I was so excited and thrilled to meet Christopher Papakaliatis in person and interview him for his worthy-of-an-Oscar film “Worlds Apart”, a phenomenal greek box-office performance (gross $5.5M), now also distributed in the US & Europe. Not only because Christopher, a multi-talented screenwriter, director & actor has been such a popular name for years and is one of Greece’s most successful artists, but also because I have grown up watching his series and movies. I have been a fan since the very beginning. His films have of a Woody Alen kind of twist, but at the same time, they are always very unique and distinct. You can always tell you are watching a “Papakaliatis” film, as Christopher has a way of describing love (especially forbidden love), passion and addiction like no other! Through his cleverly spinned love tales, he has sent many girls – including myself – on a “wild goose chase”, looking for a “Papakaliatis-love story”!
His latest movie “Worlds Apart”, an entirely Greek production, set in modern day Greece, depicts the country’s socioeconomic turmoil and current reality through three love stories. A large cast of actors from Greece, Europe, America and Asia gives light to the heroes and their stories: three stories bringing together two different worlds, in a changing Greece. Among them, Academy-Award and Golden Globe winning actor J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”).
Q & A
In “Worlds Apart” you were a serious multi-tasker: the writer, director, as well as a leading actor. How did you cope with such a challenge?
In this project, there were seven leading characters and they all had equally important roles. I think I coped with it in a cool, organized way and a lot of hard work, though at times there was nervousness and insecurity; and this is normal, when you have to do with such vital parts like the script, direction and acting in front of the camera. These three different situations involve three different phases and roles, so vital that they become not only competitive but also complementary.
I’ve been doing this for many years, so I don’t know any different. What I know for sure is that it can often be nerve-racking, confusing, even unbearable. However, at times it turns out to be extremely creative, magical, highly satisfactory and rejuvenating.
How challenging was it to combine a set with both a national and an international cast of actors?
The diffulty was that I had to address both casts at the same time, use two languages simultaneously. It doesn’t really have to do with how well you speak the foreign language, compared to your mother tongue, but rather with which language you think in. So, many times I found it frustrating and kind of confusing. I managed to surmount this problem with the help of the actors and crew involved in the shooting of the film.
I was very lucky to find the actors with the help of the Athens Casting, and I would say there was perfect chemistry among the whole cast. For instance, I knew from the very first moment they met, that Niki Vakali and Tawfeek Barhom would “click together ”.
What are the core difficulties faced by greek film productions in Greece nowadays? How much has the socio-economic and political climate in Greece affected this field?
It has never been easy to shoot a film in Greece, even in the days before the crisis. Making a film is not easy anywhere in the world, let alone in Greece, a country which is so small, with such a limited market and budget. Things have got even tougher in this period of the socio-economic crisis, where nothing functions properly. I for one have always been a very persistent and perseverant person, who always finds a way to do things. That’s what happened with this film, as well, although the process was extremely demanding and it took almost three years for the film to be completed: one year to write the script, one year for the preparation and shooting and the whole next year for the post production part.
So the point is, whether or not you achieve to overcome the difficulties and obstacles, to find a way to be creative and “narrate” your vision.
The Immigrant issue, depicted with extreme realism in “Worlds Apart”, remains a highly disputed and unresolved matter. What is your take on that one?
The truth is that the movie was originally written in 2013, when the problem was not really a “migrant” issue, but rather a “refugee” one. In fact, it was really hard for anyone to estimate the dimension and the extent of the problem that broke out all over Europe. As the film was shot in 2014 and was out in 2015, I often had to remake the text and voice over, in parts related to the refugee – migrant issue. For instance, that’s what I also did in the most recent US movie trailer. Then, it was the “refugee” issue; today it is more of an exchange of populations.
In my view, things are vague and constantly changing; we are going through a globalized situation and crisis, I really can’t tell what to expect and what the outcome will be. To solve and tackle a problem, we have to look back, kind of retrospect, see what caused it and why we got to that point.
In a world where racism continues to exist, is Love a universal currency and language? Could it be the antidote and the biggest Anti-depressant to all the aspects of the crisis we are going through?
I believe everything starts from the love and appreciation we have for ourselves. When you get on well with yourself, you get on well with others, as well. It might sound like a cliché, but it is not. Love is within ourselves, and knowing what we want – consciousness – is the key to balance. When you are not aware of what you want and where you are heading for, then, you do not only torture yourself, but also others around you! I do not claim to have sorted this out myself, I’m still searching and working on it a lot….
In my perspective, “Eros” – falling in Love, is a feeling superior to logic, which, however, has an expiration date. We are talking about being in love between two people and experiencing the attraction, but still there is being in love with other things, as well. I, for instance, feel in love with my work, which started as a “need” and eventually evolved into a job. “Everything starts from falling in love”, as J.K Simmons quotes in the movie. And that’s why the Ancient Greeks made him a God – “Eros”.
How important is it to have off-screen chemistry with your actor partner? To what extent does it show on screen?
I think chemistry is something applying to all people. When it comes to actors, if they have chemistry by nature, it can work as an added bonus. This doesn’t mean that there is good chemistry among all actors; on the other hand, lack of chemistry doesn’t really define the way they appear on screen.
Chemistry is more about how you “connect” and “match” with another person. For example, in my previous movie “What If”, actors Maro Kontou and Giorgos Konstantinou, although they hadn’t met on screen since 1960, they instantly clicked as an on screen couple again, as if not a day had gone by! Chemistry is innate in people, it cannot be made or built up.
Do you believe “Second Chance”, one of the film’s main themes, is a privilege/ opportunity that we are all entitled to?
Certainly! There is no doubt about that! We always have it, we might not be aware of having it, we might not be able to see it – a great love, for example – or even refuse to see it. Nowadays, everything is in a turmoil, more neurotic, unbalanced and shaken than ever before. Still, in regard to “Second Chance”, I believe we are all entitled to it, no matter how old we are. That’s why I chose to include it in my movie, with the elderly couple, especially the housewife, who managed it through knowledge, substantially through knowing herself.
DISTRIBUTION IN THE US & EUROPE
Christopher Papakaliatis’ second film hits US theatres this November via Cinema Libre Studio distribution company. “Worlds Apart” will kick off its US course on October 1st with a special screening at the NEW YORK CITY GREEK FILM FESTIVAL, at the Directors Guild of America Theater. January 2017 will mark the film’s opening in European theatres, including Switzerland, Austria and Germany, by trigon-film, while on September 28 “Worlds Apart” participated in a Special Screening Gala at the ZURICH FILM