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16th TDF: Press Conference (Agnes Sos, Thomas Haley and Claus Drexler) (3/22/2014)


Directors Agnes Sos (Stream of Love), Thomas Haley (American Dreamer) and Claus Drexler (On the Edge of the World) gave a press conference on Saturday, 22 March 2014, in the context of the 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
In American Dreamer, Thomas Haley follows Julian, a man from Florida, who travels to New York for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “I live in France, but in the past ten to twelve years, I have been intrigued by developments in the US, especially after George W. Bush was reelected. I met Julian in 2009, one year before I started filming. I should note that in 2010, which was an election year, there was a lot of public debate and controversy about building an Islamic cultural center close to Ground Zero. This issue was also used in political attacks against Barack Obama. I tried to understand what was going on in the US. I can understand the feeling of patriotism, but I am worried about the resurgent Islamophobia. Before 9/11, Americans had no clue about Islam, and now there are t-shirts sold with the slogan “everything I needed to know about Islam I learned in 9/11”. Such oversimplifications trouble me,” said the director. Explaining the nature of his film, Haley said: “Julian came from an overpatriotic background and was desperate to find his place in society and connect with his social environment. He is someone who believes in the American dream, which is why I called my film American Dreamer.”
Agnes Sos talked about her film Stream of Love, which was filmed in a small Hungarian village. The villagers talk openly in front of the camera about love, sex and life. The director commented on the issue of intimacy: “Intimacy is a common theme in all my films. I don’t know how intimacy works. Perhaps it is universal. You simply trust others and they trust you,” said Sos, adding: “After the editing is over I am always afraid to show my work to the people I’ve filmed. The film was made by them and is for them, and then they have to see their lives pass before their eyes in seventy minutes. It is very hard. The people I film present me with a gift, their own lives, and I follow their fates for a while.” Sos also talked about another characteristic of her film, its sense of humour: “There is plenty of humour, because my protagonists are old, wise, interesting, smiling and funny people. There are tragicomic moments in the film. Those people talk about love, their bodies and souls, their traditions”. About the element of love in her film, Sos said: “Sex is a very modern word I think, and I could not use it with them; I used the term “physical love” instead. They are people who respect and love life. They know what it means to suffer, because they have endured times of great poverty and can enjoy the small pleasures of life.”
In On the Edge of the World, Claus Drexler focuses on a different group of people: the homeless of Paris. “I always tell my four children never to scorn anyone, because every single person knows at least one thing better than we do. This idea made me think that, in Paris, there are so many homeless people who observe us and our lives, but we have no idea who they are or what they think of us. I started this film out of curiosity, and after I finished it I was a different man.” The director said about his protagonists: “They welcomed me with open arms, in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. For example Henri’s only possession is a blanket; he wears no clothes in the winter and stays in Champs-Élysées. Still, he welcomed us with joy and generosity. He is a symbol. Most people, if you ask them what’s important to them, will tell you money and purchasing power. The homeless, though destitute, show you that loving others is the most important thing of all.” 
The parallel events of the 16th TDF are financed by the European Union’s Regional Development Fund for Central Macedonia, 2007-2013.

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