Super Demetrios will save us all

Giorgos Papaioannou, the director of the film that earned the audience award at the 52nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival, talks to ough! about the northern superhero.

In a surreal parallel universe, Thessaloniki has its own guardian superhero: Super Demetrios.  Known among common people as Demetris Christophoridis, and working as a journalist for the magazine Golden Jerusalem he is fighting for truth, justice and the Greek-Christian ideals.  One night, the city’s worst nightmare returns. Captain F.ROM is there again, to claim what he is being trying to for years:  to be recognized by everybody in his real name… the name that he deserves to have, the name that is appropriate for him. The two characters are drawn into a bone-crushing showdown that keeps the audience in suspense until its spectacular climax, in an archetypical battle of good against evil. 

Portraits: Tomoko Rin

This is how “Super Demetrios” is being described (“a no-budget super-spectacle”) by its creators.  “Super Demetrios” is a project of OTiNaNAi Productions, which is an independent production team of low-budget films. A group of friends, with sole resources their innovations and their love for cinema, that tries to set goals and reach even higher levels of quality as far as the end product is concerned, despite the compromised means of production and their entry-level equipment.  “Super Demetrios” is a northern Greek super-heroic comedy; its story takes place in Thessaloniki at all those spots that the northerners love-or love to hate-. The producers’ ambition was to prove that in order to make a good film all you need is ten blokes, a beautiful girl and a camera. There is no money… it never has been.

It’s nice when something comes out of the madness and the dreams of a group of friends and also being acknowledged as good. Two friends and classmates in the dept. of civil engineering in the A.U.T.H., Dimitris Papavasileiou and Giorgos Papaioannou, decide an autumn night in 1999, to create a team that will make independent, no-budget cinema productions, starting with “The Blair-Kitch Project”. 

A few years later, and some unofficial videos in between, they present “Super Demetrios” at the 52nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Not only do they manage that, but they also earn the audience award for best film, which from this year on is being awarded in the memory of Michalis Kakogiannis.

With all this acclaim and buzz surrounding the film, it was impossible for us not to find its director, Giorgos Papaioannou, and have him talking about how much Super-Demetrios can do to get rid of the city from the kitsch, the tastelessness and the severe taxation.

Is Super-Dimitrios a sectionalist superhero?  That is, does he take action only within the urban complex of Thessaloniki, or he can take a ride down to Athens to help?
Yes, he’s a sectionalist super-hero… or a super-sectionalist hero. I think “super” goes well with both. Sadly, his jurisdiction is confined to the urban complex of Thessaloniki. The government has secretly included Super-Demetrios in the Kallikratis Operational Schedule. Decentralized self-governing/national defence. 

Have you ever thought about including the befallen Super-prefect on a small part along with Captain F.ROM in the sequel?
I don’t know whether we will deal with Captain F.ROM on the sequel, we’re thinking something about “Super Demetrios, the years of innocence…” From what I’m hearing, the befallen has already broken in his cinema career.  But it would be a good opportunity. What if he brings his friend along, Arnold Schwarzenegger? That would be a blast.

Who do you think would win on a Pontiac-dance contest, Super-Demetrios or the befallen Super-Prefect?
You just dropped a magnificent idea. I think I won’t answer that but shoot it instead. It would be a battle not for the faint-of-heart. 

How big the film budget was and what difficulties did you encounter during the shooting of the film?
A rough estimation (trip expenses, equipment, costumes etc.) would be around 1500 to 2000 Euros. The hardest thing to pull was the coordination of a group, all having day-jobs. The film was entirely shot during weekends, holidays and leaves.  What is more, I took up almost completely on my own the post-production. So the movie didn’t actually cost much in money but in time. This is why it took so long to finish. 

Distribution-wise, did anybody approach you after being awarded at the festival?
We’ve come in contact with some distributors and we are waiting for a response.  In case it doesn’t go somewhere, we’ll do something on our own, at least at cinemas in Athens and Thessaloniki. The film has already had a small tour of the country in the framework of the Film Festival.

