New York.- By Vicki J. Yiannias
A Kiss on the Nose, a touching short film about a difficult father-daughter relationship told from the daughterʼs quirky point-of-view by filmmaker Laura Neri, continues its onscreen presence. The MiniMovie Channel has recently bought the film, which was completed in 2004, and was previously bought by Rete 4 in Italy, SiTV in the USA, and United Airlines. A Kiss on the Nose has won many awards and nominations for Best Short, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Actress (Azita Ghanizada) at prestigious national and international film festivals.
When Chiaraʼs distant father dies, she is left to try and figure out the man and her own feelings towards him. For that, she must go back to the very beginning: to her parentsʼ birth and their first meeting. From bribes of memory and often-whimsical reconstructions of events that she did not witness, Chiara paints her own vision of her fatherʼs story. But she does not have all the pieces yet.
“The film is loosely based on my difficult relationship with my father,” Ms. Neri told The Greek News, “He died on May 10th, 2002, of Mesothelioma, an incurable form of lung cancer. When he told me he was sick, we hadn’t seen each other in almost two years.”
Because they lived in different countries, says Neri, she seldom saw her father during the four years that he was fighting cancer. “It seemed he often had more pressing matters than to see me. I, on the other hand, had classes to go to and exams to pass. I sometimes wonder whether we were both guilty of too much pride.”
“US doctors had given him six to eighteen months to live at best, but he refused chemotherapy and turned instead to the experimental Di Bella treatment, which was reputed to slow down the illness. Being who he was, he refused to spend a single day in the hospital except for tests, sent the nurse home and learned how to stick a needle in his own belly three times a day.”
In his relations with people he was often hard, sometimes even cruel, Neri notes, but she has immense respect for his courage, his incredible willpower, his unwavering honesty and his total indifference to material gain. “I am grateful, in a way, for his illness, as it brought us closer. Even though I did not see him much, we were in constant touch via email and he became a part of my life again.”
When her father died, she found herself constantly dreaming about him. “For almost a year, he was my last thought before I went to sleep and my first one when I woke up. ‘A Kiss on the Nose’ was written during that period, as I was struggling to come to terms with his death and with everything that had remained unsaid between us.”
Her latest short, ‘Fighting Auditions’, completed in 2007, is a comedy about discrimination in the film industry. Neri gave TGN a brief synopsis: “Gabrielle is a bi-racial actress trying to get parts. Any parts. But she keeps getting pigeonholed into stereotypical or downright ridiculous roles, such as ‘maid’, or ‘indigenous woman’. Sometimes, they won’t even let her audition. How is a determined girl to overcome first-glance judgments based on her skin color?”
The film was screened at two film festivals in 2007, and four film festivals in 2008. where the film was nominated for an award at the Action on Film Festival in Los Angeles; the result wonʼt be known until July 7th.
Because she was in Greece for the last ten months Neri was able to attend only the San Diego Film Festival where, she reports, “the feedback was extremely positive, with audiences telling me they loved the movie and found it funny and well-written.” The film is in talks about being bought by a website.
While in Greece, the filmmaker was asked to write a script by the Greek TV station Alpha for an episode of one of their new shows. This fall she expects to direct the episode that she wrote.
Another of her current projects is a very-low budget indie feature film called Bedmates, a politically incorrect dark comedy in the spirit of Clerks’ and Brick that is in pre-production and will be shot this August. “One of the main characters is played by a well-known Greek actress, and we are planning to find distribution for the film both in the USA and in Europe,” says Neri.
Laura Neri, who is fluent in Greek, describes her heritage as a “European mix”. She was born in Belgium, as was her mother (whose mother and father were born in Nafplion and Smyrna, respectively) and her father is Italian.
Laura Neri was born in Belgium of a Greek mother and an Italian father, which meant she had to learn three languages by the time she was four. She got her BA with Honors in Film Analysis and Screenwriting at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, where 2-times Palme dʼOr winner Luc Dardenne was her teacher and thesis mentor. She then got an MFA in Film Production at the University of Southern California, where she was the recipient of a grant by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. She was also selected by USC to receive a full scholarship for two years. Her thesis film “A Kiss on the Nose” has so far screened at more than 50 festivals worldwide and won over 15 awards. It can now be seen on Rete 4 in Italy, SiTV in the US, United Airlines flights and soon on the web. Her short “Fighting Auditions” is now making the festivals rounds and is in talks about an Internet deal, while her documentary “Ethnic Jewelry”, filmed at the Lalaounis Museum in Athens, was sent to the Museum of Salonica to be screened as a complement to the jewelry exhibition. Laura Neri is currently in pre-production on her feature script, “Bedmates”, a politically incorrect dark comedy in the spirit of “Brick” and “Clerks” which will be shot in L.A. She is represented by In Cahoots Management.