Greek films at the Berlinale Conspicuous by their absence

“Suntan” by Argyris Papadimitropoulos
“Suntan” by Argyris Papadimitropoulos | © Christos Karamanis

There are no Greek films on this year’s Berlinale programme – but no-one can explain why not. There is at least one Greek film on the European Film Market: “Suntan” by Argyris Papadimitropoulos.

In happy anticipation of the highly auspicious film Soy Nero by the Iranian Rafi Pitts – the film is in the competition section and is the only film at this year’s Berlinale that has anything “Greek” about it, namely its Berlin-based producer Thanassis Karathanos – many festival-goers are asking themselves why Greek cinema is not represented at the Berlinale this year, especially given that this leading festival has supported contemporary Greek cinema production like no other.

“I will miss the Greek films this year. I have been following them with great interest for some years. My next book will even be about the so-called guerrilla cinema that is being produced in Greece at the moment”, Yun-hua Chen, the Goethe-Institut China’s Berlinale blogger, confided in me. So Greek films are conspicuous by their absence and no-one can say why the festival programme does not feature a single Greek production.

A GREEK FILM ON THE EUROPEAN FILM MARKET

On the European Film Market, the platform for producers and distribution companies, the film Suntan by Argyris Papadimitropoulos can be found at least. It has come directly from the Rotterdam Film Festival, where it was highly praised even by Variety magazine. Papadimitropoulos had already left a considerable mark in Germany with his previous film Wasted Youth. Now he hopes that Suntan will arouse the interest of distribution companies and festival curators scouting for this year’s talents here.

In Suntan, a lonely and taciturn 40-year-old doctor comes to work on the island of Antiparos. With ingenious economy, the director tracks his acclimatization to the island’s small community in the depths of winter and gradually reveals the cracks in his petty bourgeois life. Later in the film, his life is thrown into turmoil by a group of 20-year-olds bursting with life, adventurousness, audaciousness and sexuality.

YOUTH AND DEGENERATION

With extraordinary visual imagery, the film bridges the gap between the lust radiated by naked young bodies in the blinding Greek summer light and the boundaries which a person free of any kind of hedonism can find themselves confronting. In this highly personal film by Argyris Papadimitropoulos, the carefree nature of youth clashes with the madness in which the frustrations of middle age can result.

I met Argyris Papadimitropoulos in front of the legendary Billy Wilder café at Potsdamer Platz and asked him what Suntan means to him and what the best moments at the Berlinale were for him in recent years. “For me, Suntan is a film about growing old and the fear of the perspective of middle age. It poses the question as to which people can abandon themselves to lust, which cannot and why not. It glorifies wonderful young bodies while at the same time respecting the reality of their deterioration.” And he went on to say: “For me, the Berlinale is above all the Talent Campus 11 years ago. That was a fantastic experience. And I will never forget the standing ovations in 2006 for Michael Winterbottom’s film The Road to Guantanamo, when the actors and tortured Guantanamo inmates came on stage. At that moment you could have cut the atmosphere in the theatre with a knife.”

Suntan opens in Athens cinemas on 31 March 2016.