Perakis returns to the barracks

Nikos Perakis has been working outside familiar territory for a few years now. Independently of the success – or not – of his films, since 1997 and «The Breadwinner» (Prostatis Oikogenias), he has turned his lens to a different subject matter in films such as «Female Company,» «Liza and the Others» and «The Bubble,» looking at neurotic women and, as usual, making social commentary. But, Perakis has reentered familiar territory with «Loufa kai Parallaghi: Sirens in the Aegean,» which comes after the huge box-office hit of the 1980s «Loufa kai Parallaghi,» and which returns to the army barracks. This time the setting is not a state television station during the dictatorship, but an islet off the coast of Kos, within spitting distance of Turkey. The danger of conflict between the two countries becomes likely with the appearance of a large Turkish cabin-cruiser with a mixed passenger list, comprising a group of beauty contestants and stowaway migrants. The director is in good form. His German educational background and resilience, along with his irrefutable directorial and narrative skill, reveal, yet again, the signature of an artist who is a keen observer and talented filmmaker. Art vs success Why did you decide to revisit – if differently – the same theme after it was a commercial and artistic hit the first time around? It is a bit early to discuss artistic success, because opinions on this vary. That decision will be made by the film historians, who reinstated Finos Films 30 years down the road, or by the film board in development being put together by the Culture Ministry. As far as the commercial success is concerned, I can’t deny it, but I must say that I regret it a little now that I have realized it stunted my recognition as an artist. Maybe this is why I have gone back to the soldiers, only this time with a national theme and with a film that has only artistic distinction. Greek-Turkish relations, which are at the core of your film, is a very sensitive and complex issue. Is this why you have kept an equal distance from both sides of the argument? That’s what I tried, but apparently failed to do, because the Greek Film Center characterized the film is being pro-Turkish and the only reason they were unable to reject it unanimously was because they were replaced by a better board, which is reexamining applications and proposals before carving out its new policies. In a few days, it will be two years that they have been doing this. In contrast to the first «Loufa kai Parallaghi,» in this film you seem to show more understanding for the characters rather than wanting to put them on the spot. It is one thing to love them and another to understand them… «Loufa» was a film about my experiences and I loaded all my guilt onto the conscripts who worked with the television of the junta in order to save their skins. I don’t have any such problems with the kids serving out on the border posts these days… that’s why I give them more liberties. Is there anything you are trying to insinuate in the film about the Imia crisis and the way it was handled by the Greek government at the time? Just in the rubbish said by Haralambidis [one of the actors], that brainless colleague of yours – I mean the journalist [he plays] – to Kayia about the absence of political leadership… It’s in the scene where he takes her to the Sanctuary of Asclepius on the three-wheel bike, and he tells her that he saw what happened at Imia, when everyone was present. This is the kind of stuff journalists say when they want to impress a blond… We are seeing more and more examples of Greek films where comedy is reduced to just goofing around. Is this a sociological characteristic or a misunderstanding? I hope you don’t mean my films… I haven’t seen any this year because I didn’t go to the Thessaloniki festival and I must admit that I avoid pitfalls and only watch the films of friends – and that only when I’ve heard that they’re worse than mine. Then again, if I need a quick confidence booster, I simply switch on the TV. Greek comedy is almost exclusively hosted by television. We see comic television series but few comic films. If you agree, why do you think this is? Because no one who is serious will risk his career to amuse an audience that goes to the cinema 0.9 times a year and the other 359.10 days watch reality shows at a rate of 87 percent. That’s the statistics speaking, not me… Right now reality shows have dropped to 18 percent and during the holiday season Greeks are going to the cinema 1.5 times more frequently. That’s why the Odeon cinema has started showing the film at midnight screenings, because that’s the time the TV is showing those televised debates that are aimed at a more cultivated audience. You are a very busy director, working on television, in advertising and in cinema. Why do you keep doing films? That’s not true… I write scripts when I haven’t got enough work. Actually, Lambropoulos [ed. note: Costas Lambropoulos, producer] gave me a few television series to direct so that I would stop writing scripts, but even then I had time to kill so I wrote «Sirens.» You know, waiting for work. And what was I supposed to do with the script? Throw it away? Or sell it to another director? I’m not even a professional screenwriter.