Marché: Thessaloniki doc projects muscle into Cannes

Marché: Thessaloniki doc projects muscle into Cannes

Three Greek documentaries-in-progress are presented June 22 at the Cannes Marché, including Michael Klioumis’ Made in Vain, about the pursuit of the body beautiful. 


Personal demons, ongoing struggles with the mirror, sacrifices, goals, bottled up feelings, hard training and hard diet shape the everyday life of body builders. Their fight to attain perfection is endless and excruciating, and the competition is big. 


In Made in Vain, directed by Michael Klioumis, three bodybuilders are trapped in a perpetual, relentless struggle with the mirror, their insecurities, excessive vanity and narcissism, and the pursuit of the perfect body.


“The project is unique with great potential in both festival and financial terms,” explains producer Louizos Aslanidis of Ekso Productions. “I took over production two years ago, exactly three years after Michael first began researching and shooting the first footage.”


Which is the film’s main strength, producers argues, as it follows three characters over five years, allowing for a warts and all view of a backstage world that is totally hidden form mere mortals. 


“I was shocked by both the footage that was presented to me and the passion of first time director Michael to surprise by laying out unbelievable realities that leave you with an open mouth. I believe that the finished film will have amazing reception on all audiences globally since it addresses issues that everyone can relate to but in a context very few people are familiar with,” Aslanidis adds.


The film is a low budget, even for Greek standards, the producer concedes, and survived the early years because of director Klioumis’ persistence and that fact that what was being revealed to him was so jaw-dropping that he knew significant interest would be garnered further down the line.   


“Michael is a people person, very persistent, a great observer and a patient listener. He has an eye for a good story and unforgettable characters, like the ones he found for this documentary out of thousands of possible participants,” the producer continues. “He is very good in interpersonal communication [and] he earns the trust of the participants in a documentary or his actors. His visualization skills help him vastly as well to shoot at a fast pace with clarity and follow closely the goals he set to achieve. 


“A few months away from completion of the film (now in post-production) I haven’t met yet a single person that does not anticipate to watch the finished film on the big screen,” Aslanidis concludes.


The doc-in-progress Esperanto, directed by Stratis Chatzielenoudas and produced by Ioanna Petinaraki, is described as a poetic essay on communication, language and the relationship between humans and birds. The protagonists are people who participate in a bird breeding club, whose members, mostly men, learn the bird language. They come from different backgrounds and corners of Greece, and for a year they try to teach their darlings birds the most beautiful song and hopefully, to win the annual bird singing contest. “Esperanto” means the “one who hopes”. 

“The film has a poetic mood, and the director is dealing with the need of communication and the construction of a language. Moreover, he is constructing his “language” by putting together the elements that this film is consisting of,” says producer Petinaraki. “He has started to built a relationship with his characters as well, he has spent a lot time on observing them and understanding what they are doing and how they do it. This is the beginning of everything in every film, as knowing your characters and the environment your film is set at, is one of the key elements in order to get started.”

On director Chatzielenoudas, the producer adds: “I worked with Stratis on our first documentary film Back to the Top. This time, he is having a quite different style and approach on the project and this is the first thing that made me want to get involved. Furthermore, after our first collaboration I wanted to work with him again and I strongly believe that cinema has to do also with building long lasting  collaborations with people you trust in order to achieve the best possible result. Also, we are filmmakers of the same generation and we share common professional standards and goals.”  


If it’s not OK it’s not the end is directed and produced Salvador Muñoz and co-produced with Raul Mora Jorquera (Producciones Minúsculas, Spain). In the film Thodoris Ritzakis is a three times Greek boxing champion. He is in his mid-twenties, a university graduate in finance and statistics and father of three. He juggles everything at the same time and dreams of a future as a coach. While making steps forward he reinvents himself in the boxing world and works on his relationship with his wife and kids. He believes everything is going to be ok. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.