A GIRL NAMED ZEUS / Greece
Born in 1975 and raised in Crete, Greece, Nikos studied at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, where Harrison Ford bequeathed his original Indiana Jones hat and whip. The Institute then sold the sacred props, and Nikos went on to do an MA in documentary and direct several of Greece\’s most acclaimed international co-productions and blue-chip docu-series for National Geographic, ARTE, ZDF, AVRO, ERT, History TV Canada, COSMOTE History, SKAI TV et.al. Sayome, a film about his Japanese-cum-Cretan aunt, won the URTI Grand Prix at Monte Carlo, the FIPRESCI Award at Thessaloniki et.al. His next character-driven doc, Little Land, was distributed in cinemas across Japan. Enter the Otter, his award-winning comedy short for children, featuring a cast of amateur immigrant kids, premiered at the Chicago International Children’s FF. He is the only Greek filmmaker to be selected by Kids Kino Lab and by Cinekid Script Lab, where he developed the script for A girl named Zeus.
Zeus is an 11 year-old girl from Athens, Greece, ca. 2000 AD. She is into Heavy Metal music, dresses accordingly and is unpopular due to her musical elitism: anything softer than hard rock is for elevators. Zeus’ singular name and opinions come from her father, a failed rocker-cum-rock DJ known as Cronos, whom Zeus idolizes. Cronos is a negligent parent and husband. Zeus mostly listens to him on the radio, ranting against “fake” music. Zeus’ mom, Rena clashes with him when he disregards the news about his estranged father’s illness. Zeus, who dreams of becoming a musician and rocking out with her father, takes his side.
When summer vacations begin and Rena loses her job, she takes Zeus back to where she and Cronos grew up: a remote mountain village on the island of Crete. Zeus doesn’t like that, especially as her father has promised to take her to see Ozzy Osbourne live. She meets her huge family: Cronos’ father, Uranogiorgis, a traditional patriarch and master lyre-player, who has a heart condition; his mother Georgia, a cheeky loom-weaver who stands up to her husband; Cronos’ three brothers; and three black-clad unmarried aunts who are caring but suffocating. Gradually, Zeus forms an unlikely friendship with two of her cousins: a dynamic teenager called Hera (16) who raps and samples music against her ambitious father’s wishes; and Yioryio, a prepubescent shepherd whose love of sheep is turning him into a vegetarian, to his butcher father’s shame.
Zeus hopes that her parents will reunite and she will return home, but her mother starts working at the family tavern. Then, Zeus finds out that her father has vowed never to return to the village – though no one will explain why.
Zeus clashes with Uranogiorgis when he catches her playing around with his lyre, an ancient, priceless heirloom that passes from father to son. Georgia forces them to reconcile. Uranogiorgis reveals the secret source of his music: the sounds of the mountain. Zeus discovers a new aural world and starts learning the lyre with him.
When Zeus pushes Uranogiorgis to reveal what happened with Cronos, his condition worsens. Guilty, and yearning to see Cronos again, Zeus seeks Cyclops, a one-eyed hermit drummer who introduced Cronos to Rock, and discovers the reason behind the feud. But Uranogiorgis dies and Cronos returns.
When Georgia decides to give Cronos the lyre, the other brothers protest. However, Cronos plans to sell the lyre to a rich collector and give them a cut. When Zeus finds out what they are up to, she enlists her cousins and aunts. They rush to the city, to stop the deal. Zeus manages to grab the lyre and threatens to destroy it, to everyone’s horror. But she can’t follow through, and gives it back.
Cronos presents Zeus with the tickets for Ozzy and the electric guitar she always dreamed of. But Zeus has decided to stay. He leaves alone for Athens.
Sometime later, Zeus’ mother re-opens the family tavern as a Cretan gastro-pub. While Cronos is attending a stuffy museum Gala in honor of the lyre in Athens, Zeus and Hera, with Cyclops’ help, play their unique mix of Post-punk-electro-Cretan-folk music to an enthusiastic audience.
“A girl named Zeus” is inspired by events and characters from my childhood and the place I grew up in, the island of Crete. It is a place with a modern skin and an archaic soul, full of intense contradictions in the landscape, the culture and the people: rugged mountain ranges and postcard-pretty beaches, isolated villages and buzzing, touristic coastal cities, conservative parents and modern children. There, the old and the new clash on every level, often with tragicomic results – especially when it comes to family and relationships. Crete is still very patriarchal, particularly in the mountain villages such as the one in the story. There is constant tension between tradition and modernity, family and freedom, male and female. This tension is at the heart of the story.
In Greece, family, tradition and the Past are like three heads of a monster impossible to defeat. It is sacred and untouchable. For women in particular, this monster often negates their right to self-determination, through its’ deeply-rooted patriarchal nature.
On the other hand, just like we carry our ancestors’ DNA, we carry the past within us. It is part of who we are. Family and tradition can be oppressive, but without them, we can get lost. Like Odysseus, we may spend the rest of our lives trying to find a way back home.
So what are young people, and especially girls, supposed to do? Submit to it, deny it or somehow find a different, positive way to deal with it? It is important to create a character and a story that can engage and empower young girls, and inspire young people in general, to find their own voice under any circumstances.
I chose to use the myth of Cretan-born Zeus and the Titanomachy, which talks about the generational clash, and filtered it through modern music genres and Cretan folklore. In terms of form, these three areas (Cretan tradition, ancient myth, pop culture) provide a rich arsenal of aesthetic and dramaturgic tools that I intend to employ throughout the film. The story takes place within a heightened reality, like the world as perceived through the eyes of a child.
My goal is to make a vibrant, funny, sensitive & modern family film with personality, imagination and emotions. A film that by celebrating childhood, makes children stronger, but also reconnects adults with their inner child. I feel that we could use more films like that right now.
Producer: Stelios Apostolopoulos (Aori Films, GREECE)
Co-Producers: Marie-Gabrielle Peaucelle and Kyveli Short (Les Films de Juillet, FRANCE)
Total Budget: 985,000 EUR
Funding: Development Support from the Greek Film Centre
Training and Markets: Kids Kino.Lab, Kids Kino Industry & Cinekid