The first Greek film we’ve ever featured on Short of the Week, Nikoleta Leousi’s Γεννήτρια / Generator is a devastating blend of character-driven storytelling and political cinema. Created in a time of social unrest in her country, Leousi’s film translates Greece’s current crisis into a personal and emotive tale by focusing on the story of one-man as he battles to save the business he loves.
As well as being a fascinating character study, Generator feels like a relatable glimpse into the social climate in Greece at the moment. Instead of putting the focus on her generation, Leousi’s narrative concentrates on the generation of her parents – those who have worked and lived in better times and those probably most affected by the unstable situation of their homeland.
“We needed it in order to stop feeling so powerless”
Deciding to create their narrative on the day that the Greek Parliament signed the second Memorandum, when the streets of Athens were flooded by large demonstrations, Leousi and writer Yorgos Teltzidis used their filmmaking to regain some notion of control in the situation.
“We needed it in order to stop feeling so powerless”, the director admits, “what was important to me was to understand and observe as closely as possible how a man that belongs to my father’s generation and has a debt-ridden shop feels. For those people the failure of a business is a personal matter, a bet that they lost. For Savvas his shop isn’t just four walls but has a life in itself. This contradiction that something is a burden but also is the object of love was what interested me the most in making the film. How can someone get rid of the burden but not the love? Throughout the whole process of making the film, during pre-production, casting, shooting and editing, I was interested in seeing Savvas’ face when he puts the shop on fire. How does a person feel when he does something like that?”
“I am wondering if subconsciously I made a film advocating Grexit.”
“In the film I was aiming for a claustrophobic atmosphere, using an underground corner shop, and never having the camera go outside. I wanted the viewer to experience a little bit of Savvas’ situation. He cannot really see a solution for himself but I wanted to point out that what matters is moving forward. I’m aiming for a feeling of catharsis when Savvas decides to exit the shop…It’s funny really, but I am wondering if subconsciously I made a film advocating Grexit.”
As we’ve discussed previously on Short of the Week, one of the things we love about the format is the freedom it often allows for filmmakers to tell stories that wouldn’t find a home elsewhere. Although Generator feels like an important story, you just can’t imagine it being a film that studios would be rushing to finance as a feature and it sounds as if its director was fortunate to find funding for her short. “Generator was one of the films that got funded by the Greek public broadcaster (ERT) through a script lab competition called Microfilm”, says Leousi. “This program was canceled one year after Generator got made, and ERT was shut down when the film was in post-production. I consider us to be very lucky on this behalf and I’m very pleased that I had a large crew, all the people that I wanted to collaborate with and six days to shoot the film. We shot on Red Epic and the post-production took us about a month.”
Deliberately-paced, contemplative and passionate, Generator not only focuses on Greece, but feels very Greek in its approach. Not just a film about an individual’s struggles, but the struggles of a nation, on a broad level, the impact of the film may largely depend on your affinity with the situation Greece finds itself in at the moment. However, the story of a man struggling to keep control of his life is something many of us will be able to relate and empathize with and it’s the double-pronged attack that makes Generator such a potent watch.
Having studied directing and editing in Manchester in 2009, Nikoleta Leousi has now returned to Greece where she works as an editor in film/documentary and directs short films. Currently working on a new short that once again sees her focus on what she describes as the “social and political changes that are happening all over Europe”, her next project will be a narrative centred around a teenager who’s fired while being pregnant.