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The fear of new and unknown is the driving force behind the Greek v Lebanese culture clash explored in Alex and Eve, multi-award winning (Greek descendant) director Peter Andrikidis tells Andrew L. Urban.

Director Peter Andrikidis and writer Alex Lykos are both – coincidentally - from the Greek island of Samos, and it was the story of the Greek family facing the prospect of their son Alex (Richard Brancatisano) marrying a Muslim girl from Lebanon, Eve (Andrea Demetriades) that attracted Andrikidis to the screenplay.

“The earlier migrants fear that new arrivals, from Asia and elsewhere, would take away what was achieved here,” says Andrikidis. “My grandfather, for example had that fear …”

Migrant parents steer their children in “the right direction” each according to their culture and religion. That’s where culture clash occurs. In this film, Alex (Richard Brancatisano) is a 30 something Greek Orthodox whose parents want him to marry a good Greek girl. But Alex has fallen in love with Eve (Andrea Demetriades), a Lebanese Muslim woman whose parents are adamant she marries Mohomad (Hazem Shammas), an old family friend from Lebanon. Like oil and water, the two should never mix. Torn between different religions, traditional and modern values, Alex and Eve must do everything under the heavens to stop themselves from falling in love.

The film is adapted from a stage play, and if you think the comedy in the film is broad, you should see the play, which is more an out and out farce. Making the film, “I had Woody Allen and Mel Brooks as references in my head,” says Andrikidis, “with overlapping dialogue and joes sprinkled throughout. Only the central characters are dramatic actors … although with good comic timing,” he says.

For Andrikidis, the foremost objective was to entertain, and to remain truthful to the two cultures. A Muslim culture consultant was on hand, and it was on her advice that a joke with the potential to cause offense was cut from the film.

Because of the comedic approach, Andrikidis allowed the cast to improvise in most of the scenes, “and I had two cameras going to so we could catch the reactions of the other actors to any improve … which in the case of George (Kapinaris, playing Alex’s father) was lots.”

The one scene that was shot as written was the one where the two sets of parents meet. “When Alex and Eve’s family meet for the first time in the film, I purposely didn’t rehearse this scene beforehand, as I had with other scenes. This was the first time the actors from both sides came together. It is a well-written scene, which brought the house down while we were filming.” The cinematography reflects the families’ lives and is full of contrast and colour to represent summer in the suburbs of Sydney. It is similar to the colour palette of Monsoon Wedding coupled with the contrast of Woody Allen’s Manhattan.

Ironically enough, the only two cast members who are not ‘ethnically correct’ are the leads: Andrea is Greek not Lebanese, but at least her family have Cypriot / Turkish roots, while Richard is Italian not Lebanese. “But the chemistry was so good when we tested them,” says Andrikidis, “we felt it was well worth it.”

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Peter Andrikidis

Alex & Eve

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