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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson





Building façade in Cannes, France

The not-so-bitter end

At this rate my reviews of new short films are threatening to become a weekly feature. I suppose it is an indication of how many great filmmakers are out there cutting their teeth on short subjects.

The latest entry in this ongoing series comes from the Mediterranean and is in Greek. Filmmaker Daina Papadaki writes, “Our film was completed in 2014 and is coming from Cyprus, a country with no film industry and no budgets.”

I think Papdaki is underselling the film. Called 5 Ways 2 Die and with a 15-minute running time, it is as slick and professional-looking as anything I have seen come out of Hollywood. But then the director, who was born in Cyprus, acquired her bachelor and master degrees in film-related studies at Hawaii Pacific University and the University of Miami, respectively.

The setup is one that is familiar in the annals of dark comedy. (The early part of Blake Edwards’s S.O.B. comes to mind.) The movie opens with disheveled-looking Makis, slumped on an old chair in his cluttered workroom, shopping for coffins on his laptop and even adding one to his wish list. Next he is seen in a shop trying on a black suit, the kind a person might be buried in. As things progress, it appears that Makis is obsessed with all manner of ways that one might do oneself in. (It should be noted that the opening credits are rendered in one of the cleverest ways I have seen in a long time.)

As played by Mihalis Marinos, Makis has one of those great movie faces—expressive, hangdog, perpetually put-upon. It isn’t too much to call him chaplinesque, although more contemporary comparisons might be to Steve Carell or Martin Freeman. Even while we are appalled at where he seems to be heading, we strangely can’t help but root for him to succeed anyway. As it happens, Marinos’s face is one that would be familiar to viewers of Greek television, as he has a healthy list of credits in that medium. Indeed, all the cast members have impressive acting c.v.‘s.

It becomes clear why Makis may have given up on life when we meet his wife. Eva (capably played by Stella Fyrogeni) is one of those shrews who has no appreciation for her husband while she is more than happy to lavish his money on herself. She knows something is up with Makis but at the same time she is oblivious to his anxiety and his fumbling attempts at lethality. Too much time with her could make any man turn to dark thoughts.

5 Ways 2 Die

Lest my poor attempt to describe the film leave the impression that it might be depressing or morbid, rest assured that it is very, very funny. Cleverly written (by Fanos Christophides) and executed, we just know there must be a twist somewhere along the way—if only we could figure out what it might be. Suffice it to say that the end is surprisingly satisfying.

What is not surprising is that this film has been selected by scores of film festivals, spanning the globe from Cyprus to Europe, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia and even French Polynesia. It has picked up awards in Cyprus, Greece, Macedonia, England, France, Spain, Italy, India, the U.S. and Canada.

The inevitable question is, what is next for Daina Papadaki? In addition to making short films, she also does work on TV commercials and corporate and music videos. Let’s hope that someday soon we will see a feature-length movie from her.

You can catch a trailer for the film YouTube.

-S.L., 2 March 2015


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