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BERLINALE 2014 Panorama

Berlinale: Standing Aside, Watching highlights the violence of inaction

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- Yorgos Servetas’ Panorama entry blends Blue Velvet chills with western aesthetics in a tale of perilous homecoming

Berlinale: Standing Aside, Watching highlights the violence of inaction
Marina Symeou in Standing Aside, Watching

It takes a while for Yorgos Servetas’ sophomore feature, Standing Aside, Watching [+see also:
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, to get under your skin, but once there, this neo-western tale of a girl returning to her birthplace to find a corrupt and crippled town that badly needs a new sheriff will follow you out of the door once the credits have finished and the lights are back on. 

In a crisis-ridden Greece, Antigone (Maria Symeou), a young actress who is striving to make ends meet, decides to go back to her hometown to try to overcome her financial hardships. Once there, she gets herself a tutoring job, tracks down an old city-mate, runs into an old girlfriend and begins a short fling with a young town-boy. Things seem to be running smoothly, yet something rotten lurks behind the silver lining.

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In tune with current Greek Wave aesthetics, Servetas’ cinematographer, Claudio Bolivar, uses whitewashed tones to paint a rather colourless portrait of a society in the midst of not only a financial crisis, but also one of values. A widespread feeling of lawlessness gives way to a twisted sense of entitlement to those willing to take by force what is not being sheepishly handed out to them, whether it be material possessions or strong-armed acts of tenderness, as demonstrated by Nondas (Nikos Yorgakis), a thriving businessman of questionable methods, who is in a highly abusive relationship with Antigone’s school-yard girlfriend.

As suggested by the title, the injustices and wrongdoings of men with friends in places high enough to grant them impunity go unpunished due to the townsfolk’s unwillingness to point them out and take a stand against them. But you couldn’t expect the same from a girl named Antigone, who remains true to her name’s heritage and cooks up a storm fierce enough to jolt the stubbornly inactive so that they no longer stand aside.

Having been presented in Thessaloniki’s Crossroads Co-Production Forum in 2011, the film world-premiered in Toronto and is having its European début in the Panorama.

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