A Greek Colombian at Cannes

This year’s Greek entry at the Cannes Film Festival is in actual fact Colombian. «PVC-1,» directed by 29-year-old Spiros Stathoulopoulos, is participating in the Directors Fortnight and competing for the Camera d’Or award. «PVC-1,» a dramatic tale of kidnapping, will be screened as a Colombian production since Stathoulopoulos, whose father is Greek and whose mother is Colombian, grew up in Colombia. Stathoulopoulos is very proud of his Greek descent. He says that he considers himself exclusively a Greek, that his film will represent Greece at the festival and that he is waiting for the opportunity to make Greek-themed films. He may not have to wait too long, for immediately after the announcement of the festival program, a number of major studios, including Warner, suggested possible collaboration. Stathoulopoulos has been living in Los Angeles since 2000, working as a cameraman and film editor on various productions. On the phone, he gave the impression of a polite young man, proud of his work and excited at the recognition it has received. «The film is based on a true story that took place in Colombia in 2000. When I heard it I said it was terrible and I had to turn it into a film,» he says. «It is the story of a woman who is kidnapped. The kidnappers ask her family for a 7,000-dollar ransom and attach an explosive device to her body. The entire film is about her efforts to save herself and her family.» Stathoulopoulos shot the whole film in an 85-minute unedited take. When reminded that similar attempts had been made in the past, including Alfred Hitchcock’s «Rope» and Aleksandr Sokurov’s «Russian Ark,» he replies that it was different. «These were cases of filming with secret cuts. I wanted to do a clean one-take, which is why I used a digital camera. All filming took place in four days in Colombia. I handled the camera myself, it was a heavy steady cam and in order to ready myself I trained for five hours every day, for three months. I put in a lot of effort with the actors and a lot of preparation was needed. Everything had to be pre-planned in detail to shoot in a one-take. It was particularly hard for me to manage the heavy camera, because shooting took place in high temperatures, in places with rocks and water.» Stathoulopoulos constantly refers to his Greek heritage with the pride that one encounters only among the Greek diaspora. His family decided to move to Bogota when he was 9 years old, but Stathoulopoulos went back every year and also came to Greece to do his military service. After completing his film studies in Colombia, he carried on studying in Los Angeles where he works to this day. He has also founded a production company, Kosmokrator Cinema. He started filming shorts at the age of 11 and, for the time being, he does almost everything himself – directing, shooting and editing. «Just like Robert Rodriguez,» he says. But he may have much more help very soon, since «PVC-1» has earned a good reputation among film industry talent seekers. Stathoulopoulos insists on the Greek angle. «I want to do Greek-themed films, about Kolokotronis, Mount Athos, Meteora. But my great dream is to make a film, sometime in the future, about Alexander the Great.»