From the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival, our report on a Greek fantasy epic which cost €10,000 to make.
As the trailer proudly proclaims, Dragonphoenix Chronicles: Indomitable is the first Greek fantasy film, crowdfunded, and made for an estimated €10,000, or “the cost of a day’s catering on Game of Thrones.” It had its UK premiere on April 26 at the London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film, and there were probably about 30 people in the audience. It’s a pity, because this is one hell of a movie.
Dragonphoenix Chronicles is the first Greek fantasy film, made for “the cost of a day’s catering on Game of Thrones”
Festival organiser Louis Savy – if you’re attending the festival and happen to see him, go and say hello, he’s a lovely guy – introduced the film, greeting the audience with a cheery “Kalispera!” (“Good evening!”) before realising he didn’t know any more Greek. He said it was a real treat for the festival to be able to screen Indomitable, because while it’s the Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film, almost every year it only plays science fiction.
It’s not especially surprising, because it’s much easier to make a low-budget SF film than a fantasy adventure, and there has been no shortage of fantasy movies which look appallingly cheap on multi million-dollar budgets. Apparently the people behind this film, presumably Thanos Kermitsis, the director, and Yannis Roumboulias, who plays the hero Dragar, ambushed him at the Athens Film Festival when Indomitable debuted and asked if he would screen it at his festival. Thank Zeus he did.
More on Game of Thrones: Read our weekly recap here
The template they seem to have been working from for Indomitable is the original 1982 Conan the Barbarian, which still holds up today as one of the classics of the sword-and-sorcery genre. Both films feature a barbarian slave determined to free himself as the hero, and the leading ladies of both films are called Valeria. What could have been a hollow, cheap imitation of a classic is instead a worthy successor, an assured triumph of the genre which knows exactly what it can and can’t do with its limited budget, and one of the best fantasy movies in a long time. Better than both Hobbits, certainly.
Indomitable’s great strength is that its creatives are very aware of their budgetary limitations and don’t overreach themselves
The problem with most fantasy movies is that their ambition far outstretches their budget and ability. They try to film huge numbers of monsters, epic battles, and expensive CGI dragons when they have nowhere near enough money to do it properly. Indomitable’s great strength is that Kermitsis and Roumboulias (who is a comic book artist by day) are very aware of their budgetary limitations and don’t overreach themselves.
It’s yet another example of how having a small budget can actually be a good thing – it makes having a good screenplay that much more important, and Indomitable tells a cracking story. It starts off simple, certainly, but expands and twists a great deal later on, and features characters far more engaging than the stock archetypes we usually get from the genre. Valeria in particular starts out as a damsel in distress, but later shows a great deal of strength and agency, and actually becomes one of the better female characters in recent genre movies.
They do have one trick up their sleeve as far as budget and effects go, though – instead of spreading the money between lots of underwhelming monsters, they’ve spent it all on one genuinely astonishing monster for the final battle. Details would constitute spoilers, but it is truly incredible how good the beast is, a great monster by the standards of any film, let alone a tiny independent one, and from conception to execution it’s a superb accomplishment.
What could have been Highlander-esque, cheap cheesy fun is instead an instant classic, worthy of standing alongside Conan
As the festival programme mentions, Indomitable’s title is actually very appropriate: “a new indie film movement has risen, almost phoenix like, from the embers of Greece’s burnt-out economy,” and this film is a simply glorious bit of independent filmmaking. What could easily have been Highlander-esque, cheap cheesy fun is instead an instant classic, worthy of standing alongside Conan as one of the genre’s greats. It’s technically outstanding, considering its absolutely tiny budget and, frankly, just an extremely fun time at the movies. It’s a passion project from people who wanted simply to make the best fantasy movie they could, and that enthusiasm overcomes any budgetary shortfalls.
Dragar the Indomitable, if there’s any justice, will be this generation’s Conan the Barbarian. Dragonphoenix Chronicles lives up to the festival’s title and then some: it’s a fantastic film in all senses of the word. Oh, and Louis gave me a poster drawn and signed by Roumboulias, which was pretty awesome.
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All images: Avalon Productions