HER JOB / Greece
Nikos Labôt (aka Charalampopoulos) studied film directing in Athens, Greece. He has worked on feature and short films in Greece and France, TV series and TV shows. He has directed 3 short films, a creative documentary, music videos and theater plays. His last short film The Dog participated in numerous international film festivals and won many awards. He has co-directed the theater play REPULSION_6 for the experimental music performance group Erasers. His feature documentary The Immortals at the Southern Point of Europe premiered at the 15th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and made its international premiere at the 5th Annual Atlanta Philosophy Film Festival 2013.
He is currently developing his debut feature film Her Job which participated in When East Meets West Co-production Forum 2016.
Panagiota (37 years-old, romantic and almost illiterate) lives with her husband Kostas (47 years-old) and their two children (Georgia, 11, and Apostolis, 6) a seemingly quiet life in a popular neighbourhood in Athens. Her sole occupation is looking after the household and the raising the children.
For two years and as recession is hitting hard, the family (after Kostas loses his job ) struggle to get by and they rely only on their few savings and the support of Kostas’ mother. But now the margins are getting narrower and pressure is rising. This has a direct impact on both children’s behavior (especially the daughter’s, as her puberty is kicking in) and the couple’s relationship. The needs and the requirements of the children, the insecurity and the anxiety for the uncertain future are growing increasingly creating inevitable conflicts. At the same time, Kostas has given up on any attempt to find work and he becomes depressed, seeking a way out through gambling.
Under these circumstances, Panagiota decides to get a job for the first time in her life and takes up the entire burden of family responsibilities. She gets hired by a private cleaning company as a cleaning lady in a large DIY store.
In her work environment, she will be faced with a ruthless system of exploitation and competition, a representative sample of a society and a country that are collapsing. At first she finds it tough and she is afraid that she will not be able to tolerate it. She works hard experiencing emotionally, psychologically and physically the exhaustion of many divergent stimuli. She is doing all she can to keep her job but her unbearable innocence leads her to not see what is coming and turns a blind eye. The heroine’s lack of any previous professional experience and primarily her need to work, lead her to constant humiliating concessions.
Nevertheless, Panagiota finds a new meaning in her life and breaks free from domestic monotony. The experiences she gains, the friendships she builds, as well as her newly-found sense of “economic independence” help her to feel solid on her feet for the first time. At the same time, the relations within the family have been improved and at last Panagiota gains the respect and appreciation that she never had. Now she feels important.
While it all seems to be running smoothly as the life of the family gradually acquires the security that was missing, the balance at work will begin to slip. A series of layoffs starts, which will bring the heroine confronted again with her personal dead ends. But Panagiota cannot be the same anymore.
How our lives, quietly but drastically change after a single event? Set in present time crisis-hit Greece, Her Job is based on the true story of Panagiota. I was struck and deeply moved by this woman’s journey to a new identity just because she found a job for the first time as an underpaid cleaner, so we decided to tell her story in a film. How could this woman be so innocent and naïve to feel like she’s found a new self under such terrible conditions at work? The simple but genuine and unique tale of this woman’s journey through this first-time job, stood there as a true sting in our hearts and minds, revealing and upsetting.
Her Job is all built around the character of Panagiota, a woman who at the age of 37 decides to enter a “new world”, to act out of her element (her household) and stand on her own feet in order to help the family. Panagiota however is located on the opposite trajectory from the world and she ignores the terrible consequences of the new working conditions. It is so important for her to work that she doesn’t want to see what is happening around her. Even when everything seems to be crumbling down, Panagiota will still try to rise above the circumstances and keep her “upward” journey, experiencing emotionally, psychologically and physically the exhaustion from many divergent stimuli. Panagiota’s rise is simultaneously the failure of a whole system. The double-faceted dimension of Panagiota’s journey is the basic ingredient for the film’s taste and originality.
Her Job depicts a bleak reality, however, the film is not going to be a bleak melodrama. Despite the uncertainty, stress and pressure, the story is enhanced with unexpected outbursts of humour, moments of lightness and hope signalled by the heroine\’s smile. The tragic coexists with the comic element as in real life, creating a feeling of ‘madness of the every-day’.
What moves me in this story is that the heroes don’t have high expectations: their happiness is coming from simple things. In Greece today, you can feel the violence that it’s growing around us in every way (physically, psychologically, emotionally). Still there are people out there that stay positive about life, leading a quiet routine which gives them the right to dream with dignity; a job, a few friends, a coffee on Sunday. As for Panagiota, her unawareness, her kindness, romanticism and ultimately her rare inner strength, make her look like a modern Don Quixote. Panagiota is fighting against what at first seems impossible to her. Her dramatic need is to be able to keep her job in order to help her family. But through this process another greater and more basic need is awakened: the need to manage to live as an independent woman and enjoy obvious rights which she only now gets to experience for the first time.
I want to tell this story “as real as it is in real life”. In real life, situations are just developing in front of your eyes. However, in cinema you have to discover things all over again. So in order to achieve “my realism”, to capture those alive moments, we will create a photographically true-to-life depiction of reality, an almost naturalistic vision of an ugly-beautiful life so that an audience can easily witness, recognize and relate to Panagiota and her story.
The rhythm of the film will give the impression that what we see is happening right now. Sometimes it accelerates but at other times it slows down, according to the new situations our heroine is facing each time. We will be discovering together with Panagiota each time what is about to happen, living in the moment. The shooting will involve the use of long-takes that will help retain the continuity of her psychological state as well as refrain from breaking down the narrative’s inner rhythm. In other words, it will seem partly as a documentary where you go into a reality and you have no control. You shoot what is happening in front of your eyes. As if the camera takes the “wrong” position, as if you are shooting secretly.
Producers: Maria Drandaki (Homemade Films, Greece), Julie Paratian (Sister Productions, France)
Production dates: April-May 2017
Funding: Greek Film Center, ERT, CNC
Developed with the support of the SEE Cinema Network