actor Tony Souli. The young boy approaches the man, who sells protection for a living, and ends up becoming his guardian angel instead. Over the course of their brief encounter, the young boy succeeds in bringing to the surface all the well-buried good qualities of his new friend and puts a human face on someone who appeared to be a lost cause. «It is, first and foremost, a film about change,» says Nikoleris. «But it also talks about power and authority, and who actually holds it at the end of the day. On the surface, the criminal is the guardian and the child the one who is at his mercy. But, because the boy has such a clean, clear way of looking at things, it is he who holds the power in the end.» Nikoleris admits that while he had thought about receiving a prize at Drama, he was not really expecting it. «I have had mixed experiences with juries in the past and while I thought that the audience would like the film, I was not so sure about the jury,» he said. What makes Nikoleris especially interesting is the relaxed pace with which he produces his output, seemingly without the pressure that so many filmmakers are under to balance their art with the obligations of daily life. «It would be better to ask me where I find the energy and good humor to make video clips,» he says of his day job. «This is the reason why I entered the field in the first place – to make films,» he adds. As far as the future is concerned, the director is interested in making a feature film, but he says: «I don’t want to rush things. Anyway, these things always take time in Greece.»