Greece-based Georgia Chioni is an award-winning author, screenwriter, director and producer.
In her latest film, a young woman finds herself in the throes of paranormal mayhem after performing an oriental ritual.
“Kaidan” is an ancient Japanese tradition of lighting candles and narrating horror stories in groups. The film borrows from this, to spin an interesting horror tale. It is easy to surmise from
the trailer that Kaidan is visually stunning, so we had a chat with Georgia on how she’s tackled a genre that thrived primarily on jump scares, stock characters, special effects, and happy
CULT CRITIC – First off, Georgia, you’re a wearer of many hats: you’re a novelist; you’ve written screenplays and comics, directed and shot films. Which do you enjoy the most? Has this interest in the intersections of various arts proven helpful in honing your artistic sensibilities?
GEORGIA: I love every single hat I am wearing. The first thing I started with was writing, since the age of six or seven years old. In junior high school we had a small theatrical group,
performing for our parents in the neighborhood. Each one of the hats has its beauty, difficult to choose one favorite. I feel thrilled when I finish writing a novel or a script.
However, the combination of screenplay and camera is unique. I guess, I would say that I feel the biggest enthusiasm when we finish editing! Dealing with various arts has proven
to be very helpful; it has, I would say, sharpened my artistic sensibilities.
CULT CRITIC – When and how did you first learn of Kaidan?
GEORGIA : Many years ago, when I was a young law student, I had the opportunity of participating at an exchange student program called “Erasmus”. I went at the University of Lisbon, in
Portugal and there, at the Cultural Institute of the Japanese Embassy, I first started taking courses on Japanese language and Japanese Culture. There was, if I remember correctly, a cooperation between the Catholic University and the Institute, luckily for me.
I love foreign languages and the chance that we had at the cultural institute was excellent. I was the only non-Portuguese student and so, for me, it was an amazing experience. There, for the first time, I came across to the tradition of “Kaidan”, Japanese metaphysical stories and Lefkadios Hern, a writer from a Greek mother and Irish father, known for his collections of Japanese myths and ghost stories. In this way, I discovered
a whole new world, so full of stories of incredible interest. I was immediately attracted, since I grew up reading and listening to hundreds of fairytales; I learnt that everything you see can turn into a fairytale.
CULT CRITIC – Were you toying with the idea of making a horror film before you learnt about it? Tell us a bit about how the inception of Kaidan?
GEORGIA: I love psychological thrillers, horror movies with a twist, films, in general, that deal with the
dark side of our personalities. Before Kaidan, we made some short movies and one feature-length psychological thriller. Among the short movies there was a horror one, called “The Playground”, based on an urban legend. I always wanted to make a feature-length horror movie and thought that I would need a big budget. The idea was twisting in my head for months, while watching j-horror movies. One day earlier this year, my sister
told me that she had bought a book of Lefkadios Hern. That what is, I said, “that’s it, I need to make a Kaidan movie”. So, I thought of the story on that same day and had to figure out how to make a decent psychological horror movie with no budget.
CULT CRITIC – Who are your inspirations, or pioneers of the horror film genre in your opinion?
GEORGIA: There have been so many excellent directors of the horror film genre and each one of them has something to offer. I remember when I watched John Carpenter’s The Thing, I
was thirteen years old, and I was really scared. This was my first horror movie and of course, John Carpenter is one of the favourite directors. I love also the work of George Romero (Night of the Living Dead), Wes Craven (Night on the elm Street), Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist) to mention a few of them. Japanese horror movies have been so influential, that they created their own school, the j-horror school, really of a unique style; Pulse by
Kiyoshi Kurosava to mention one of them. The first film on kaidan stories was titled «Kwaidan» and was made by Masaki Kobayashi in 1964. The movie is great, the movie’s poster I find unique.
CULT CRITIC – Female-centric horror films have always subverted the idea of femininity and the performance of it. How does gender play a role in your films, especially Kaidan?
GEORGIA: In most of my films protagonists are women. Deepening into female psychology is
fascinating. In Kaidan, both protagonist and antagonist are female. And, actually it’s a Kaidan in a Kaidan that takes place until the final twist. So the protagonist and the antagonist interchange roles, one could wonder who is the “monstrous” and who is the “threatened” one. And it’s at this point that the old Japanese tradition, full of suspense, meets our ancient Greek tragedy, where the heroine stands face to face at the
consequences of her own choices that she herself has made, until the final katharsis; right or wrong it’s up to the audience to judge.
CULT CRITIC – Is there an underlying message in the film, like most horror films these days? Or is it a pure unadulterated spook-fest?
GEORGIA: In every character there is a hidden, dark side. Dealing with this side is so challenging
and fascinating. Fear comes not only from the unknown or the supranatural; it comes also from deep inside our soul. And it’s the choices of our dark side that often create the twists, when they come out. What happens when you think that you have everything under control and suddenly you find out that nothing is under control? The rest is to watch on the screen.
CULT CRITIC – Do you usually write your own scripts? Do you collaborate with other writers depending on the idea?
GEORGIA: I write my own scripts. I started as a screenwriter and then I started playing with the camera as well. It’s important for me that I can shoot my own scripts. I know exactly what I want to show, what the idea behind is, how to show it and in some cases adapt the script on the spot, if I see that something could work better in another way.
I also cooperate with a group of actors that I really respect, trust and do not need to explain
everything to them, they immediately know what I want and we understand each other very well. The only drawback, is, if I may say so, that we do independent filmmaking, so by definition, we need to tackle many issues that the lack of financing creates.
CULT CRITIC – I was wondering if you could share with us a few anecdotes and reflections from the shooting of Kaidan. Re: your equation with the cast and crew, how receptive and
innovative they were etc.
GEORGIA: As I mentioned above, I work with the same people (cast and crew). We understand each other, cooperate 100%, they know what I want and I don’t need to explain things
over and over again. Anecdotes and reflections…Well, for sure we laughed a lot. We knew that the scarier the film, the more the laughter. Actually the backstage could make the perfect horror-comedy, I think. We started shooting in May and went on during the summer. I can tell it was quite difficult. All doors and windows closed, no air-conditioning with 35-40 degrees outside it was very hard. We had to invent patents to facilitate shooting and some of them where really funny. Especially the part where the shot seems to be in taking place in a coffin.
CULT CRITIC – Are you pleased with the response Kaidan has been getting? What have you learnt from the process of making, releasing and showcasing it?
GEORGIA: There has been an increased interest, especially since it’s the first movie here in Greece that combines Japanese and Greek culture and deals with this tradition that has persisted in Japan so long as its known literature. Most of the people don’t know what kaidan is, so they immediately what to learn more. And kaidan is full of great stories. We will see what the response of the audience will be, when the film is released end of the
year, something which I am really looking forward to.