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15th TDF: Just Talking 22/03 (3/23/2013)


The “Just Talking” section of the 15th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival continued on Friday, March 22, 2013. Participating were directors Marianna Economou (Food for Love), Dimitris Athyridis (One Step Ahead), Daniel Dencik (The Expedition to the End of the World) and Nicola Zambelli (Tomorrow’s Land – How We Decided to Tear Down the Invisible Wall, co-directed with Andrea Paco Mariani).

Dimitris Athyridis opened the discussion by making a brief introduction to his film One Step Ahead, whose main protagonist is the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Boutaris, filmed during his 2010 election campaign. “I was captivated by his dynamic personality”, the director explained and added: “He was a very well known person in the city, a winemaker and former alcoholic. I believed that his life would be particularly interesting as he got married, divorced and re-married the same woman. I found that all of these things made a very interesting combination, even before I started filming”.

Nicola Zambelli travelled to one of the world’s “hot spots”, Palestine, where he co-directed the documentary Tomorrow’s Land – How We Decided to Tear Down the Invisible Wall with Andrea Paco Mariani. Mr. Zambelli noted the following about his shooting location: “In At-Tuwani, a village in the hills south-east of Hebron, we got to know a different aspect of life in Palestine. This area has been under the constant threat of evacuation since 1999, while also being attacked by Israeli settlers. Ten years ago a Committee of Popular Resistance was established, which is an expression of the non-violent rebellion of the Palestinians”.

Daniel Dencik chose Greenland, one of the coldest regions on the planet as the location of his documentary The Expedition to the End of the World. He traveled there on a three-masted ship whose crew was comprised of artists, geologists, astrobiologists and other scientists in order to discover new forms of life and ponder existential problems. The Danish director characterized his film as “philosophical”, since he said: “through this expedition to Greenland, questions are raised about the meaning of life and the end of our civilization”.

For her part, Marianna Economou was sailing on familiar waters. Her film Food for Love focuses on three Greek mothers, who send Tupperware full of food to their children studying far from home. The director referred to the goals of the film, explaining: “I wanted to show the excessive love of the Greek mother for her children, and the way in which she uses food in order to keep them close to her. My goal was to open a window on the particular attributes of the Greek family and show what is contained in this Tupperware: is it only food, or something else as well?”

Asked what was the main element that spurred them to make their films, the directors had different opinions. “What the film meant to me was the power of human transformation”, Mr. Athyridis observed, and added: “once he gave up alcohol, the protagonist of my film became the most aware person I have ever met. I had never seen such a strong aura around someone. So I recorded not just the development of a person who beat his addiction to alcohol, but also became a powerful citizen. Yiannis Boutaris confesses in front of the camera, revealing his past mistakes. While he is a politician, a Mayor now, instead of following the path of political correctness he does the complete opposite”.

Mr. Dencik’s creative motives were strictly personal, as he admitted: “I am a writer and I have written four books. What inspires me when I write a book or make a film is something personal. I can’t make a film for other people. All of it is based on me. When I was making this documentary I was obsessed with the idea of the apocalypse, the end of the world. But as filming progressed, I understood that I was wrong. My film is, in the end, a celebration of life, the opposite of sadness”.

Marianna Economou explained that her intention was to look at motherly love more deeply and said: “I was interested in examining why Greek mothers become so smothering. They provide love and care, but they are often asphyxiating. I didn’t have a personal experience of this, but I knew many such stories from friends. Also, my intention was to explore the role of food in Greece, which has developed as a means of communication, an emotional bond. While I started out with preconceptions about this little piece of Tupperware, I came to realize that the Greek mother hides her loneliness in it”.

Asked whether the film he made revealed something new to him, Mr. Athyridis answered: “At the time I started filming I was concerned with how one makes decisions. My protagonist expresses exactly that, the strength of decision-making, the moment where you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and everything else disappears. What is important here is to be able to leave your past wrong decisions behind”. Answering the same question, Mr. Zambelli noted: “I felt that I changed by making the film. Every experience changes you, and this is the meaning of life in any case. If you don’t change, then you are Mr. Berlusconi, you become someone you really are not. That is a failure. And that is what I like about the documentary genre, that it gives you the opportunity to enter a different reality”.
Could the directors make a film about a person they didn’t like? Ms Economou answered: “No, I could never do that, because I couldn’t get close to such a person”. Mr. Athyridis had a different opinion: “Our work is something like being a psychologist. You deal with a person whether you like him or not. The people in my films are not my friends; I am not looking for my own feelings, but for the truth of the story. My opinion is that the documentary maker should be like a satellite: if you get too close, you will fall on top of your protagonist and if you get too far you will be lost in space”.

On whether they would have changed something in their films if they could, the four directors gave very different answers: “I feel proud of the film, now that I see it. I wouldn’t change anything in it, even though I have noticed that the audience is laughing more than I expected, it isn’t a melancholy film finally”, Mr. Dencik said. “Today I would change everything, because I am now a different person”, Nicola Zambelli stressed. “I wouldn’t change anything. Not because I love the film so much, but because I believe it represents an era”, Mr. Athyridis noted. “I would change some things. I would try and include the point of view of the children, something we didn’t manage to do because we didn’t have the money to travel abroad”, noted Ms Economou in closing.

The films are part of the 15th TDF program, which is financed by the European Union’s Regional Development Fund for Central Macedonia, 2007-2013.

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