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MetFilm School London Undergraduate Open Day

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City of Lost Souls: Nikos Mpouyioukas on Berlin-based short film

By Elise Czyzowska

13 October 2023

In his new short film, City of Lost Souls, Nikos Mpouyioukas tells a story of acceptance, hope, and the journey to find oneself. Through two characters – Elpida, a new soul in Berlin, and Lumi, a wild bird well-versed in the city, the film explores the impact that true interaction can have, and has clearly resonated with audiences, showing at festivals across the globe.

Nikos studied MA Directing at MetFilm School Berlin – and in an example of the collaborative nature of film school, City of Lost Souls includes another 11 graduate credits throughout the crew. In today’s blog, we spoke to Nikos about the making of the film, as well as the one message he hopes audiences will take from it.

What was the inspiration for City of Lost Souls?

After moving from Athens to Berlin, I really struggled. The different culture, the weather, being alone in a new country – and the alienation of that.

I wanted to create a character that was going through similar problems, and this led me to Elpida, as an exploration of desperation, and how you can find hope.

Elpida and Lumi are – as you say – ‘poles apart’, yet drawn together. Did you find one character came to you more easily than the other?

The character of Elpida was the first part of the script that was created. Then, I tried to find a character that Elpida needed to face, in order to drive her and her character arc.

In the process, though, Lumi really took on a life of her own. We tried to make sure both characters were multidimensional, and Lumi’s importance in the film is clear.

A still from City of Lost Souls

From the trailer, the film has a very ‘organic’ style, with lots of natural lighting and subdued colours. How did you and your DoP land on this style?

Both me and DoP, Deep Dakshy, were on the same page about the unique way we wanted to depict Berlin – which is as Elpida perceives it. It’s a city that has a lot of exposure in cinema, photography, and across visual arts in general. We tried to create our own flavour.

Deep did an amazing job, from pre-production to principal photography, all the way to colour grading during post production. Low saturation of the images was a very clear choice – it’s how the characters see the city.

Having studied MA Directing in Berlin, were there any key lessons from your time on the course that you found yourself referring back to for this project?

Definitely, yes. For example, in the ways that I created the characters, where I referred back to the techniques we had learnt in modules with Rekka Kinsces.

The way that I worked with the actresses – a great collaboration with Yelena (Tsaklidou) and Bianca (Radoslav), was also influenced by modules with Rekka and Athanasios Karanikolas, who also provided feedback during the writing of the script.

And of course, the city of Berlin is central to the film. What was it about the city that drew you to film here?

As a Greek who moved out of his hometown for the first time, and came to Berlin, the whole experience was challenging on many levels. And having also talked with other people who did the same, I found that a lot of us had similar experiences. I wanted to bring up a conversation about those experiences.

Moreover, as I was living in Berlin, I wanted to grab the chance to make a movie there, as you can never know if you’ll have the chance again.

Elpida and Lumi are ‘poles apart’ when they first meet…

What has the response to the film meant to you and the team?

So far, the film has been to some awesome festivals, including Newport Beach Film Festival, Middlebury New Directors Film Festival, Sunderland Short Film Festival, Canberra Short Film Festival, as well as two festivals in Greece: Chania Film Festival and Thessaloniki International Short Film Festival.

The whole team is extremely happy and grateful. It’s always rewarding to see that people from all over the world resonate with the story, and appreciate the work and effort that we all put in.

And finally, if there was just one message you hope audiences take from City of Lost Souls, what would it be?

Even if life is hard, don’t lose hope.

Watch the trailer for City of Lost Souls

Congratulations also to the 11 MetFilm School Graduates who joined Nikos in the creation of City of Lost Souls:

  • Nikos Mpouyioukas studied MA Directing at MetFilm School Berlin. This course is also available in London and Leeds.
  • Find out more about City of Lost Souls on FilmFreeway and Instagram.