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Dead or Not?

A young woman wakes up in a hotel room. She gets out of bed. She washes her face, combs her hair, puts lipstick on her lips. She realizes that this is what she does day after day when she wakes up. She feels the urge to break this chain. She strips and goes to the room's balcony. She imagines that this is her last day. She smokes as if this were her last cigarette. She looks at the world as if this were her last gaze. Suddenly, she feels the urge to fall indeed from the room's balcony. She climbs and...

Iasonas Sigma (artistic name for Dimitris Sdrolias) is a Greek director, philosopher, psychoontoanalyst and acclaimed writer, (having won numerous prizes for his poetry, prose, and theatre plays), Doctor of Philosophy and Psychoanalysis at the National and Capοdistrian University of Athens.

He attended the Hellenic Cinema and Television School Stavrakos and studied theatre at "Karolos Koun-Art Theatre" of Greece, (having played as an actor at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus) and soloistic piano at "Athens Conservatory" and the "Staatliche Hohchschule fuer Musik und Darstellende Kunst" in Stuttgart, with recitals in Greece and abroad. After his student film “ANOIKIOSIS”, "DEAD OR NOT?" is his first film We spoke to him through an interview to find out more about his latest film.

What draws you to filmmaking and the cinematic language?

Filmmaking and the cinematic language serve Art in its most complete form, combining poetry, literature, acting, dance, music, the visual and the performing arts as well as theory and philosophy in an integrated whole. Having started expressing myself artistically as a musician even since I was a child, (piano-soloist in particular), later on as an actor, and finally as a poet and playwright (having won the first prize of the State in my country, Greece, for my theatre play “A Soldier named Love”, staged at the National Theatre of Greece in 2018) besides my philosophical and psychoanalytical studies at the University, I came to feel that all those different parts of me ended up in being unified in the realms of the cinematic art in the most explosive and touching way. It is as if I discovered in cinema the source behind all my shadow and light that strives to be expressed.

Do you believe in film schools or does making a film teach you more than film school?

The truth is that I do not so much believe in film schools, but more so in film studies, in the sense that every kind of thorough and systematic study of an art and craft can secure the dynamic of what one calls “talent” and intensify it further. Film studies, however, do not restrict themselves to a specific film-school, but can be maintained through the careful selection of seminars, workshops, master classes, tutorials, e.t.c. Cinema is a very idiosyncratic Art, and it cannot be maintained merely theoretically, -to a great extent one learns cinema by making cinema- but, nevertheless, one has to have previously become fully aware of what exactly he or she wants to shoot and why, an awareness that needs the support of firm and deep education and knowledge, which, in the case of the cinema, could be gathered not only via film schools, -this surely isn’t enough- but through one's personal journey regarding one's overall studies and personal experiences.

What makes cinema stand out more than the arts for you?

Did you choose a certain directing style for making your film based on the script?

Every script dictates its own directing style, combined of course with the overall visual style of the director, which in its turn has been shaped according to one's aesthetic and way of decoding reality. The script of “DEAD OR NOT?” in particular, echoing reminiscences of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Happy Days” in a contemporary, twisted and dark, urban post-carrollian and post-beckettian context, guided my directing style towards the transmission of a raw, “behind the keyhole” reality, using a hand-moved camera, and black and white imagery, in order to further capture the non temporal-specific and non spatial-specific dimension of the story. The latter follows a young woman who wants to break free from the chain of her existence in its everyday rituals by falling from a hotel room’s balcony, albeit without suffering from a specific pathology, and the directing style of the film structured itself around the pivotal point of this “Fall”: before the Fall, the film’s decoupage follows an interrupted filming style via cuts, in order to symbolically portray “Life” in its awareness of Time and Space, whereas after the Fall, the decoupage follows big long-sequence shots, in order to portray “Death” in its temporal and spatial non awareness, symbolising thus the Split between the Body and the Soul.

How did you choose the cast and the crew of your film?

