For the last year, British director Marcus Markou has been filming his self-penned feature Papadopoulos & Sons.
The film, starring Stephen Dillane (of Game of Thrones fame), Georges Corraface and Georgia Groome, charts the ruin and subsequent rise of a self-made millionaire who reluctantly re-unites with his family to re-open an abandoned fish and chip shop.
An Anglo-Grecian take on the definition of success through entrepreneurship, the film is, at present, without a full international distribution deal. So Markou has gone on the road to visit the French theatre of dreams and screen the movie at Cannes.
I spoke to him about his first-time experience at the film festival:
"I am in Cannes with the film. Well, I'm here in Cannes. The film is with an enlightened and independent film friendly sales agent called Seven & Seven in a huge room with thousands of films from around the world seeking buyers.
"I didn't want to come to Cannes originally (as I wasn't sure it was the right way for the film) but many loved the film and asked me to represent it here."
When asked to describe the Cannes experience, Markou is finding something different to the glamour of news stories about pretty dresses and high-profile screenings:
"Cannes is a huge trade show for the film business. Think of the Motor Show with films being sold instead of cars. At one level, it is quite depressing to see the thing you love being packaged up for Ukrainian State TV or a cable channel in South Korea.
"Today I glimpsed a suited buyer at our stand. He was holding a Papadopoulos & Sons flyer - the one where Stephen Dillane is holding a fish. We were telling him that this was a universal family story while the buyer listened and idly flicked the flyer. I suddenly felt so guilty about making Stephen Dillane hold that fish. He's a great artist. His Hamlet is regarded as one of the best in living memory. He's also got the soul of an angel. And here he was being flicked around by a movie buyer from abroad.
The Cannes experience
Dillane-flicking aside, Markou finds Cannes full of incongruity.
"Everything here blurs into one. I saw two posters stood side-by-side - one was for a film about dinosaurs fighting soldiers, while the other was a story about angels with Tim Spall. That sums up the diversity of Cannes."
Markou, when not working on the film, is a classically trained actor and owner of a successful business classifieds online business. It is this background that gave him the idea for the film's plot. But he has found that this isn't on the minds of his fellow producers, telling me that he's searching Cannes for similar projects telling stories inspired by the global economic downturn.
Finding none so far, this "staggers" him, bit he goes on to say "... yet it also excites me. I really am alone in so many ways. Either I'm onto something or I'm way, way off - out there on the fringes."
A movie executive questioned this attitude, telling him that he was "naïve" to think that Papadopoulos & Sons was any different to the other films at Cannes, which are all trying to coax a distribtuion deal for their own unique form of "escapist entertainment."
Markou is in no way contrite. He believes that "all films are a screenplay before they are anything else. Before movie stars, cameras, editing, finance - all films are a writer's words on a page. And all writers are influenced by the world around them. You cannot avoid the world when you are a writer. So, where are the films about the economic crisis we've been going through since 2008? Where is the writer's reaction?"
Papadopolous & Sons is a family movie, and I've been lucky enough to have seen it. I felt the joy that Markou wants to give back to the viewing public. The message, that you can lose money, but that you needn't lose hope, will surely strongly resonate with us all. However, when securing distribution, it is the film's certification that seems to be as important as the plot.
According to Markou, "the most popular thing on our movie screens are vampire films where kids sell their souls for an eternal life. Our film would be classed as a 15 because even though we don't have any violence - but a few of my characters swear."
With a big viral campaign and 25,000 YouTube views of the trailer in the last couple of weeks alone, Markou is hopeful that he will get the right deal.
And as the economic downtown continues, I believe that we could all do with his brand of unadulterated joy.
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