Would you like to have an established actor starring in any of your films?
Yes, it would be very interesting. We thought about it for some time for Super Demetrios, but after all we didn’t try it out.

The scene where Super Demetrios, like a deus-ex-machina, offers to a poor woman (who is having trouble with the… banker strike) a cheque bearing the equivalent of six pension installments was really impressive. This moment, what do you think is the first thing that Super-Demetrios needs to act upon? Kick the troika out? Give away the taxes of the Electricity Company? Drill in the region below Crete to find oil or natural gas deposits?
The best thing about this scene is that we shot it in the fall of 2007, a lot of time before the surrealism of the last two years kicked in. Therefore, the best thing that Super-Demetrios could do these days is –like Superman did on the first movie, reversing time and resurrecting Lane- to turn the time back and rid us of this mob of politicians that drove the country to this situation.  
Could you ever shoot a drama?
If OTiNaNai Productions ever attempted to shoot a drama, the whole will be laughing at us.  I mean we could, but it would work on the completely opposite direction. 
Which people do you acknowledge as mentors and where did you get the drive for directing?
I regard as mentors all the people that have promoted the hand-made DIY cinematography.  Classics like Thanasis Veggos, and from the new digital generation Robert Rodriguez, Stu Maschwitz and Andrew Kramer. I think I got the urge to grab the camera and toy with it from whatever I was looking at while I was growing up. The classic Greek cinema, the US action-movies, video-clips etc. 

Describe me a moment from your daily routine that gives you utmost happiness? 
These days, I get a lot of happiness from being able to share all the nice things happening with “Super Demetrios” with the people I love. 

After the completion of the movie did you get the feeling that you accomplished some of your childhood dreams?
To a degree yes, our taking part in the festival and being awarded, gave me joy and satisfaction.  There are, however, so many things that I want to do that I can’t put myself to rest yet.

Any future plans?
As I mentioned earlier, it took quite some time for the movie to finish and all this time a variety of ideas have come past. What we aim at initially, is to get better equipment, so that our coming works are superior technically. We are also open to any kind of cooperation. With the appropriate support I feel we will have an even better result. 

Tell a film or a record that changed your view in life.
It was the Easter of 1997 when I saw “Life of Brian” on the TV. Around that time I first listened to Aenima by Tool.

You have directed video clips for vatious Greek bands (2L8, Gravity Says I, Sleepin Pillow).  Is there a record that impressed you for this year?
From the Greek discography, the record of Gravity Says I titled “The Figures of Enormous Gray and the Patterns Of Fraud” is the best album that I’ve listened to in 2011. Amazing work. From international discography, new albums from MastodonFair to MidlandPuscifierRevocation and others. 

If you were given money from the government -from the new minister of shipping- to shoot a film with the adventures of Super-Alexander the Great would you do it?
I wouldn’t. I don’t think my taste really matches the taste of the famous minister. And my brain doesn’t work if I don’t like something. I could take the money and do whatever I want with them but that wouldn’t be fair at all. 

If I told you that I’m budgeting in for a production featuring EL the nephelims and the Selines, the first Greek inhabitants of the moon, to whom would you give the leading part?  Who could be the great EL without him necessarily being an actor?
Now you’ve hit jackpot. Super Demetrios was inspired by a script that we were working on based on this exact subject. We discovered that as a character he had a lot of potential for elaboration so we set on making a movie about the guardian super-hero of the city. On the EL scenario there is a specific member of OTiNaNAi Productions that has the role of EL tailor-made for him. It will be a demanding project but if we can budget it, we start tomorrow with you on the executive producer’s chair.

Great I will invest on the project, I can provide for the amount of 100 Euros with the term that the soundtrack is taken up by another great talent in the city, Mpampis Batmanidis…

In the meantime: 
“The DV rebel’s guide” among the books in my library.

Super Demetrios was shot with 2 Canon handy cam cameras  and a Rode microphone.

My favorite movie, first thing I got when I came down to Athens at Monastiraki.

The studios of OTiNaNAi Productions… my office.  The whole movie (besides) audio was created here.

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