Bridegrooms looking for brides

On August 16, 2005, farmer Costas, electrician Efthymis, Khadafy the coffee guy, the mayor and another seven men from the village of Zacharo traveled to Russia in search of brides. Was this human trafficking in disguise or a surrealist version of life in the Greek countryside? Kimon Tsakiris’s documentary «Sugartown: The Bridegrooms» tells the story of a local mayor who promised wives to the unmarried men of his village. He comes to an agreement with a Russian counterpart in the village of Klin and takes a group of his compatriots to Russia to meet women willing to marry. Kathimerini caught up with the director just a few days before the documentary opens at mainstream theaters (on Thursday). When filming this story, which took place in the village of Zacharo (loosely translated as Sugartown in Greek), were you under the impression that you were witnessing a tragedy, as the locals would have it, or a surrealist comedy? The Municipality of Zacharo comprises 19 villages, centered on the small town of Zacharo, which has approximately 4,500 residents. I don’t think that the residents of Zacharo see this story as a tragedy, though anyone watching the documentary is sure to see the tragic side of the events it presents. There is humor in the film, but it is there to underscore certain points and not to poke fun at the characters. The title sounds like a western and the structure of the film is separated into chapters much like old silent comedies. Are you trying to lighten the mood of the film and, if so, why? Our intention was not to give the issue we recorded a «lighter» dimension. The humor in the film comes straight from the people themselves, but also from the absurd situations they encounter. The title and chapters are a reference to [Bertolt] Brecht and his play «The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagony.» Actually one of the chapters in the documentary is named after one of his chapters. Like in the musical, our story unfolds in the west (which can at times be rather wild) and the chapters announce what follows. There were some people among the audience at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival screening of the film who expressed their dissatisfaction with it. They also said that there was a lawsuit involved. How well did you research the subject before beginning filming? The «audience» to which you refer are two people who really hate the mayor of Zacharo and I don’t even remember seeing them at the screening. The whole issue about someone suing the mayor is a complete joke, especially since the trip to Russia was organized with the approval of both the Greek and the Russian mayor and the participation of all the men and women in the documentary was at their own initiative. A bit of tension is always welcome when it comes to making a film, so long as it has to do with the work done on the project. We don’t have to apologize for the actions of the people we film. The subject of «Sugartown» is loneliness, the efforts to capitalize on it by various «establishments» and, finally, the weakness of people who don’t understand that if they want their lives to change they have to start with doing something to change themselves. What were your observations of the characters in the film when you met them? That they had the same dreams, needs and illusions as everybody else. At the end of the film, the Russian women don’t want to stay in Zacharo any longer because they realize that «these people don’t want to change anything about their lives.» Do you agree with their observation? The women who came from Russia were talking about the men they met and I am sure that each of them could explain at much greater length what they mean. My opinion, as I mentioned before, is that for our lives to change we must first look at ourselves and start from there. Before embarking on any journey we must be prepared, because what is certain is that any problems we face here will haunt us wherever we go.

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