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Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in Berlin Festival Film ‘Sargasso Sea’

After a sudden suicide turns a small eel-farming town upside down, an investigation unearths troubling secrets about the town’s past. Those discoveries will bring together two women trapped in solitary lives, offering each a chance to find salvation.

“The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” is the third feature by Greek director Syllas Tzoumerkas. Starring frequent Yorgos Lanthimos collaborator Angeliki Papoulia (“Dogtooth,” “The Lobster”) and Youla Boudali (“In the Fade”), the film will world premiere in the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section.

Taking its name from the mysterious region of the North Atlantic, a swirling gyre of deep-blue water bounded by four ocean currents, “The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” is the story of two women dreaming of escape.

Their arduous emotional journey echoes a remarkable natural phenomenon, when eels in Europe and North America reaching sexual maturity leave their habitats and swim hundreds of miles to lay their eggs in the Sargasso. “This kind of transformation that you need to do in order to fulfill your potential became a core parable for us,” said Tzoumerkas. “That’s a huge journey that is very painful. They change their whole bodies. They transform.”

“The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” is produced by Maria Drandaki for Homemade Films, in co-production with Unafilm’s Titus Kreyenberg (Germany), Ellen Havenith of PRPL (Netherlands) and Olle Wirenhed of Kakadua Filmproduktion (Sweden). The film is also co-produced by Film i Vast, ZDF/ARTE and ERT, with support from Eurimages, the Greek Film Center, Film und Medienstiftung NRW, Netherlands Film Fund & Film Production Incentive, Svenska Filminstitutet, DFFF and Creative Europe – Media.

Tzoumerkas has been a fixture on the European arthouse circuit since his 2010 debut “Homeland,” a searing political drama that premiered in Venice. With both “Homeland” and his 2014 follow-up, “A Blast,” about a desperate woman willing to risk everything for a chance at a fresh start, Tzoumerkas has continually probed at the fault lines of a fractured country.

With “Sargasso,” he sees the completion of a triptych on modern Greek society. If “Homeland” offered a vision of hell, as the country teetered on the brink of economic collapse, and “A Blast” represented a kind of purgatory for a generation grappling with the devastating toll of the crisis, Tzoumerkas says “Sargasso” offers tantalizing hints of paradise on the horizon.

“Everything is swampy. Everyone is kind of stuck there in this small, bankrupt town with beauty all around,” he said. “They have to find a way to awaken.”


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