NEW YORK – The Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (LAGFF) in association with the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture offered a free virtual screening of Apples, Greece’s official Oscar entry for the Best Foreign Language Film, on January 17. The film was available for streaming for 24 hours starting at 11 AM PST, to help in the film’s well-deserved Oscar consideration process, and the screening began with a brief introduction by the Greek Deputy Minister for Contemporary Culture Nicholas.Yatromanolakis.
According to the film’s description, amidst a worldwide pandemic that causes sudden amnesia, middle-aged Aris finds himself enrolled in a recovery program designed to help unclaimed patients build new identities. The parallels with the current global pandemic may seem obvious but as we all know, films often take several years from idea to realization and the pandemic theme was a coincidence, according to the filmmakers.
Apples is directed and produced by Christos Nikou in his directorial debut, from a screenplay by Nikou and Stavros Raptis, and stars Aris Servetalis, Sofia Georgovasili, Anna Kalaitzidou, and Argiris Bakirtzis. Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett is an executive producer on the film with her production company Dirty Films.
From the opening scene, the viewer is drawn into the intimate space occupied by the main character, portrayed with impressive subtlety by Servetalis, and framed by the use of the 4:3 aspect ratio which highlights the very human, anthropocentric quality of the film. It also echoes the square frame of the Polaroid photos which form a key aspect of the treatment for the characters building their new identities.
The touches of humor lighten the mood of this thoughtful and, at times, poignant film. The hints, some more subtle than others, that something more may be going on, create a charming level of tension as we watch Aris complete the tasks he is assigned to help him create his new identity. The cast members share a strong dynamic between them and under Nikou’s solid direction, the result is a compelling film that should definitely be among the top contenders for Best Foreign Language Film. Servetalis should also be considered for a Best Actor Oscar since his nuanced performance is emotionally pitch-perfect throughout his character’s journey.
A pre-recorded interview with director Christos Nikou and LAGFF advisor and renowned cinematographer Phedon Papamichael followed the screening and offered additional insights into the film which Nikou noted was inspired in part by the passing of his own father to whose memory the film is dedicated. Papamichael congratulated Nikou and pointed out that he could not believe this was Nikou’s directorial debut. He also noted that he is looking forward to Nikou’s next film as all those who have seen Apples, undoubtedly are, as well.
Apples had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2020 and was reviewed in Variety which noted that “Nikou comes to this project having worked as an assistant director on Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth and Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, but his voice feels distinct, more mature than those found in the disruptive debuts of his Greek peers.”
Apples was released in Greece in November 2020 by Feelgood Entertainment. At the Thessaloniki Film Festival, Servetalis was awarded Best Actor for his role in the film. Apples is the official selection of Greece for Best International Feature Film at the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards. The ceremony is scheduled to be broadcast on April 25 this year.