CULTURE

Two faces of Cyprus in debut film

” Under the Stars» is a road movie set in Cyprus’s Turkish-occupied north, starring two Greek Cypriots, and filmed by a Cypriot director – a combination of elements and characters that will pique public interest in themselves. The film appeals even more after one sees the director’s unbiased viewpoint and his discreet, honest handling of a subject so fraught with controversy and emotion. In this, his first feature-length film, Cypriot filmmaker Christos Georgiou (who received the best new director award at the Montreal International Film Festival), has taken full advantage of his personal experiences and his observations of daily life. The lead character in the film, Lucas (played by Akis Sakellariou), lives in Nicosia and grows up in an atmosphere very much obsessed with the past; his parents had been killed during the Turkish occupation 26 years previously. He meets a young woman, Foivi (played by Myrto Alikaki), who smuggles contraband into the occupied territories, and asks her to lead him to his village, now occupied by Turkish forces, in exchange for a fee. Through their journey, the director reflects on the complexity of the relationships which are forged amid the tension of Turkish- and Greek-Cypriot relations. Lukas and Foivi express opposing reactions to the situation: The boy lives like a recluse, fixated on the ghosts of the past, while the girl takes advantage of and manipulates the situation in order to make money. She works with both Greek Cypriots and Turks to guarantee her smuggling operations. At first sight, these two characters seem wholly incompatible. They disagree and argue, they place one another in situations where they have to confront their demons, and they come into contact with Turks with whom, even briefly, they have to coexist. When they reach the deserted village where Lucas was born, the director revives the past, suffusing the village with color and sounds, creating a nostalgia that stands in stark contrast to the present-day reality. The film culminates in a shooting and a murder. The director addresses both the political and existential aspects of his subject matter and thus avoids succumbing to cliches, narrative lacunas and contradictions.