ANIMAL

by Sofia Exarchou


Under the hot Greek sun, the animateurs at an all-inclusive island resort prepare for the busy touristic season. Kalia is the leader of the pack. Paper decors, glossy costumes and dance shows fill the stage. As summer intensifies and the work pressure builds up, their nights become violent and Kalia’s struggle is revealed in the darkness. But when the spotlights turn on again, the show must go on.

Cast
Dimitra Vlagopoulou, Flomaria Papadaki, Ahilleas Hariskos, Voodoo Jürgens, Chronis Barbarian, Ilias Chatzigeorgiou, Danai Petropoulea, Kristof, Elpida Orfanidou, Joanna Toubakari, Fay Tzouma, Nondas Damopoulos, Vangelis Evangelinos, Adrian-Florin Kolaritz

World premiere
76th Locarno International Film Festival – International Competition / Winner: Pardo for Best Performance (Dimitra Vlagopoulou)

Festivals / Awards
Thessaloniki International Film Festival – International Competition 2o23 (Winner: Golden Alexander – Theo Angelopoulos for Best Film, Best Actress for Dimitra Vlagopoulou, Crew United Award), Sarajevo IFF – International Competition 2023, Viennale ’23, Haifa IFF – International Competition 2023, Seminci – Valladolid International Film Week 2023 (Winner: Special Mention of the Jury), Vancouver IFF 2023 (Winner: Vanguard Award 2023), Festival du Nouveau Cinéma de Montréal 2023, 47 Mostra Sao Paulo, Cineuropa 37 – Santiago de Compostella (Winner: Best Screenplay Award for Sofia Exarchou), Cork Film Festival  2023 (Winner: Spirit of the Festival Award – Best Film), Cinemamed – Brussels Mediterranean Film Festival 2023(Winner: Jury Special Mention, Citizens’ Jury Award, Cineuropa Prize), Les Arcs FF 2023 (Winner: Best Performance for Dimitra Vlagopoulou), Mannheim IFF 2024 (FIPRESCI Award), Göteborg International Film Festival 2024, Luxembourg IFF 2024, Sofia IFF 2024, Uruguay International Film Festival – New Directors Competition 2024 (Winner: Special Mention of the Jury), D’A Film Festival Barcelona, Istanbul IFF, Cyprus Film Days (Winner: Best Director, Best Cinematography), Bellaria Film Festival, etc.
Feature Film Selection 2023 – European Film Awards
14 Hellenic Film Academy Awards Nominations (Best Film, Director, Actress, Supporting Role Actress, Supporting Role Actor, Screenplay, Photography, Editing, Music, Production Design, Costume Design, Sound, Hair Make-up & SFX Make-up design, VFX design)

International Press 
“For those fortunate enough to grab their own little piece of paradise during summer vacation, the memories can seem unforgettable. But there’s another side to those sunny holidays that are rarely posted on Instagram, involving the many hotel workers who labor in the background to make everything appear perfect, at least on the surface. Paul Verhoeven’s glitter-and-guts depiction of Las Vegas definitely comes to mind in this story of a dancer, Kalia (the excellent Dimitra Vlagopoulou), who choreographs numbers and trains new recruits at a Greek resort filled with foreign tourists. She constantly reminds her team to smile at the guests, and yet when she’s off the clock, Kalia’s growing existential crisis takes center stage.”
-Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

“Dimitra Vlagopoulou gives a knockout performance in Sofia Exarchou’s resort-set second feature about a group of seasonal performers. Her performance here is truly something to behold. She takes us through her character’s emotional peaks and troughs with raw intensity and naturalism – coupled with expert editing and sound design, Exarchou proves that a film with a configuration as simple as this can reach a whole new dimension of emotional resonance.”
-Marina Ashioti, Little White Lies 

**** – “The director succeeds in attaching us to this woman, confronted with the dizziness of her existence, while constantly connecting her to the rest of the gang. Because it is from the group that the energy, the self-deprecation, the laughter are born, during rehearsals or after the shows…”
-Clarisse Fabre, Le Monde 

