Master of Film Noir

Text by Ellen Georgiou

Constantinos Isaias could never be cast in one of his movies. Film noir is shot in gloomy grays and sinister shadows, revealing the dark side of human nature. The protagonists are cynical and doomed, and there is a foreboding atmosphere of menace and suspicion where anything can go wrong.
Isaias is from Cyprus, a small Mediterranean island where the sun shines incessantly. His Greek disposition is one of optimism and adventure, and his background couldn’t be further from his genre of choice. From him comes no story of struggling to make it work, nor tales about the challenges of Hollywood or its cut-throat competition. Ask him how hard it is for a young person to move to Los Angeles and make the films they want to make and his response is spontaneous. “It’s easy. You follow your heart and do what you want to do. LA has a million opportunities for all people. You just have to see the opportunities.”
His latest film Sacred Whispers—a short film noir he wrote, produced and directed—has just been released. The film focuses on racism and discrimination, and clips were regularly screened on CNN during its Black History Month programming earlier this year.

When did you know you wanted to be in the film business? I was very young…about five. I accidentally saw the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho on television. My mother explained that it was only a film, just an actress and that the blood was paint. I specifically remember knowing that I wanted to make movies.

Why did you move from acting to directing? I studied acting in Athens, Greece, and worked as an actor for a while, but I never felt the ‘magic’ actors are supposed to feel. In 2007 I was working in theater and one of the actresses suggested I watch Persona by Ingmar Bergman. I realized what a masterpiece it is and went on to discover more films from this era. I felt like I found a special and majestic world that was somehow always part of me.  I knew this was my destiny, my profession and that I had to move
to Los Angeles.

Did you know anyone when you arrived in Los Angeles? No. But the world works in beautiful ways.  I met Greek singer Alexia Vassiliou who is actually from Cyprus. The same love for film and music led Alexia to Los Angeles just a month after I arrived.  We found a deep spiritual bond and her participation in Sacred Whispers was one of the greatest gifts. She acted, sang and composed the music for the soundtrack of the movie. I also met Sidney Poitier, who for me is the symbol of dignity and integrity. He told me that he always chose to do movies that had value and advised me to do the same.

What are the films you want to make? The decades of the 1920s to 1960s interest me and I love film noir.  I’m very interested in African American history and would love to make more movies about the African American experience.

What are you working on now? I am writing the script for my new film, White Shadows. It is a ’40s film noir. I’m also in talks to direct A Raisin in the Sun at a local theater. It’s a superb play with so many truths. It’s my first attempt as a theater director and I’m excited about it.

What is it that is most important to you?
Love. To do things with love, work with love, share love and make movies that can give something good to the world.  Life is, after all, beautiful.