Writer and Director: Christos Massalas
Taking us to the heart of Athens’ criminal underworld, Christos Massalas’ Broadway is a thoughtful, lyrical take on the Mafia Thriller genre.
We meet the central players behind bars. Nelly (played by Elsa Lekakou) is visiting Markos (Stathis Apostolou) who is doing 11 months for petty theft. The film takes us back to their introduction. Nelly has run away from her wealthy but unhappy home, and works at a strip club when she meets Markos. Initially charming, the gangster promises to rescue her. What he actually delivers is a hand-to-mouth existence at Broadway; a dilapidated former theatre. The retro atmosphere and the rows of abandoned, sparkling costumes are enough to seduce Nelly.
Life at Broadway becomes complicated when Nelly discovers that Markos, and his gang (an amiable Rudolph and Mohammad, played by Rafael Papad and Salim Talbi) are harbouring a man wanted by the big guns of the Athens Mafia. Nelly is immediately drawn to Jonas (Foivos Papadopoulos). She decides the best disguise for him would be to adopt a female persona. She asks “what kind of woman do you want to be?” Jonas predictably replies “a hot chick”. He renames himself Barbara, and Nelly notes that she is her “best creation”.
The gang make money by pick-pocketing on the streets. Their cover is a street dance performance by Nelly, while the rest of the gang survey the crowd and empty their pockets. Barbara and Nelly discover they are more impactful together, and their dancing attracts bigger crowds. It is here that Markos is caught by the police.
Without Markos in charge, the grift continues – different songs, different locations – but the relationship between Nelly and Barbara becomes intimate. Barbara confesses that she is wanted by a mob boss named Maraboo. Just by hiding Barbara, the gang are taking a huge risk.
What could be a bland crime story, becomes richer with Massalas’ introduction of gender fluidity and sexuality into the narrative. As Jonas transforms into Barbara, the dynamics within the group begin to change. Barbara and Nelly are besotted with each other; and the con begins to fall apart. Massalas treats the couple tenderly: Lekakou and Papadopoulos have a great natural chemistry, which reads particularly well during their dancing scenes.
This is a film that centres around relationships, and Broadway really captures the feeling of living outside the lines. This band of outsiders, without the patrician influence of Markos, become their own family. A trip to the supermarket becomes a vibe, as the friends gleefully load their trolley. But as Markos leaves prison early and returns to Broadway, the tone changes. He makes his presence felt. It is clear there is a debt to be repaid.
Massalas takes us to the “Wild West of Athens”, but beyond the usual mob tropes there is a lyrical quality to this film. Sunlit set pieces and a gorgeous soundtrack from Gabriel Yared, emphasise the importance of connection. A modern, emotionally intelligent thriller, there is an effervescence in Broadway that is hard to resist.
Broadway is screening at the Raindance Film Festival 2022.