A Place Called Home

Original Title: To dentro kai i kounia

A Journey Within

Greek filmmaker Maria Douza, whose film“A Place Called Home” was screened at the Kolkata International Film Festival, talks about making films in a country going through its worst economic crises.

When getting an interview of Greek filmmaker Maria Douza seemed impossible after doing multiple rounds of the press centre and committee room at Nandan, the venue of the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF), a call at her hotel room lifted my spirit. Within seconds she agreed to have a chat over breakfast. As we talked cinema, what impressed me was her warmth and unassuming nature.

Her critically acclaimed directorial debut “A Place Called Home” was an entry at the International Competition section. Though Douza’s film was part of the Greek Vignettes’ at the IFFI in Goa last year, she still accepted the KIFF invite because she didn’t want to miss the chance of visiting the city of Satyajit Ray, whose work she values. “I got introduced to Ray’s works when studying at London’s National Film and Television School. His aesthetics, style and ability to capture the essence of a subject are inspirations to many,” she said.

For Douza, if human relationships are interesting, human predicament is intriguing and she tried to capture the essence of both in her first feature film. Inspired by the real life story of a Polish woman, she weaved it with her own experience of returning to Athens after living in England for 12 years and crafted a film that explores migration, separation and estrangement.

Set against the backdrop of a post-World War II divided Europe and its reunification in the late 90s after Communism collapsed, it revolves around Eleni, a successful Greek doctor living in the UK for last 15 years. When she visits her estranged father, Kyriakos, in Greece, she is surprised to find a Serbian woman, Nina, and her daughter living in her family home. Douza deftly creates drama exploring tensions and emotions in human relationships as she unravels secrets.

“I chose the theme of migration because of the growing racism and intolerance in Greece today. I wanted to show how for some it’s a compulsion, for some it’s a conscious decision, while for others a financial necessity. Further, odyssey is ingrained in Greek culture. In the past we were traders and in the 20{+t}{+h}Century we became immigrants. Even in Kolkata there was a thriving Greek community in the 17{+t}{+h}and 18{+t}{+h}centuries, but they left,” she explained.

Douza credited her father for instilling in her the passion for cinema. It was he who introduced her to films by Bergman, Antonioni, Fellini, Mizoguchi at a very tender age. “So you see studying filmmaking was a natural progression,” she laughed. Though she has written and directed a number of short length fiction films, documentaries, ad commercials and social awareness spots, she took her time to direct a full-length feature film because raising her two kids was her priority.

Today, her film may have been acclaimed in festival circuits, but uncertainty looms large over making her next movie though the script based on a novel by Pantelis Kaliotsos is ready. “Arranging fund in a country that is witnessing its worst economic crisis since WWII isn’t easy. For my first film, I had to wait for five years after finishing the script and getting all approvals,” she rued.

What impressed Douza at KIFF is the standard of movies screened. “The movies were original, treatments were modern, but cinematic quality wasn’t compromised. Films like “Delight”, “Eyes of a Thief” and “Self Made” were multi-layered, high on aesthetics and distinct in style.” However, she is not really familiar with the works of contemporary Indian filmmakers and could only name Buddhadeb Dasgupta.

Ask her what is she taking back from KIFF and pat she replies, “Great experience. People here are so warm. Audience so well informed. They would interact and ask questions.”

2014-12-03The Hindu -

Toronto Greek FIlm Retrospective

Maria Douza’s first feature length film is an elegantly crafted story that explores the themes of estrangement and separation and homecoming with powerfully understated direction. Mirto Alikaki play Eleni, a successful Greek doctor who finds out her husband is being re-located to Shanghai for a fiscal restructuring. This triggers a sudden desire for her to return to Greece and visit her father, who is also the town mayor.

Her father Kyriakos (a resonating performance by Ilias Logothetis) is not alone when Eleni arrives as a Serbian woman Nina (Mirjana Karanovic) has filled the house with life again for the first time in decades. But nothing is as it seems and the film unravels secrets and mysteries that could only be revealed when everyone has returned to the family table.

Alikaki and Karanovic move through the house peering and stalking one another for clues and hints of who the other woman is, and Douza makes excellent use of camera moves to create dramatic tension that takes the air out of each room.

A special mention should be made of the excellent work of both Cinematographer Epameinondas Zafeiris and Set Designer Tziovanni Tzanetis. From the first drive through the mountains and deep woods towards the ancestral home all the way inside the home to the century-old doors and detailed set dressing, one feels immersed in the authenticity of the story.

A PLACE CALLED HOME is a sure-handed debut from a filmmaker that has chosen to invest her film with the timeless (and often Greek) theme of returning home. Writer/Director Douza suggests that as human beings from different places we endure and survive with recognition that we are more similar than we are foreign to one another.

DANNIS KOROMILAS
DIRECTOR: GREEK FILM RETROSPECTIVE/TORONTO

2014-12-03Dannis Koromilas

Filmink Review

Douza has crafted a wonderful character piece about the meaning of family and the different places we call home. [...] The filmmaker has written a strong script that gives each of the key characters room to develop and directing wise she showcases the Greek countryside beautifully in every scene, making it another character in the film. Performances by the main cast are first rate, with Alikaki especially impressive as the woman torn between her new life and her old one, all the while trying to find a sense of home for her young daughter.

A Place Called Home is a dramatically beautiful look at the fractured lives of one Greek family as they try to regain a sense of family that they once had. It makes for engaging viewing.

2013-10-31Tom Loquet

Cineuropa Review

Alikaki’s powerful performance and Karanovic’s more subtle tones provide the film’s ensuing power-games with a fine balance, which Douza uses to push her drama towards a family’s reconstruction after the prodigal child’s long-awaited return.

Cinematographer Epameinondas Zafeiris does an ace job at implementing the countryside’s plethora of natural elements, without having them override the dry palettes that accentuate the story’s emotional turmoil, while set decorator Dimitris Margaritis’ detailed work provides a rich and realistic backdrop to a home-coming story that not only transports our main character across a continent, but also a few decades back, straight into her childhood – right where home always lies.

2013-09-20Joseph Proimakis
A PLACE CALLED HOME - EastWest Filmdistribution GmbH