My ultimate goal was to bring forth topics that revolved around social oligarchy and the isolation of the individual

Manolis Mavris

Bees. Society, cinema

Text:Tassos Retzios || Photographs: Manolis Mavris's Archive
Manolis Mavris
Manolis Mavris

A short film that uses the world of bees as a metaphor to speak of the rigid rules of a cruel, competitive and oppressive society, put the name of Manolis Mavris on everyone’s lips. The 34-year-old director is self-taught in cinema, but this did not prevent his film Brutalia, Days of Labour from leaving its mark at Cannes, before winning the Golden Dionysus Award at the 44th Drama International Short Film Festival.

Mavris made his first steps in the field of fine arts, his object of studies and his main focus of attention for many years. Therefore, no surprise to see that illustration and animation became key features of his signature style as a film director. “My studies served as a stepping stone for me to discover narrative and make the transition to cinema. My engagement with cinema sprang out of my need to bind together all the forms of art I had been taught during my studies – composition, semiotics, design, editing, photography etc.” These days, questions on his visual style are part of the agenda, as the audience is wondering whether a series of repeated themes and motifs glues his images together. “I have a certain fixation on the correlation between the realistic and the imaginary, as I’m always interested in the boundaries of these two areas: how can we explore the switching and the common ground between these two worlds – screenplay-wise I mean. In all my previous works, the element of magic, of the imaginary, is always present as a unifying factor. My background as a visual artist leads the visual style of my films to this direction.”

A universe of themes

As to Brutalia, Days of Labour, he drew inspiration and the main idea from his military stint. “I found myself exposed to a universe unknown to me, a situation that triggered my need to speak of certain issues: how to portray a group of people confined within the limits of a certain place that has its own set of rules. My ultimate goal was to bring forth topics that revolved around social oligarchy and the isolation of the individual even within the boundaries of the system, the functioning of a military machine in times of peace, as well as fear-related issues. These were the themes that concerned me and when I started to work on the framework of the storyline, or to be more specific where I should focus to kick off my research, the idea of nature and the bees came up. Subsequently, as I observed the world of bees, more issues popped up: matriarchy, militarized work, how the bees’ model is considered as utopian in its functionality for every society. Ι don’t think that a director could define what follows next after the completion of the film, but I would really like for my film to be thought-provoking and dialogue-stirring.”

Taking part at the Cannes Film Festival is bound to open new doors for every young director, while the Golden Dionysus award in Drama was most certainly a further boost. What was his reaction following these distinctions? “In Cannes, the film gained a lot of praise for interlacing many different narrative genres: thriller, dark comedy and musical. This blend was interpreted as an innovative statement, a proof of a personal touch that crafted an original mixture. The response was highly positive, even by people who are not into that form and style. Doors did open, no doubt about it. On the other hand, the award in Drama had a symbolic personal touch: it was through this Festival that I decided to get professionally involved with cinema and now it felt as if a big journey came to an end.”

Greek cinema: Aiming for the unfeasible

A journey, of course, rather bumpy, as Greek cinema has not ceased to be a risky work choice. “Cinema in Greece is such a difficult case that it almost becomes an unfeasible task. Movies are shot only thanks to the persistence of the people involved. As a result, conditions here are unknown territory for the majority of other countries: everything here is done through personal relations, and bonds of friendship are forged on set, while shooting the film. The situation is very different abroad: cinema is regarded as a profession like any other, while in Greece it is viewed as the pursue of a dream. There’s an upside and a downside to this. There are many Greek directors I firmly believe in. They come from a wide gamut of fields, and I am deeply touched by their complex and bold approach on cinema. As a whole, I remark an upward trend as compared to the previous years, which raises the overall quality bar.”

Who Is Who

Manolis Mavris was born in Athens, in 1987. He studied Graphic Design and Animation in Athens, and had his Master’s Degree on Visual Communication in London. During his studies in London, he worked at the post-production stage of the acclaimed English TV series Hunted and Sherlock, screened at Channel 4 and BBC One respectively. His short films have been showcased at prestigious film festivals all over the world, such as the Cannes Film Festival, London’s BFI, Sarajevo Film Festival and Tallinn Black Nights. In 2014, he completed his debut short film, Blue Train, while his sophomore short, Maneki Neko, travelled to 40 film festivals across the globe, earning a total of 17 prizes. Brutalia, Days of Labor was selected for the competition program of the International Critics’ Week at the 2021 Cannes Festival, winning the Canal+ award. The film’s most recent success was no other than the Golden Dionysus award at the 44th Drama International Film Festival. His upcoming projects include his next short film, Fanny Am. In addition, he is currently developing the script for his debut full-feature film, Liar Man.