Film Diplomacy: Watching our way through different realities

Film Diplomacy: Watching our way through different realities

Systemic change from a bipolar to a multipolar world has had a profound impact on the ways in which nations construct and project their national identity through adopting a cultural strategy. Indeed, nowadays cultural, religious, and ethnic perspectives play an essential role in defining our sense of self and community1.

Films as a cultural diplomacy tool, serving as both a work of art and a special kind of product according to Česálková, kill two birds with one stone: on the one hand they allow for stimulation of knowledge about the country/ies portrayed—its people, culture, politics, monuments, and natural wealth— among audiences around the globe; on the other hand, films also draw attention to the qualities of those behind as well as those in front of the cameras. This way, they achieve the enhancement of mutual understanding through a people-centred approach, which is emphasised through the silent battle among different realities.

This battle of realities appears to be a pivotal concept in Nico Falcone Georgiadis’ film “Whose Reality 2.0?”. In his award-winning film the Swedish-Greek actor and film producer is playing Elias, a depressed unlicensed taxi driver who lost all motivation to live when he lost his daughter. The character is seeing a therapist and he is seeking refuge in driving strangers and listening to their stories, in his attempt to restore his faith behind the wheels. Whose reality counts and how much can you listen without getting involved and is this safe?

In the following interview, we had the honour to discuss with Mr. Falcone Georgiadis about his movie, film diplomacy as well as the life of Greeks in Sweden.

– In the movie you are playing Elias, a Greek taxi driver who lives in Sweden grappling with making ends meet, his personal drama as well as discrimination. What was the biggest challenge about taking on this role? Does Elias reflect any of your personal traits or experiences?

It was partly a challenge to play Elias but at the same time this role had quite a close relationship to the life that I recognize well in myself and friends’ experiences. The important thing was to convey this social realism.

– What’s the contribution of films in fostering intercultural dialogue and understanding?

We live in a world that can be less and less easy to be perceived and not too often feels apocalyptic. The problems are many, not least political, where the agenda sometimes is to divide people (us & them). This is something we need to look up and see further ahead and where it takes us. We need to show greater understanding of each other where human rights and democracy are respected in full. We all carry different experiences depending on the lot of life, but we should make an effort to understand each other’s differences etc. Films can act catalytically towards that direction; by reflecting different cultures and aspects of history under the spectrum of universal human needs and values, they are there to remind us that the things that unite us are far greater than those which divide us.

The official poster of the movie “Whose reality 2.0?” Picture Courtesy: Nico Falcone Georgiadis

Your film delineates different perceptions of reality. What is the reality Greeks in Sweden are facing?

I guess a relatively common immigration narrative is Greeks coming to Sweden looking for better education and/or job opportunities and working hard, with the idea of coming back always in the back of their heads. Most of the times the years go by, they settle down and the motivation of returning becomes more like a dream, rather than an active pursuit. The Greeks have a tendency to always want to return to their roots and I understand it, usually due to the strong nostalgia for the sunny and colourful society where the family and social life is very rich and vibrant, but unfortunately the influence of other factors such as financial challenges and problems cannot be neglected. In most cases, first generation immigrants adapt perfectly to the new surroundings and become “Greekswed”, keeping the best of the two worlds.

Sweden, for the most part, provides for a friendly, secure environment with the necessary infrastructure to settle in, from the workplace culture to healthcare and the educational system. However, on occasions Greeks are dealt with racism and xenophobia, as their natural characteristics are different from the locals, and they have to prove themselves twice to get praised and recognized. Personally, although I have also confronted with such experiences, I feel like the urge of being always productive and keep doing better and better has had a positive impact on me. Besides, I have been getting a lot of support from my fantastic Swedish friends. Overall, Greeks are incurable and proud lovers of life but with many sorrows in their baggage and the best way to describe their reality in Sweden is as a roller-coaster. There are many things to be thankful for but also some bad aspects, and I’m trying not to let myself be too philosophical about it, because I guess that’s life.

Picture Courtesy: Nico Falcone Georgiadis

– You are a Swedish – Greek actor and filmmaker, who was born in Germany, studied in Los Angeles currently living and working in Sweden. Would you consider yourself an agent of cultural diplomacy?

Basically, I am very proud to be Greek and but also the feeling and objectivity of being international is noticeable in my view of the world, as I have been growing up experiencing different countries and cultures, in Sweden but also abroad. It has not been easy to be an immigrant in another country, but I am grateful for all the challenges of life that led to this human being I am today.

I really see myself as a Greek / Swedish agent of cultural diplomacy and this is because I have a broad experience of both the culture but also of all fronts of life of those two realities for better or worse.

– How is an artist experiencing the reality of Covid-19 and economic recession?

The current situation has hit most people hard due to the major restrictions that prevail in general. A vast number of culture houses, studios and many other cultural institutions like film/music/theater institutions are closed and the opportunities to collaborate and produce are very limited.

– Are you working on any new projects at present?

Yes, I am working on a new film that I wrote and directed. It’s called “The Promenade” and it is produced by me together with my colleagues John Lönngren and Kimmo Salmela. Although the film is on a low budget, it has received partial cultural support from Helsingborgs Kulturhus (Dunkers / Boost) and cultural administration in Sweden.

Despite the large competition and tight budget, “Whose Reality 2.0?” is highly critically acclaimed, winning awards in the International Film Festival of New York, Avalonia Film Festival IV, Indie Film Chart 2019 and many more. The whole movie is available online via www.shortly.film

You can watch the trailer of the film here:

Aretina Stefani

1 F Donelli, ‘Persuading through Culture, Values, and Ideas: The Case of Turkey’s Cultural Diplomacy’ [Summer 2019] 21, Insight Turkey, pp 115 – 118

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