Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots.

“Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.”

The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to present his latest film “The Adults in the Room,” a ripped-from-the-financial pages docudrama about one-time Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis; the filmmaker was also due to receive the festival’s Donostia Award, which he will accept at a ceremony on Saturday evening.

And so the conference assumed a fittingly career-spanning scope, as the 86-year-old filmmaker took questions about his filmography, his collaborators and his views on the current geopolitical climate.

“We need a Charlie Chaplin to make a movie about that Brazilian guy,” Gavras replied when asked about the situation in South America, indicating his disdain for Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro without mentioning him by name.

Because the politically engaged Gavras has never shied from exploring fraught subjects, one journalist asked whether films like “Z” and “Missing” engendered any kind of blowback to his personal safety, but the filmmaker was circumspect.

“No,” he replied. “The only problem is not finding money for the next movie.”

Later “The Adults in the Room” actors Christos Loulis, Alexandros Bourdoumis, and Valeria Golino joined their director onstage, while the film’s producer Michèle Ray-Gavras, also the filmmaker’s wife, chimed in from the audience.

After Ray-Gavras noted that she had screened the film for workers at the European Bank, the Gavras quipped, “I’m sleeping with my producer. It’s an advantage.”

Actor Christos Loulis compared the real-life Varoufakis to Sisyphus, liking the former finance minister’s job to “repetitive anguish.” He then argued that it was important to make these kinds of docudramas quickly after the real events unfurl.

“Why wait 60 years to talk about something,” Loulis asked. “Why not talk about it now? We need to distance ourselves… so we can see our lives differently.”

Valeria Golino echoed that sentiment.

“It’s very rare for actors to play someone who’s still alive,” she noted. “Usually they’re already dead. When they’re alive… you have a responsibility that goes beyond the story you’re telling. You have to treat it with care.”

But the Italian-born actress, who joked that the Gavras only hired her because her own father was Greek, argued against hewing too close to absolute verisimilitude. “These are not the facts,” said Golino. “Facts are for journalists. This is cinema.”

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