P R O D U C T I O N N O T E S
What is the film about for you?
In one word – individuality.
Our protagonist sees his individuality as a gift. He sees life from a rare, unique point of view – blue sky, golden wheat, sea, breeze, mud, breathe.
Where is the film shot?
The film is shot in Greece, in the small fishing village of Itea surrounded by sea and sky. The village sits below the eternal city of Delphi where the ancient monuments reside – a sacred sanctuary. The oracle of Delphi was the center of the world where the pained and distressed came to be soothed. Greece has a very special light – it is a land that heals through Light.
What is the significance of the mother working in the museum and the father being a manual labourer?
The mother is a museum guard in the exhibit of the Sphinx, the symbolic guardian of our land. Her inner world is in turmoil in contrast to the stillness of these statues that have been frozen in time. Inner stillness and timelessness are key themes.
The father excavates the earth that is then shipped around the world. The earth, the first image of the film, is the fundamental element of creation and deterioration – in constant flux like our own bodies.
Why is the doctor a foreigner?
I am originally from New York like the character of the doctor in the film. He is a foreigner, an enigma to many people here in Greece. What is this doctor doing in this small town? As the doctor says in the film, “I came for the Light.” He is a person who trusts not only science but the mystery of Light. I, too, find my inspiration in the light, the life, the colors, and the timeless nature and beauty of Greece.
How did you do the casting?
The film has a mix of professional actors and non-actors instilling a realism that grounds the poetic imagery. For example, John Townsend Worth is a local who I met while location scouting in Itea. My first thought was he is the doctor. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in archeology, John went on a summer trip to Delphi. When he gazed down to the seaside village of Itea, he decided he wanted to live there for good. That was some 40 years ago and he is still there today and even became mayor of the town!
How do you relate to the characters?
As a parent I can definitely relate to both the mother and father. The mother feels a loss, going through stages of grief and the father is the shock absorber trying to keep the family together. There are always challenges but love is the key.
I can especially relate to Alexandros because I had a speech impediment as a child. I felt imprisoned, unable to communicate but found freedom in my internal world that flourished through the language of images.
What is the significance of the Greek Orthodox Church to the story?
Individuality is a core factor in the Greek Orthodox tradition, like the shepherd who sought out the one lost sheep. We may become overwhelmed with the masses of people and lose sight of the importance of one person. However, the doctor does not, and fights for this one boy. The nun reminds the boy we are all individuals, singular creations in the land of Love.
You use very evocative imagery and have some recurring themes like water?
We cultivated a visual alphabet of iconic elements in nature – sea, mud, wheat, river, sky, and most of all Light. We developed a visual grammar that is woven into the story and provides a glimpse of how Alexandros sees and experiences the world.
The color palette of the film is cobalt blue, ochre, and rust based upon Greek Byzantine iconography. We used iconic props and images related to rare diseases to give the film a unique identity. Stripes are very symbolic in the film. Alexandros’ clothing echoes the campaign, “We wear stripes for rare diseases,” and he plays with a toy zebra, a rare striped animal. Mud is also very important. Alexandros plays in the mud and his father is a labourer digging up the earth.
How did you work with your director of photography?
I have been working with Panagiotis since film school and we communicate seamlessly. We were both trained on celluloid film, and continue to maintain a film aesthetic though we work in digital for flexibility and speed, and because it gives us the freedom to improvise and move fluidly. In our films, we have only every used natural light - no outside lighting sources and Rare Land in no exception. This gives the feeling of authenticity and “truth” to the images while making natural light a presence that is alive.
What was your inspiration for the story?
The film is loosely inspired by the true story of a boy with a rare disease and the medicine that is found to improve his condition.
This story provided the framework that allowed for a great deal of creativity. Though based on a rare medical condition, it is a universal story about people confronting and overcoming their fears. I was particularly drawn to the relationship between a mother and her sick child, and their journey to an unknown place – a journey to a rare land.
Everyone has or will make a trip to an unknown place – a rare land – in their life. It is not only a rare disease but also new and difficult circumstances that can upend our lives.
The film is a journey of truth, introspection, acceptance and love. I have a mobility disability and I wanted to explore the story of a mother’s journey of acceptance.
Rare Land addresses disease and disability and the film CODA helped to shine a light on disabilities in our society.
Disease can cause harm, but harm does not cause disability. Disability is a social construct. It is the barriers that society puts up against people who stray from the social norm of able-bodiedness.
Οur film addresses some of these barriers. CODA talks about the barriers of deafness but it also illuminates acceptance. We want to illuminate acceptance.
SOUND DESIGNER & COMPOSER
How did you conceive of the acoustic landscape?
The sound dramaturgy of the film is mainly based on the natural location sounds recorded in the seaside town of Itea.
The sound of the cicadas, the warm and moist weather, the light evening breeze, the waves, people at the beach, and the port create a vast soundscape of different textures creating an immersive musical environment.
We worked on two parallel sound worlds – the one of the child and the one of the surrounding world. The soundscape provides a way for us to enter the deconstructed manner the boy is hearing because of his illness.
It is a beautiful harmony, an acoustic landscape of a rare land.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Rare Land invites the audience on a journey.
I work intuitively with the director, interpreting and re-interpreting the story of a boy whose senses slowly deteriorate due to a rare illness.
What we see and what we hear are often connected to what the boy sees and hears, shaping the unique cinematic experience. It also provides a roadmap for the audience to experience the film and share this inner world, to transcend the realism with poetic realism.
Many images share the boy’s desire to live, to just be in the natural world, to rejoice in that and overcome the darkness of fear.
The color palette of the film is inspired by the visual poetry found in the creation myth – fire, earth, water and sky – it is life affirming.