Alexandros Voulgaris on a dear hobby

Just 25 years old and with two feature films under his belt already – the most recent of which, «Pink,» is currently playing at theaters – a member of the band Mary and the Boys and the son of acclaimed filmmaker Pantelis Voulgaris and the writer Ioanna Karystiani, Alexandros Voulgaris has a lot going on in his head that he struggles to put into some kind of order. He talks about cinema and the unease of other 25-year-olds today who want to take up this «very expensive hobby.» Of his latest film he says, «I’m not sure if I would shoot it in the same way today, or if I would try to say the same things.» Does your disagreement lie with the film or with yourself? I shot the film two-and-a-half years ago; I wasn’t at a very good place in my life then. This comes across in the movie, but only to those who know. There are a lot of personal references in «Pink,» and I certainly won’t be doing that again. Are you annoyed that it didn’t receive any awards at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival [last November]? First of all, I am very troubled by the fact that I am still in debt for the entire budget of the film and an award would have helped repay it. But I know how the awards committee works and what it takes to get into the game. My film didn’t get any award money; there were no union members involved in it. There was no way it was going to receive an award from that particular committee [the panel of the State Quality Awards]. But many of us are sick of this situation. Two, three years ago there were about 20 of us, young filmmakers who would get together and talk things out, work together. This group has now broken up because most of them became discouraged. On a different note, how do your parents’ reputations weigh on you? They haven’t helped or hindered me… For example, the fact that I am Pantelis Voulgaris’s son may mean I will receive an award, but it may also mean the exact opposite, even if my work deserves it. But the way my family works has helped me a lot. My parents never said, «Be careful what you do; we have a reputation.» There must be those who think that as the child of Voulgaris and Karystiani you are just trying to be profound. They must think you have sat there memorizing everything Tarkovsky and Godard have done. No way! We’re not a very serious bunch at home. Quite the opposite… Of course, I have been influenced by my parents’ work. They have instilled in me an interest in history and the importance of human values. But I am not my parents. I’ll watch Ken Loach’s new film and like it, but I’m a fan of Cronenberg’s. What about your band, Mary and the Boy? We sing some Greek songs at our live appearances: Savvopoulos, Theodorakis, Moutsis… But we have grown up with an American lifestyle; my musical influences include Lou Reed, for example. But we’re not interested on settling on one thing. I feel, generally, that we are at a time when we don’t have to decide on any particular thing… Are you also referring to politics and social issues? That too. We are a rather frightened generation, even a bit self-conscious about where we stand on things. But I think that things can change drastically… Does this have to do with the times we live in or your age? You do believe in change more when you’re young. Your priorities shift as you grow up. I think – as a far as art is concerned – that everything you do has to make a point, to take a position. I watch a lot of movies and I like a lot of them, but if I don’t see a film taking a position on something, I can’t see why it was ever made. I am not referring to specific political stances, but after you walk out of a movie theater you must feel that something has just occurred. I’ll give you an example some may find a bit extreme: «2001: A Space Odyssey» is a much more politically subversive film – and has its own very particular form of writing – than «Bloody Sunday.» Also, «Breathless» is a purely political film that makes no direct references to politics whatsoever. Making a film about Iraq today is the easy way out; the first thing that comes to mind. That’s a reporter’s job, not a director’s… You sound as if you feel betrayed by certain films. You know what bugs me? That we all talk about very important things with a certainty that arises neither from our knowledge on the subject nor from the amount of consideration we’ve given it. We tend to be rash in our judgments. Cronenberg makes a new film, for example, and some guy says, «Forget it; I’ve heard it’s crap.» You flippantly dismiss someone who has done such wonderful work because you heard someone else saying it somewhere. Would you call your generation talented? In terms of cinema, again, we have grown up with videos, movies that you watch alone, at home, where the cinema frame has no play. You also get no sense of a shared experience. Although we are much more savvy in terms of technology, we are lacking identity. The most refreshing ideas in cinema recently have come from 70-year-olds. We can’t express ourselves. (1) This article first appeared in the February 4 issue of K, Kathimerini’s Sunday supplement.