Chennai International Film Festival

How ‘HOLY BOOM’ Happened: Interview with Ms. Maria Lafi

Divya Jay: Tell us about your background and how you got into filmmaking.

Ms. Maria Lafi: I remember myself as a kid in the darkness of an open-air summer cinema watching my first film with my dad, wondering how this movie was made. I was so fascinated that my decision about what I’m going to be when I grow up was taken immediately. This film was “The Bad the Good and the Ugly” by Sergio Leone and I was something like 5-6-year-old.

Divya Jay: What challenges did you face as a first time feature filmmaker?
Ms. Maria Lafi: Holy Boom is my first feature film. Until that, I have made several short films. The experience was unique and at the same minute I felt terrified. There were moments that I was thinking ‘I don’t have a film’. The fact that it was a multi-narrative story made the achievement even harder. Still, I’m thinking what if I had to make something different? AnywayS I have to proceed and the truth is that I feel happy.

Divya Jay: Is your struggle as a filmmaker any different from that of a male filmmaker?
Ms. Maria Lafi: Luckily I live in a country that gender equality is not the worst in the world. As women, we have managed to work in several of men’s fields. On the other hand, my family lives in a modern way and my parents always supported my choices without objections.

Divya Jay: What are the qualities that are needed to be a successful filmmaker?
Ms. Maria Lafi: In my humble opinion, firstly you must have a strong statement to talk about. In small countries like Greece, where funds are difficult to be found, you must be stubborn and a little dreamer in the sense of not getting disappointed in order to give up. Sometimes it might take you several years to complete the film; it needs patience and faith in your project and yourself.

Divya Jay: Have you done any short films before this feature film? If yes, how different is short film making from feature film making?
Ms. Maria Lafi: I have made five short films before Holy Boom. I like short films, but it is totally different from making a Feature one. In a Short, you have the luxury to experiment since it is not a product. Nobody asks or checks why you have tried a different form or a new style of narration. Features, mainly because of their cost, are treated more like commercial films and somehow you must find a way to release the film in the real market. Of course, that does not mean that you must be mainstream, but you have a big responsibility to make a film which somehow will bring the money it cost back.

Divya Jay: Tell us about the making of your film HOLY BOOM.
Ms. Maria Lafi: It was a huge adventure. It took me something like 6-7 years to complete. I got disappointed many times, but I didn’t quit. Thanks to my crew and my friends and of course the producer, Mrs. Botassi, we insisted on making the film. Everybody believed in this story and it became somehow like a bet that the film will finish.

Divya Jay: Which are your favourite filmmakers and movies?
Ms. Maria Lafi: I admire a lot of filmmakers. I’m very fond of Ken Loach, all the films he has created are marvellous and I like the fact that his style is so realistic and true. He makes films about UK’s working-class and he always has something strong to declare. On the other hand, I like the first films of Alejandro González Iñárritu like Amores Perros or Cidade de Deus (City of God) by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund. Mostly I like the hard true stories of damaged societies.

Divya Jay: Please give a message to aspiring filmmakers.
Ms. Maria Lafi: Never give up!

Divya Jay: What are you working on currently?
Ms. Maria Lafi: Another hard story of a very interesting character who gets involved in the trade of human organs.  But it’s too early to speak about it.

Divya Jay: How do you decide on whom to cast in the lead role/s of your movie?
Ms. Maria Lafi: Half of the actors are amateurs. When we were writing the script we were thinking of Mrs. Nena Menti for the part of Thalia. Mrs. Menti is very famous in Greece. We approached her early, she liked the story and she accepted to play.

Mrs. Luli Bitri who comes from Albania, she is also famous, I saw her on my coproducer’s feature film, Bujar Alimani, Amnesty, and I liked her a lot. I saw Mrs. Konidi, who played Lena, in Dramatic school’s exams and I talked to her about my film.

For the rest of the actors, we‘ve made a huge casting. We had the problem that we weren’t sure when we would go for shootings, so the young ages got older by the time we’ve managed, so we had to replace them. On the other hand, in Greece it’s impossible to find actors from the Philippines, they were all amateurs. The same for most of the Nigerians, except Samuel Akinola, who was studying acting and played the part of Manou, the rest were amateurs.

Divya Jay: Please share a few words as to how you feel about your film being shown at 17th Chennai International Film Festival.
Ms. Maria Lafi: Although I didn’t follow the festival it seemed great. The communication in media was great so I was always informed. I feel honoured that my film got screened at such a good festival. I wish I was there!!!