Costa-Gavras: Eden Is West

In such films as “Z”(‘69), starring Jean Louis Trintignant and Yves Montant, a film about a judge attempting to uncover the truth of a mysterious death of a leftist politician, Costa-Gavras, a Greece born filmmaker working out of France, is a well- known auteur in his own right who has also received the Palm D’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival with “Missing”(’84) and the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival with “Music Box”(’89). Known for his social-political films made in the US and France, there has always been an element of suspense and entertainment. While his daughter Julie Gavras released her film “Blame it on Fidel”(’06), Costa-Gavras has shown his new film “Eden Is West” at the France Film Festival in Japan. As Elias, an illegal immigrant, jumps from a boat and swims to shore, he wades on to a beach of a resort called Eden. He immediately befriends a woman who rescues him from the guards and more than welcomes his company. As he travels north towards Paris, he encounters many others who show interest in him for different reasons. Some are nice and some are not, some will use him and some will not, but they all seem to deceive their first impression. On a social level, he is either invisible or not wanted, but on a personal level, he sometimes ends up helping others. The director turns from his usually more complex story structure to cater to a simple road trip of a young illegal immigrant who does not speak the language of the country he is in. Costa-Gavras himself has immigrated to France to attend college due to the political turmoil in Greece at the time, and somewhat seems to draw from his own experience. Here, the 76 year old director reveals to us, through his journey back to his youth, the very elements of his filmmaking.

1  |  2  |  3

What was the reason to work this theme into your film?
Costa-Gavras: There is, of course, a personal reason. However, the main reason was to make a film about the state of the immigrants in Europe and namely in France that we have been seeing in the last few years.
Since I have gone through the experience of immigrating to another country, I feel a strong connection to the situation and a personal interest. I also wished to show their situation in a different way from how they are being depicted now. Even though there are many films that deal with these immigrants, they may only show the tragic state they are in, and only to the extent where they are rejected by society. I wanted to do the opposite. I wanted to pay homage to the immigrants and to show that these people from other countries could play an important role in the society.
Another reason I made this film is to show this movement of the immigrants is not something that started recently. There will be more to come and at least in the next decade, we will be seeing more of this happen.

What you make the main character go through must be obviously different from what you’ve experienced in your time?
Of course, there are some differences. The times are obviously different. When I came to France, it was still a time where you could find hope that the world was heading in a positive direction. One could still feel secure about finding some kind of work then. But with the present economy deteriorating, the employment rate is mounting. And because of this situation, immigrants are being seen as dangerous figures. This is the biggest difference. But this movement of immigrants has existed from the past, and no matter how world may change, you can be sure there will be more.

Can you recall the very moment you stepped into France?
It was the worst moment of my life. I took the train so I arrived in Lyon station. The Paris I saw the moment I stepped out of the station was raining, dreary, and of course, in those times, the surface of the buildings were black with soot. Fog was setting in, and it was a sad landscape. The moment I saw this, I thought, why did I even think of coming here? It was really the most pessimistic vision. Of course, this will soon change.

How so? Did you find people that would help you like in the film?
Not right away, but I did find such people soon enough. I was living in the university sector in Paris so I encountered these people in the dormitory there.

Does this experience come out in what the main character of the film goes through?
Of course, the loneliness is there. Loneliness is what is in the character the most. He is alone in the city, and the people walking will look at him, but in the end, they will just pass on by. He cannot even talk about his problem. This is the kind of loneliness that’s there.

1  |  2  |  3