Q&A: Marcus Markou, director and writer of short film TWO STRANGERS WHO MEET FIVE TIMES

By Josh Muchly

Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times is a short film that follows two men, Samir and Alistair, whose interactions create multiple transitions in their relationship; from friends to rivals, from “strangers” to “deeply connected,” from “different” to “equal.” The director and writer Marcus Markou was kind enough to take some time to discuss the film with Informer Media Group.

Informer Media Group: I enjoyed your film “Two Strangers.” What inspired this story? Something in real life?

Marcus Markou: We had just had the Referendum in the UK and in line with other movements around the world, there seemed to be a shift towards isolationism – rooted in nationalism. One of the slogans was “taking back control” of borders and of the perceived threat of immigration. There was a corroborating spike xenophobic and racist abuse in ordinary everyday situations – in supermarkets and gas stations. So this was not about white supremacist walking through town centers. This was about a wave of intolerance in seemingly domestic situations. So I wanted to start the story there – in one of those situations and see where it went.

Informer Media Group: Are the specific prejudices shown in this film a big (or growing) problem in the UK?

Marcus Markou: We are, as all societies are, across the world, generally distrustful of “foreigners”. And it seems through history, there is a pattern of blaming immigrants or those with a differing religion or skin tone for any economic problems. I think this is an age old way of being. I would not say the problem is growing. Far from it. I think it’s just more public now because of social media. The smart phone has changed everything. Anyone can record anything in real time and broadcast in real time. It’s not that the problem is growing, it’s more visible – I think. So an every day racist attack on the subway can be recorded by another by stander and then immediately shared – and these incidents go viral. As can acts of compassion and bravery or things that are funny. I would not say we are more compassionate or racist or funnier – we are just more aware. However, that awareness is a precondition for positive change.

Informer Media Group: Is there anything specific to the story that may be overlooked by an American audience? The meanings of certain accents, for example, or certain settings?

Marcus Markou: I don’t think so. It’s not something I am aware of. We have screened at so many US film festivals and it’s not been something that has come up.

Informer Media Group: Finance/money/employment re-occur in Meeting Two, Three, and Four. Why is that important? Is economics the adult version of the sandbox?

Marcus Markou: Money and the cash point (the ATM) triggers the conflict but also resolves it too. And so much of all our conflicts are geared around money or financial resources. So in the opening conflict, there is this impatience to get to the ATM – which symbolizes this clash for financial resources. And then there is an act of charity later on – when an ATM is sought. By the end of the film – none of the money, we have made or lost counts for anything!

Informer Media Group: Meeting One seems to imply Alistair’s prejudices were taught to him. In your opinion, can they ever be untaught?

Marcus Markou: So much behavior is learned. So much of our life – our attitudes to money, to family, to gender, to the color of someone’s skin – is often learned. I heard a phrase once: “A belief is a thought you keep thinking” and I guess, if you changing your thinking, you can also change your beliefs.

Informer Media Group: Why was it important to allow Alistair to be redeemed?

Marcus Markou: Every human being is capable of love and compassion. I think this is the compassionate stance to take.

Informer Media Group: In Meeting Five, Samir suffers from a problem with communicating. Was that meant to symbolize something?

Marcus Markou: We realized – with the actors – there would be more power without words. This was a brilliant lesson for me as a filmmaker. You cannot communicate how two actors make eye contact in a screenplay. It was the actor’s idea (the older Samir is played by Demetri Andreas) that he cut all the lines and the camera would just focus on his eyes. And he was right. I keep joking with Demetri that I owe him dinner for this because this simple suggestion completes the emotional journey of the film.

Informer Media Group: Was Samir in need of redemption as well?

Marcus Markou: During the rehearsals, the actor playing the middle aged Samir asked whether he had ever stopped and given a complete stranger money before. And we explored the idea that he was so busy building his empire that maybe this was the first time he had done this. And this is reflected in the actor’s initial response (played by Sargon Yelda) of what to do when asked for money. So we played with this idea, that this was the first time the character had actually stopped and considered a complete stranger.

Informer Media Group: “Do I KNOW you?” There’s more to this expression than strangers re-meeting, isn’t there? Something more like a statement on humanity?

Marcus Markou: If we are all, as some believe, reflections of a single consciousness, then we do know each other!

Informer Media Group: If only we could all just get to know each other …. So, what’s next for you?

Marcus Markou: I am working a feature film called Crazy Blue – which we are currently casting. It’s very exciting when a screenplay goes out into the world looking for its cast.

Informer Media Group: I look forward to that! Where can people learn more about you and your projects?

Marcus Markou: I am on Twitter @Papasonsfilm – if anyone follows me as a result of this interview I will follow them back!

For more information, click here.



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