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GLORY B. / Greece

KONSTANTINOS ANTONOPOULOS

Historical films tend to be associated with large productions, elaborate sets, and conservative storytelling. Glory B, based on the real story of the Byzantine emperor Justinian II, is an attempt to twist the tradition of epic films, in a minimalist, unorthodox, two-character story.

The seed of the story came from an image I stumbled upon the medieval pillory. A punishment at once cruel and ridiculous; symbolic yet as-real-as-it-gets. Indeed, the eastern medieval world of the Byzantine Empire, filled with bloody court intrigues, absurd theological conflicts, and preposterous superstitions, seems light-years away from our tidy, civil, scientific reality.  Yet, traces of this \”dark\” period insist on saturating our newsfeed today: religious fanaticism, torture, slavery, anti-scientific dogmas, grotesque politics. Ιs history a repetition of the same play with different actors, directors, and sets? Maybe looking at a past where the illogical and the intolerable (in today\’s standards) was the norm will help us clarify our present predicament more effectively.

Equally desperate and comedic, elevated and ridiculous, brutal, and all-too-human, Glory B attempts to explore our failure to live up to our ambitions and our idea of success. We all are similar to Justinian and Zaharias: living paradoxes trapped inside ourselves.

SYNOPSIS

Aegean Sea, 703 AD. Two shipwrecked convicts, trapped in wooden pillories, wash ashore on a desert island. One is ZAHARIAS, a naive, cross-eyed beekeeper who has been accused of heresy by a neighbour who covets his wife. The other is JUSTINIAN II, former ruler of the Byzantine Empire, now dethroned, humiliated and mutilated: his nose is cut off.

Humble man and fallen god are equally desperate: betrayed, lost and ready to die. Their chance encounter gives them a glimmer of hope. Justinian sees a chance to reclaim his throne, while Zaharias starts believing he might be able to get his wife back. 

The two pilloried men embark on a mission to reach the mainland, but the island keeps placing hurdles in their way, forcing them to face their inner frailties. Determined to prove to each other — and to themselves — they are entitled to a second chance, Justinian and Zaharias will become partners, enemies, and also each other’s mentor.

Glory B is an absurd, byzantine buddy movie about power, friendship, and the need to wipe your own ass with somebody else’s hand.

DIRECTOR'S STATMENT

The portrayal of school staff in Croatian cinematography is not seen often. Secretaries, especially, are completely ignored workers “from the shadows”. However, as is the case in any micro-environment, the world of secretaries is one filled with intrigue, rivalry, their own celebrities, and status symbols. By diving into the world of secretaries and accountants, we can uncover the problems, as well as the prestige of this unknown world.

MOTIVATION

The motivation for this story lies in the fact that both my parents spent their lives and careers as school secretaries – my father in an elementary school, and my mother in a high school. I spent my entire childhood listening about changes in laws, new collective agreements, and all sorts of data entry. It was therefore to be expected that my instinct would be to get as far away from the field of education as possible when choosing my career path. However, as I myself got to know and understand what exactly it means to be a worker, I came to see that it is just a reflection of what I’ve been listening about my whole life – something I had given up on too soon. Discovering the details of this world has helped me understand the principles by which our entire society functions. My love for the people working “from the shadows” has supported the basic idea I had and helped it grow into a feature film script.

TONE

As this is a comedy, the supporting characters and the situations they create are portrayed as the opposite of the main leading forces of the protagonist. Mirela despises inaction, partying and partial solutions to issues. She has a very serious vision of herself and she believes that she is the one holding down the fort – without her, everyone’s work, as well as private lives would fall apart. However, she soon finds out that the prize (the role of which was to legitimize her importance) is given away based on entirely unfounded and made-up

reasons. Her disappointment leads her to change her attitude and she realizes that she shouldn’t take herself, nor life in general, so seriously.

The goal is to make a comedy which portrays its characters in an endearing way, but without making fun of them. The humor is seen in petty human traits which are shown in their adapted, appropriate forms. The characters show their greed by filling plastic takeout containers with extra food from the buffet and they go through many colors of envy and jealousy while preparing for the “Secretary of the Year” competition. Still, even with all the humor and comedic situations, our focus remains primarily on the protagonist. She is having a hard time finding her way in all this, so she uses a couple of days of the training to find the meaning of her own life.

LOCATIONS

Towns on the Croatian cost look significantly different off-season. The small percentage of locals spent most of their time inside, and the centers of these towns are often under construction, in preparation for a new tourist season. In these conditions, the cost of rooms and boarding is significantly lower than during the summer and high season, making these destinations desirable for the organizers of various seminars, festivals, and similar events. The small town of Karlobag on the Croatian coast is interesting for two reasons: Through the small town goes a very busy highway instead of a boardwalk so it is not well adapted for tourists; and due to a large distance between Karlobag and any other larger coastal city, it is still very much bound to Gospić, a town in the continental part of Croatia, separated from Karlobag by the mountain range Velebit. This makes the location of Karlobag rather interesting. As there is nothing at all to be seen or done in this town, the participants of the seminar are forced to turn to each other. However, the protagonist, refusing to become part of the rowdy group, has to turn to herself.

Seminars for school staff always include a daytrip to a location in the vicinity of the place they are staying at. The closest location is the island of Pag. During that trip, the main character has already given up on the role she has been playing her whole life and she is trying to learn and experience new things. She goes to an olive garden, splitting off from the group, and this brings her peace and balance which she will retain until the end of the film.

DIRECTION AND STYLE

From the direction point of view, the film is meant to include memorable faces with overdone and flashy hairstyles, as well as colorful costumes and scenery. This is because these seminars for school staff are practically senior trips for adults. All the greyness of their workplace is, if only for a couple of days, replaced by spending time by the sea, bringing life into the off-season. On the other hand, the humor would not be elevated. The goal would be to bring humor about by giving the actors room for miniatures with their looks, pauses, and the ways they reply by relying on comedic skills, rather than grimacing or overacting.

From a character point of view, the film would rely on titles such as “Woman at War/Kona fer í stríð” (2018, Benedikt Erlingsson) and “Gloria” (2013, Sebastián Lelio). Visually, it would resemble films like “Holidays by the Sea/Ni à vendre ni à louer” (2011, Pascal Rabaté) or “Barb and Star go to Vista Del Mar” (2021, Josh Greenbaum). The tone would try to resemble humor in films like \”Another Year” (2010, Mike Leigh), \”Sideways\” (2004, Alexander Payne), “Macadam Storyes/Asphalte” (2015, Samuel Benchetrit) and “Beware of Children/Barn“ (2019, Dag Johan Haugerud).

Training and co-production markets: Berlinale Talents Project, TorinoFilmLab FeatureLab

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