Evi Kalogiropoulou’s film “On Xerxes’ Throne,” commissioned and produced by Onassis Culture, was ‘enthroned’ at the Cannes Film Festival.
The film, shown on Tuesday the 24th as a Critics Week official selection at the 75th Cannes Film Festival, was awarded yesterday with the Canal+ Award for Short Film. Canal+ awarded the prize, which is accompanied by a monetary stipend, to “On Xerxes’ Throne” citing the film’s approach to an ancient Greek story with highly inventive parables situated in an alien landscape.
Alain Kruger, a well-known journalist in France and host of the “Cercle” show, likened Evi Kalogiropoulou and her work to the one of the renowned French filmmaker Claire Denis and her film Beau travail; he urged also the audience not to miss the film by any means.
Evi Kalogiropoulou, herself an avid fan of Denis’ film, was very excited upon receiving the award and thanked warmly the Onassis Foundation for the commission and support, as well as her collaborators, Director of Culture of the Onassis Foundation, Afroditi Panagiotakou, who was the film’s curatorial director, and Yorgos Mazonakis who plays the leading role.
The film will be shown on the prestigious French television network Canal+, which presents works by notable filmmakers from around the world.
In the dystopian workplace that is the Perama shipyards, a longstanding ban on physical contact has turned human interactions into otherworldly simulations of a repressed sensuality that goes beyond stereotypical heteronormative desires. Hinting at the existence of an omnipresent but invisible monitoring mechanism, the film follows the story of Yorgos – the worker there the longest, and manager of the yard – to profile human relationships and exchanges as shaped by an Orewellian everyday existence in which the visual subordinates the emotional.
Once a month, Yorgos leaves Perama, crossing over to the island of Salamis that lies opposite. Both he and the yard’s young workers gaze at the mountain that rises behind Perama, then across the strait, then back again, unsure of what to expect, or what to do.
On Xerxes’ Throne. One of the peaks of Mount Egaleo in the Municipality of Perama – known in antiquity as Amfiali – is thought to be the site where Xerxes sat as he watched the destruction of the Persian fleet in the Battle of Salamis, in 480 BCE. As if in that same position, Kalogiropoulou observes her leads from a distance, placing them on the “throne” determined by each person’s own little world – be it an automated piece of heavy machinery or a section of metal scaffolding – with everyone trapped within, and observers of a dystopian universe and grim ritual that suppresses human desire.
With this film, Kalogiropoulou has chosen to talk about the human body, beauty, the futility of work, and the conditions imposed by paranoid surveillance, but also about blood and estrangement, about gender, about sexual desire and its limits.
The role played by Yorgos Mazonakis, a famous greek singer, is both enigmatic and autobiographical. Enigmatic in terms of the questions: Is he human, or a machine? Where does he come from, and why is he finally able to smash such a deeply-rooted mandate of suppression? What is the nature of the eroticism he exudes? The role is autobiographical as the film marks the Greek artist’s return to Perama, and to the place where his father once worked.
Kalogiropoulou’s first version of the film – titled “I Belong to Me” – was commissioned for the “You and AI: Through the Algorithmic Lens” exhibition, presented by Onassis Stegi at Pedion tou Areos park in Athens (06.24–07.25.2021), exploring the themes of algorithms and artificial intelligence, creativity and ethics, and curated by Afroditi Panagiotakou, Director of Culture at the Onassis Foundation. The film was shot at Hellenic Shipyards S.A. in Perama in June 2021.
Evi Kalogiropoulou is a visual artist working in Athens and London, while living in Athens. Her film “Motorway 65” was selected for the Official Short Film Competition of the 73rd Cannes Film Festival in 2020. She is currently developing her feature film Cora; she participated with this project at Cinemart of Rotterdam Film Festival where she won the Eurimages Coproduction Development Award.
Evi works mostly with moving image works, and experimental films. Her projects explore ideas associated with the inclusion/exclusion, cross-culture identity, female figures in ancient Greek mythology frames, and post-apocalyptic environments.
The Onassis Foundation looks to the future of cinema and becomes an active part of new artistic creations. Through film production, it invests over time in new talents and strong stories.
The Onassis Foundation has co-produced and/or supported two more films screened at Cannes: Panos Koutras’ new film, Dodo (co-produced), which was selected at Cannes Premiére, and The Dam by Ali Cherri (supported), which premieres at Directors Fortnight.