**** – “Through the portrait of the skinned and luminous Kalia, the filmmaker’s interest in the sublimated and martyred bodies of her characters, driven by self-destructive impulses and a desire to shine on all scenes, be they paltry.”
-Thierry Méranger, Cahiers du Cinéma

*** – “Exhilaratingly realistic, the almost documentary approach of Sophia Exarchou (whom we discovered in the summer of 2020 with her first feature film Park, appreciated in these columns) transcribes female pain as a collective experience with disturbing veracity.”
-Lucie Chiquer, Première

“Exarchou takes a documentary approach to the action, Monika Lenczewska’s camera getting close enough to see the straining muscles and effort being put into all this forced hedonism. Vlagopoulou’s performance has a raw intensity that you don’t dare question, less still look away from.”
-Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film 

“To counter this abstraction, the film adopts a corporeal aesthetic, where the camerawork by Monika Lenczewska exists as an entity in its own right. The camera lurks, curious; it roams and tracks the protagonist through her nightly escapades, resting for a minute to linger on her bruised body, naked in the shower. Exarchou makes a poignant point about the nature of labour, just by returning to the same events — shows and showers, among others — to show that the female body has always carried the marks of invisible labour. And that this labour has only been appreciated when made invisible. A heartbreaking rendition of Baccara’s 70s hit Yes Sir, I Can Boogie is another motif, returning to haunt the film’s melancholy ending and confirm Animal as a profoundly moving work with a subtle political message to match its aesthetic accomplishments.”
-Savina Petkova, Cineuropa 

“This excellent competition entry film brims with sociological detail, touristic critique and intense character study, truly counting the cost of the holiday entertainment complex on the all-smiling, all-singing, all-laughing crew. Anchored by a gripping, fully-alive, three-dimensional performance by Dimitra Vlagopoulou as head animateur Kalia — the type of work that seems to dictate the tone of the film as opposed to the other way around —  Exarchou’s sophomore feature is a standout work that cuts straight for the heart, one insanely cheesy song at a time.”
-Redmond Bacon, Journey into Cinema

Video interviews: 

Animal, 116min., dcp, Greece-Austria-Romania-Cyprus-Bulgaria

 

Director
Sofia Exarchou

Writer
Sofia Exarchou

Director of photography
Monika Lenczewska

Production designer
Jorien Sont

Editor
Dragos Apetri

Additional editing by
Nikos Vavouris

Music
Wolfgang Frisch

Costume design
Vassilia Rozana

Hair & make-up design
Hronis Tzimos, Ioanna Lygizou

Sound engineer
Odo Grötschnig

Sound design
Sebastian Watzinger, Rudolf Gottsberger

Re-recording mixer 
Sebastian Watzinger, Thomas Pötz Kava

Casting
Kleopatra Ambatzoglou

Choreographer
Christos Papadopoulos

Associate producer
Kyveli Short

Co-producers
Lukas Valenta Rinner, Laura Sterian, Stelios Kammitsis, Vicky Miha, Ivan Tonev

Producers
Maria Drandaki, Maria Kontogianni

Produced by
Homemade Films

Co-produced by
Nabis Filmgroup, Digital Cube, Felony, Ars OOD, ERT S.A., Arctos Films S.A., Sofia Exarchou in collaboration with Wild at Heart

With the support of
Eurimages, Media Creative Europe, Greek Film Centre, Austrian Film Institute, Vienna Film Fund, Salzburg City Film Fund, Centrul National al Cinematografiei, Mediacom, Bulgarian Film Center, Cyprus Deputy Ministry of Culture, ΕΚΟΜΕ, Region of Crete.

Distribution
17 Jan. 24 France (Shellac), 8 Feb. 24 Greece (Weird Wave), Austria (FILMGARTEN)

World Sales
Shellac