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14th TDF: Press Conference (Katinoula / Sayome / METAXA listening to time / Encardia, the dancing stone) (3/17/2012)


A Press Conference was held on Saturday, March 17, 2012 as part of the 14th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival by directors Myrna Tsapa (Katinoula), Nikos Dayandas (Sayome) and Stavros Psyllakis (METAXA Listening to time), as well as Αngelos Kovotsos and Yorgos Poulidis, director and producer of the film Εncardia, the Dancing stone. The films are participating in the edition’s International Programme.

The main subject of Myrna Tsapa’s film is the story of Katinoula, an elderly woman who lives in Cairo and still works as a maid, despite her age, at the house of a Greek woman her own age in Egypt. The director spoke about how she found her main character: "We found her while shooting a series for ERT The Guests. They were small stories about people, in the episode on Egypt we were looking for a Greek living in Cairo and an Egyptian living in Athens. Originally we were going to film the woman Katinoula works for, but when we saw her, we decided to make that her our heroine. She had no problem with our shooting her. Ultimately, the documentary was made largely by using the material we had shot that wasn’t part of the ERT project, from which, however, we did use about ten minutes." Referring to the mentality that characterizes Katinoula’s generation, the director noted the calmness of the two women in face of the recent events in Egypt. "When they called them to see if they were well, they told us they had no intention of leaving there. We’ve been through lots of other things like these, they told us. I image they’ve seen so much that they don’t scare easily”, the director said.

Nikos Dayandas spoke about the heroine of his film Sayome. "Sayome is a member of my family, since she is married to one of my mother’s first cousins. The whole idea of the film first started as a joke, I would tease her saying “I’m going to make a film about you and we’ll go to Japan”. At first she did not understand what this meant and when things started getting serious I tried to get her in the mood. She often asked me “are we shooting more? Still more?” Sayome is a woman from Japan, who at the age of 22 decided to marry a Greek sailor follow him to Crete. The differences between the Cretan and Japanese cultures are obvious in the film. Asked about how easy it was for her to adapt to both cultures, the director said: "I think the answer is Sayome herself and the film. The fact that she never taught Japanese to her children and has had no contact with her country shows how difficult it is to preserve both traditions. But I tried to incorporate cultural elements in the film without giving them the leading role”. Regarding the effects the film has had on Sayome, the director said: “I still don’t know how it has affected her. Generally however, unlike fiction films, a documentary’s main character continues living after the film, but I can’t know to what extent this experience transforms him”.

Then Stavros Psyllakis spoke. His film, METAXA Listening To Time, follows the doctors and staff of the Metaxa hospital who, even though they themselves suffer from cancer continue to provide their services. The idea is that of doctor Nikos Karvounis, which the director called “amazing in spite of how tragic it is”. Speaking about the documentary’s characters, among whom is Dr. Karvounis, Mr. Psyllakis stated: “We had a very good relationship with the documentary’s participants, most of them were very interesting people.” At the same time, he explained the film’s purpose. “It doesn’t deal with cancer from a medical point of view, neither does it concern itself with the problems faced by patients in hospitals. Starting with the extreme situation that is cancer, whose announcement makes you face death, the film becomes a meditation on life itself, in which tragedy is always lurking. It has all the brutality that characterizes the tragedy of illness, while revealing all the vivacity that these people participating in this film share with you. In fact, I will never forget a friend who was in the final stage of the disease, who said she wanted to see the film every day in order get strength from it”. Asked if there were moments where he wanted to turn off the camera, he was very clear: “No, I didn’t want to. I don’t know how my own defences on the subject of death are organized, each person deals with it differently. We could even say that our entire civilization is an exorcism of that thing. In spite of that, there was never a moment where I looked at these people with pity, or as people on the verge of death. There was something visceral between us which had to do with life’s sufferings”. Mr. Psyllakis also noted that the help provided by the hospital staff was a way of healing, even though it is not an easy thing. He admitted he was very emotional when he first saw the film on the big screen.

Then it was the turn of the documentary Εncardia, the Dancing stone. The film explores eclectic similarities between Greece and Southern Italy, guided by the Greek musical group Encardia, which plays music and songs traditional to the Greek-speaking south of the neighboring country. Αngelos Kovotsos referred to this musical journey: "The first time we went to southern Italy was in 2010, when we followed Encardia on one of their annual trips to the region of Puglia. There they have a dialect called greeco, out of the culture of which the group draws elements and then integrates them in its music. We began with no specific intentions. Producer Yorgos Poulidis had the idea to follow them, shoot some material and see where it takes us. Initially I thought that I would meet people who spoke Greek, but eventually I discovered that this language is not spoken anymore and only survives through music. So we decided to make a film about language, education and culture, inspired by music”. Mr. Poulidis referred to the role of the producer and the wager that a film is: “On the one hand, according to me a producer is a creative collaborator who is called upon to give space for the rest of the crew to work, in spite of hard conditions. On the other hand, he always has to place a wager, according to which when the film is completed he will have preserved 80% of its initial enthusiasm. I would like to believe that the wager has been won in this documentary. This is my side, the rest is that of the co-creators, Angeles Kovotsos, Encardia and the people of Southern Italy who treated us like their cousins”. In closing , Mr. Kovotsos replied as to whether traditions are preserved through music. “There is no other way to preserve this tradition, since no one speaks the language. If the language and the education are lost, it fatally follows that the culture and the people will also be lost. In this sense, one can look at this film as a film about the crisis. And I am not only referring to greeko but to other dialects, the language of the Vlachs, the language of the Arvanites and the Slavomacedonian. The Word contains memory and History, it is something like a gene”. Picking up on the director’s reference to the crisis, Mr. Poulidis noted what he called the “biggest compliment we could hear from” the audience after the screening: “You gave us a film we needed”. So through all this darkness comes a film that reminds us that there aren’t only financial issues”.

The Greek films section in the 14th TDF program are funded, among other 14th TDF activities by the European Union - European Regional Development Fund under the Central Macedonia ROP 2007-2013.

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