Directed by Thanasis Neofotistos Air Ηostess-737 is a coming-of-age short film, focusing on the consequences of a mother’s symbolic and physical absence in the adult life of the individual. It premiered at the 75th Locarno Festival and since then it has participated in more than 80 international film festivals.
Vanina, perfectly portrayed by Lena Papaligoura, is a 39-year-old flight attendant, who is struggling to handle her emotional turmoil, while on a Boeing-737 flight. She keeps complaining about her new braces but soon, we realize she is dealing not only with physical but also with emotional pain. Her mother’s body is being carried on the plane to be buried in her hometown. This flight seems to be Vanina’s last chance to confront her trauma and finally reconcile with her mother.
Film director, writer and architect Thanasis Neofotistos is a member of the European Film Academy (EFA) and the Greek Film Academy, a Berlinale Talents alumnus & Head Programmer of the Student International Competition at the Drama International Short Film Festival. He has directed two award-winning short films, Patision Avenue and Route-3, and has already started working on his first feature film, The boy with the light blue eyes.
Thanasis Neofotistos spoke to Greek News Agenda* about Air Ηostess-737 and his future plans.
Airhostess-737 has been very successful so far. It has screened at major international festivals and won several awards. In your opinion, what has contributed to this outcome?
Its track record is excellent and I’m very happy about that. I can’t go into specific factors but I can say with certainty that this is a story I really wanted to tell. It’s a story I ’ve always had in mind and wanted to share. This combination is probably what made it so successful.
How did your collaboration with Lena Papaligoura come about?
Casting is a process difficult to describe. It primarily relies on instinct. Vanina had the form of Lena in my imagination. In the beginning, we did audition a few actresses but eventually went for our first, intuitive choice that was absolutely rewarding. Apart from her exceptional talent, Lena has something of Vanina’s comic side, which was very comforting. At the same time, she has a kind of craziness, both as an actress and as a person, which I think is what took the role to another level. Last but not least, she is a fun person to work with.
The film focuses on the mother-daughter relationship. How did you decide to deal with such a complex issue?
It all started with a dream, where I was in Vanina’s shoes. Throughout our lives, I don’t think we ever stop dealing with these early, fundamental relationships. We go around and around, we reproduce them, sometimes going in circles and sometimes moving forward. In a way, Vanina offered me a chance to creatively process my relationship with my own mother.
What is your view on acceptance in general? Does its pursuit delay or, even worse, nullify reconciliation with oneself? Is it maybe overrated?
In my opinion, it is not overrated at all. Acceptance is a necessary condition for reconciliation with ourselves. For those who weren’t lucky enough to get it when and from those who should have offered it, the only way is to go back there, dig in, and claim it, even if the subject is missing. That’s exactly what Vanina does.
Vanina is struggling to look flawless in her professional life. Most of us experience, in one way or another, similar stressful situations. Do you think there is a way we can have a balanced personal and professional life?
I think that we live in extremely demanding, exhausting times. Coupled with exposure to social media, which demands constant connectivity with everyone, striking a balance can be very difficult. It takes a conscious and concerted effort to make it work.
Are you optimistic about the future of Greek cinema, both in Greece and abroad?
Yes indeed! Greek cinema is doing extremely well abroad now and I think that in the next few years we can expect to see works from very talented filmmakers who will play a leading role. I hope these works will also meet a little more of the audience in the cinema. For me, that’s the challenge.
How about your next steps?
I’m currently fully committed to my first feature film The Boy with Blue Eyes, which will be shot in the next few months after almost 8 years of work. It is the coming-of-age story of Peter, a teenage boy, in a strange, mountainous village in Greece full of fear and superstition! I am so excited and very nervous at the same time!
*Interview by Dora Trogadi
Read also via Greek News Agenda: Spiros Jacovides on his movie “Black Stone”; Asimina Proedrou on her film “Behind the Haystacks”