I chose the cast and crew of “DEAD OR NOT?” according to their talent, passion and dedication. Taking part in an independent film is not an easy procedure. The low economic budget of the film calls for additional availability, readiness and passion on behalf of the cast and crew, which, in turn, presupposes very careful selection of the suitable people. In the face of my leading actress, furthermore, I found an epitome of what I consider to be “feminine”, notwithstanding age, style and appearance, since, in the most versatile way, she gives the impression in front of the camera of being a girl, a woman, but also a boy simultaneously, being able to support a classical, modern and post-modern style at the same time.

How did you fund your film and what were some of the challenges of making this film?

I funded my film in its entirety on my own, since it is my belief, that during the first steps of oneself as a filmmaker, one should take the risk of being wholly responsible for the artistic status of one's film. The biggest challenge I had to cope with making this film is the fact that owing to the first wave of the pandemic and the first big quarantine it launched, I had to fully postpone its shooting, replacing some of the members of my first team. I finally managed to shoot exactly after the expiring of the first quarantine in Greece, (May 2020), finding new reservation dates in regards to the hotel, which further challenged me with its own practical difficulties, due to organisational and sanitary factors that had to be meticulously taken care of. If it weren’t for the continuous reciprocal support between me and the members of my crew, the director of photography and the assistant director in particular, the film wouldn’t have found the way to its realisation. Through the film we all came to become family.

Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker and what would most be the most difficult thing about being an independent artist?

I don’t know if I consider myself to be an independent filmmaker: I consider myself to be first and foremost an independent spirit and in this sense I would wish for myself to be an independent filmmaker, even if certain of my scripts in the future would call for non-independent productions. In any case, I would wish to be able to make independent movies during the whole of my life, because their charm and special force is not only a consequence of a necessary low-budget solution, but also a matter of choice regarding style and aesthetics, even if one had the money to act otherwise. The most difficult thing about being an independent artist is to manage to preserve one's originality, uniqueness and anti-conventionality, resisting to be "corrupted" by cliché, convention and financial pressure. An additional challenge, though, is to succeed in producing original and anti-conventional movies that do not concern only a small proportion of the audience, but its great mass. That, of course, is the most difficult of all.

What is the distribution plan for your film?

In regards to the distribution plan of my film, I’m already in contact with cinema owners and distributors in Athens, the city I live in, and particularly with those ones, that show keen interest in indie-experimental-art films, planning screenings in their cinemas once the quarantine is over. On a second level, I intend to find urban festivals and all kinds of city happenings that would be willing to host the screening of my film, not excluding museums of post-modern art and galleries, as well as cinematically oriented cafés, that would be interested in showcasing my film on one or more of their video-walls.

What is your cinematic goal in life and what would you like to achieve as a filmmaker?

My cinematic goal as a filmmaker is to expand, through my films, the personal world of my viewers, via continuously expressing and expanding my own, urging all of us to think in a more groundbreaking, less conventional way, so as to make this world a better place. Together with my books (fictional and philosophical) and my poetry, I would wish for my films to help viewers decode the mysteries and no-way-outs of this dimension. This can only happen through the continuous, painstaking exercise of putting ourselves in the shoes of others, either as victims or as perpetrators, constantly dilating our emotional sensitivity and intelligence beyond the traditional, simplistic categories of what is considered to be “Good” or “Bad”. And which other experience, than that of the Cinema, which itself creates experience, can provide us with better tools for such a task?

What kind of impact would your film have in the world and who is your audience?

The impact I would wish for my film, DEAD OR NOT?, to have in the world is the re-examination of what life and death is. It would be very comforting, in my opinion, if one started to view life as a series of constant deaths, which do not decide on the whole of our past, resetting it continuously, and thus not nailing us down to only a certain existence and only one life. In this sense, the audience of my film is everyone that, even for one moment in his life, has felt the burdens of existence weighing heavily on his/her shoulders.


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