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Interview with Stathis Athanasiou

 

So we sat and we drunk coffee. And it was nice. And here it is an exclusive interview with Greek film director Stathis Athanasiou...

 

-First featurefilm ¨DOS…a love story in reverse¨ got 2 awards in
the New York International Independent Film Festival, how was the New
York experience?

It was an amazing experience, since it was my first time in NY and it was my first festival with a feature film. I had done 14 shorts before and knew the short film circuit, but to get into the feature arena for the first time in NY and to get two important awards (Best International Feature and Audience Award) was over the top. I could go on and on about NY and the festival and how it was, so let me just say that it helped me a lot to find myself there and for DOS to kick off in such a way.


-Tell us about DOS how did you get the idea to make film on 2
languages and why love stories?

I wanted to start in two distinct points and bridge them. Since DOS is a movie about emotions and sentiments, I wanted to show that this is all common, it doesn't matter if you are in Spain, in Greece, in Serbia or wherever. Human emotions are common because it is the nucleus, the core, of who we are. And although the outside "wrapping" changes according to where you were born and where you live, the core is the same. So it felt like a good idea to portray two love stories in seemingly distant and unrelated places, one in the East, one in the West, with the whole Mediterranean between them, and at some point forget that you are seeing two stories, hearing two languages and seeing two cities. Everything is one.


-Tell us more about aesthetic of the film which is very unusal
starting with unusual montage and everything else?

I don't know if it is unusual, in the sense that it makes perfect sense to me to narrate a story in non-linear time. When we deal with emotions and memories or when we dream, time exists in a totally different manner. It is not linear, it is not circular, it has no defined shape. Everything is everywhere because it is inside us. We have lived it, we have experienced it, it forms a part of us and so it is just there. The connections we make between facts and events is something that changes shape and form, because when we let something work inside us, it acquires a deeper meaning than when we experienced it originally. So, in this particular story, when the Greek protagonist looses his girlfriend, past, present and future unite to a single mesh, that actually tells him something about himself. I guess when someone tries to portray the inner workings of the mind and soul, it is inevitable that it will be marked as "unusual", because these things don't work in a "usual" way.


- What is the future of independent film in Greece?

It is the same as in everywhere else. Completely unknown. Although there are signs that independent cinema in Greece is on a rise, with many new films coming out and going to international festivals, getting awards, creating conversations. In that sense it is a good and positive things what is happening, but on the other hand, the situation in Greece is so fluid, that we cannot say anything about anything, not only cinema. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens, while at the same time, each and every one of us accepts his the fact that whatever happens is as much his responsibility as well of the others. Personal responsibility. That's all it is. And courage to change it all.


- Some say that many Greek filmmakers ignore the role of media in
the present situation and that is why they cannot make films out of
the system and can not be creative, because when you say Greek film,
you say Theo Agenopolous, and that is I am sure is not entirely Greek
cinema.

Theo Angelopoulos is entirely Greek cinema, in the sense that he has managed to capture the essence of the place, it's people, it's politics, especially with his early films. So yes, Theo Angelopoulos is the most Greek cinema you could find. Now the people who say they cannot make movies out of the system, I think they are just being lazy and irresponsible. If you want to do it, you can do it, especially now that technology has provided us with so many tools. Everything else is an excuse not to get their hands dirty and also because a lot of people are stuck in the old way of doing things, which implied a personal connection with the institutes and whatever, so they could get funded by the state no matter what. This is all over now, not because there has been a shift in awareness, but because the state just doesn't exist anymore in any form, so they can't continue doing it. If you want to make cinema, you can. Period.


-You are also doing another film project called Alpha where do
you trying raise money for the the shooting of the film, tell us about
your Antigona?

Alpha is a feature film inspired by the myth of Antigone, and speaks about the invisible Creon that has invaded our lives in the form of financial indicators. It is a film about the ever increasing violence we are all being subjected to and that doesn't seem to stop. But it's not only that. It is a new way of making cinema and of distributing cinema. We not only tell a story of a heroine who stepped out of the established order to do what was just, we also apply the same principles to the way we fund, produce and distribute this movie. If we would have done it otherwise, we would self-stab the story we wanted to get across. So in order to fund this venture, we don't go to the "usual suspects" where filmmakers try to find funds, but we turn to the audience themselves. We have started the first crowd funding campaign for a feature film in Greece and we address to each and every one of the audience in order to support us financially or by other means. This is a collective project in all stages, it is a project that aims to ignite a dialogue and an active collaboration between artists and audience alike, so we couldn't help but crowd-funding it. Also, we live in a country that is in ruins. Financial ruins, social, everything. Even if we wanted to fund it otherwise it would be impossible as there is nothing left in Greece, nothing left at all. If we are to build something, we need to accept our personal responsibility and start building it ourselves. Which is what we're actually doing.


