A productive negotiation

For anyone looking for something optimistic in connection with Greece, a trip to Cannes and the city’s international film festival on Friday would have provided the opportunity to see Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos as he presented his new film while seated among his international cast.

Why should anyone care about such an event, you might ask. Back in Greece, life goes on (wrong verb as it suggests some kind of movement), stuck in all kinds of conflict: disagreements within government ranks, between the government and the country’s partners and creditors, even between the faithful over the relic of Saint Barbara.

As for the kind of views being put across by Greek politicians (on a range of issues from labor relations to growth), these are completely outdated, a sort of recycling of worn material, boosted the demagogic ease of populism.

Lanthimos (who, incidentally, is one of the many gifted and creative Greeks on a list that goes beyond the cinema industry) is a child of the crisis.

Screened and awarded the Un Certain Regard prize at the Cannes festival in 2009, the director’s “Dogtooth” was also nominated for an Oscar in the foreign film category.

Whether “Dogtooth” was well-received or not, the point is not to evaluate the film’s artistic result, because being in disagreement is vital when it comes to art.

The same goes for the filmmaker’s new “Lobster.” Whether or not it earns any prizes in Cannes is irrelevant. What is important is that his small production is competing in the festival’s official section.

The film may be championing a genre of weird, daring, indefinable or even incomprehensible of cinema. But at the end of the day, Lanthimos is productive, in touch with the real world. He senses trends, goes with the flow and then does his own thing. This is the only way that he can set his own terms: a process of constant negotiation.

Greek cinema has changed dramatically since the start of the crisis. The local industry has got back on its feet, freed itself to a large extent from state funding (which was practically non-existent anyway) and developed sound reflexes without going against the rules of the game when it comes to international film production: it realized that those in power have the upper hand but are willing to support the weaker players if they are organized, budgeted and avoid cheating; if they have ideas and the desire to realize them, the capacity to converge in divergence.

Contemporary Greek cinema is part of the reality of the Greek crisis but it is doing well.

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