Christos Nikou’s feature debut Apples was already a buzzed about title heading into its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last September, and ultimately emerged with a very notable champion in that edition’s jury president Cate Blanchett. Her company, Dirty Pictures, boarded the movie not long after as executive producers for what is Greece’s entry to the International Feature Film Oscar race. Cohen Media Group has North America distribution rights.
A very prescient work, Apples — the debut feature from writer-director Nikou — is set amidst a worldwide pandemic that causes sudden amnesia and follows a middle-aged man who finds himself enrolled in a recovery program designed to help unclaimed patients build new identities. His treatment: performing daily tasks prescribed by his doctors on cassette tape, and capturing these new memories with a Polaroid camera.
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Speaking recently from the Boston set of Don’t Look Up, Blanchett told me, “I find it so interesting about Apples that obviously this was a labor of love for Christos and it took six years to get up and yet it is so timely… Somehow we’re seeing through the prism of what we’re going through globally, you’re watching a film that is about a pandemic where people lose their memory, yet there is a kind of an optimism to it.”
She continued, “It also is about how we cope with loss… and who are we without our memories and those familiar markers of time and place literally erased, who are we and how do we rebuild our lives? You couldn’t have a more timely narrative.”
Nikou, who was snapped up for representation by CAA last summer and has worked as AD for filmmakers including Richard Linklater and Yorgos Lanthimos, in part made the movie as a response to his own father’s death. Of Apples, he told me, “I had this idea in my mind. One was very personal about my father as I was dealing with the loss and memory and how you can erase something. And then as I was trying to understand why people forget so easily, I understood that this has happened more with the extensive use of technology. The way we have lived, especially the last ten years through the use of social media, has made our life a little more dystopian. I think we were already living in a dystopia, but we never understood it, and now we live in this pandemic that is a dystopia.”
He added, “I also think we are living two dystopias because right now we’re living in front of a screen all day and we are totally used to that… It’s insane, we have totally missed the in-person activities… The movie would like to comment on this pandemic that we created, this virus, the amnesia that spread like a virus. It’s trying to make a comment that we were already living in a dystopia.”
Importantly for the filmmaker, “We have to try very hard to not continue living in that way, that’s the most scary thing. We tried in the film to give a very optimistic opinion about how you can get out of the pandemic, in a way stronger, and you will not forget your past, not forget the way that you learned to live and that we are humans first of all.”
Regarding their meeting in Venice, Blanchett noted that it was important that the festival took place physically in September: “You get to encounter genuine filmmakers like Christos and see their work in a way it’s intended. Festivals have a function and Venice certainly did this year in being the connective tissue for filmmakers. Not only is it about the films, but the ongoing connection that filmmakers can make with audiences. It’s also about forming creative relationships. You can’t do that so much virtually. That’s a face-to-face contact and that happened to us.”
However, she also added, while noting the contradiction, “We’re all going through something together, so I’ve also found the connections I’ve made with people virtually have been more to the point because we’re already more open to each other living a shared experience.”
Why did Blanchett feel so strongly about adding her name to Apples? “As an actor you can help. Having met Christos and fallen in love with his cinematic voice, but also him as as a human being, the idea of being able to help the film find an audience — particularly in these challenging times — we really wanted to do that as a company. This is just such a special film and it will stand the test of time as a film, but it’s also so rewarding to watch at the moment… Its humanity is palpable.”
Since our chat with Blanchett and Nikou, they have set a reteam on the filmmaker’s English-language feature debut, Fingernails.
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