-And how does your Antigona applies on present situation in Greece?

In our story there are two points that do not exist in the myth and that in a way, make the movie even more relevant today.

Firstly, in the myth we see Antigone ready. She is already a heroine, since from the very beginning she says "I will bury my brother because it is just. If the state wants to kill me, it can go ahead and do it.". Our protagonist, Alpha, is not a heroine. She is the exact opposite of that. She is a conformed bourgeois who obeys the oppressive rules imposed by the state and has never in her life dreamed of doing anything that opposes this oppression. But she will find herself in a situation where she needs to take a stance. To choose and actively do something about it. So in our story, we don't limit ourselves to watch a heroine in action, but we see the birth of a heroine. We see the birth of an Antigone.

Secondly, the met ends when Antigone looses her life and goes to Hades. We never get to now what happened when the two siblings met in Hades. What could Antigone say to Polynices after all that has happened? We don't know. In our story, Alpha will meet the Fugitive in Hades and they will have limited time to connect and forgive each other. If they can…

The present day situation in Greece is exactly that. We are all Antigonas in the making, but almost no one is taking the first decisive step of stepping our of the unjust border that this paranoid authority that we have, imposes us. How can heroes be born out of conformity and fear? And when I say heroes I don't mean american, Hollywood heroes. I mean people who are aware of their self, of their feelings and emotions and who have a true sense of justice, that when it is stepped upon, they rebel. They don't take it, because sit is a simple matter of logic and common sense.

On the other hand, he who will step out of the borders posed by the authority, will have to face the consequences, since the rules of the game are set by the ruling regime. The second point I made out before is exactly that. How do you face the consequences of your actions and how do you carry on when you know you will be severely punished when you move out of the unjust borders?


 -How do you engage others into your project?

The audience is being engaged from the very first moment, from now, long before we even start shooting. And the way we do it is by reaching out to meet them one by one, either in flesh in one of the several presentations we make all over Greece, or via internet where we reach out to a global audience and try to find the people who are interested in what we do, either because of its core theme, either because of our way of work, or for both. People need to start being more active, more selective and we all need to participate in the thing that meter to us. This is what we do. We engage people by giving them something to care about so much, they will dedicate their time and effort in order to see it happen. Passive citizens who just wait and receive, are not citizens. The ancient Greeks called a passive man who wouldn't actively participate in the common affairs, an IDIOTI. You guessed what modern word stems from that.


-You mentioned bringing the movie with its live orchestra to
Ancient Theatre tell us a bit about that?

This movie will never go to the cinemas and will never enter the distribution chain. The film distribution business is an unfair, unjust and out of time system. It is a model that was developed more than 100 years ago under totally different circumstances, basically based on the "scarcity of content" notion, which was true for 1920 and 1950, but is totally out of touch with reality for 2013. Everyone knows that, even Hollywood knows about that, but they keep doing the same thing because of inertia and because there are a lot a people, very highly paid, who will loose their jobs if they suddenly stop doing what they are doing.

On the other hand, internet and social media has brought about another very important parameter. The audience knows how it is to talk to the creator, and not only do they want to, they demand to. And that's great, because we can now have direct communication with our audience without any intermediates.

Because we need direct communication and because we need to find new ways to bring our work to the people, we have developed a totally different kind of plan to bring this movie to the public.

What is the place that was originally built in order to host adaptations of the myths? The Theatre. The, what we call now, Ancient Theatre. So we take the movie to Ancient Theatres though out the Mediterranean, and we present the movie there, with a live orchestra in the place of the orchestra of the Theatre (from where the term originates). We begin with a music concert from which the movie "appears" and this way, we bring the myth to its original representation place.

When we get to the cities, we bring the movie with its live orchestra to Art & Cultural Spaces and Alternative Venues. The reason we do this is because we don't want to limit the audience experience to just the movie. The movie will be the centre, the nucleus of a thematic world, that will stem to many other forms of art. Photography, Fine Art, Video Art, Viral, Sculpture and many other art forms, created by local artists and exhibited in parallel exhibitions under the same roof, will give the visitor a more global approach as to what it means to read them myth of Antigone today and provide food for thought, as to where we are, how did we end up here and where we're going.

At the same time we organize daily talks with important guests, so the visitor is not just a passive receiver of information, but an active participant in what is happening and what is being explored.

If we are to do something inspired in an Ancient Myth, we might as well do it as it was originally done. As a conversation starter!

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