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Q and A with Syllas Tzoumerkas and Maria Drandaki, Helmer and Producer of “A Blast”

Talking about the international career of their newest film, world preeming in Locarno, and the effects of the economic crisis in European filmmaking

The tough economic times that hit extremely Greece, among other Southern European countries, has inspired Thessaloniki-born helmer Syllas Tzoumerkas, whose sophomore film, “A Blast,” a Greece-Germany-Netherlands co-production on a woman who decides to blow her whole life up in search of a new sense of self, world preems Tuesday (Aug. 12) at the Locarno Film Festival. Tzoumerkas and Homemade Films’ Athens-based Maria Drandaki, producer of both “A Blast” and Greek political drama “Homeland,” Tzoumerkas’ feature debut, spoke to Variety about the effects of the crisis in European filmmaking and their newest film’s international career.

You said that “A Blast” tells the story of a generation’s disillusionment and radicalization. Is this the film’s main argument to lure international audiences?

Syllas Tzoumerkas: In my sense, in the midst of this new crisis, radicalization is a very broad word that is in the center of what goes on both politically and in the hearts of people around the world. And it has all sorts of different colors: from the terror of the uprising and semi-legitimization of Nazi parties across Europe (in our film this is the story of Gogo and Costas), to the all-wonderful fight of a person to find the courage to be and regain his or her sense of dignity. And all this is everywhere if you notice, because the status quo of our lives is not as stable as it used to be a few years ago.

Maria Drandaki: In the ever-changing environment we live in, it is disillusionment and taking action that can hold us together and have liberating effects in people’s lives all over the world.

Could you explain the connections among “Homeland” and “A Blast”?

Tzoumerkas: “Homeland” was a film about how certain hidden patterns in family and political life led Greek society to an explosive downfall. “A Blast” describes how, on the aftermath of this explosion and the consequent crisis, a generation was forced to reevaluate everything. And it’s the film’s heroine, Maria (Angeliki Papoulia), that leads us through this painful but rewarding process, where good and right are not what they used to be, and all kinds of illusions and fascinations are no longer there to support us. It’s a much smaller story, a much more intimate one. In any case, for me personally, a connection between the two films would be a certain feeling of rage and uncompromising materialization of desire.

The film has found distributor in Greece (Strada Films), Germany (Real Fiction) and Italy (Movimento) and there are negotiations in Benelux. Is Europe its main market?

Drandaki: Europe is of course an important market for independent films but all in all the market for these films is shrinking. We will try different distribution ways in different territories to reach as much of an audience as possible.

What are the effects of the current crisis over the viewpoint of European filmmakers?

Tzoumerkas: Crisis creates urgency in the people’s stories and a need to see things more clearly, somehow naked. For cinema, this is good. And I think for our lives, as well, no matter how painful or harsh it is.

Drandaki: Crisis diluted all kinds of illusions and hopes and created the urge for action. Making films in a country/continent that is sinking into disappointment and violence was our way of reaction. For as long as we still can.

“Homeland” gathered a strong presence in international festivals. Will “A Blast” follow the same way?

Drandaki: “A Blast” was just completed and immediately selected for Locarno and Sarajevo. We are in the process of talking with other festivals and we already have hints that the film will travel a lot.

Could you evaluate the importance of international festivals like Locarno to give visibility to the European independent cinema?

Tzoumerkas: For films like “Homeland” or “A Blast” they are more than essential. They are our only way as young filmmakers to have our work presented and pushed forward.

Drandaki: Over the past years international festivals have become more than a meeting point for cinephiles but an important distribution platform for independent -and not only- films. They are an essential step to reaching the audience as well as catching the eye of distributors and press.  It is the best place to launch a film and create word of mouth.

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