As part of the 17th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, the directors Menelaos Karamaghiolis (Milad – Μy Planet...), Stratoula Theodoratou (The Fish on the Mountain), Angelos Kovotsos (David Kennedy, The Sculptor of Life) and Alexandros Papailiou (In the Nest of Time) attended a press conference on Saturday March 21, 2015.
Angelos Kovotsos spoke first. In his film David Kennedy, The Sculptor of Life, he documents the personality of an unusual artist: “He was an artist that lived on the island of Aegina in the 70’s. Before that he lived in Plaka. He came to Greece from New Zealand in the 60’s for a holiday, and decided to stay when his family returned home. In Aegina, David Kennedy met Maya, the love of his life. He built his own house and devoted himself to his sculptures, which he made using melted wax. He didn’t like to say much. He believed that art was something handmade. He loved animals a lot. They were his preferred subject matter for sculpting. What we wanted to show is what happened towards the end of his life, when he could no longer sculpt because of old age. Maya gave him the opportunity to make wooden spoons and this reinvigorated him for a while. The film begins with the question of art and ends with the question of old age, of time passing by. The hero was one of those artists that never became famous, even though he should have”, Mr. Kovotsos said, and added: “We made this film on our own. Documentary filmmaking is facing a serious crisis. But there are a lot of participants here, and this gives us hope”.
In his film In the Nest of Time, Alexandros Papailiou introduces the audience to the ecosystem of Greece and the people that live there: “What’s interesting is that we have three young people that we have known for many years. Their relationship to nature – they are scientists working in nature – helps familiarize us with it. With screenwriter Hara Frangou we decided to make this film to show that the crisis doesn’t only affect urban landscapes and the economy, but also the environment and the ecosystem. We believe that people and human activity are the answer to the crisis. In the film, three people that are dedicated to their work and goals provide us with interesting information about our ecosystem, nature and time passing by, while they appear unaffected by the difficult circumstances that surround them.
Hara Frangou, who wrote the screenplay, added: “For the documentary I was inspired by a philosophical idea of Alain Badiou, who claimed that if humanity hadn’t given in to capitalism’s breakneck speed, it would have been better off, and would have entered a kind of time-shelter. This got me thinking and I found myself interested in people that had this kind of shelter, a nest of time. They risked a lot to put themselves in that position, but in exchange this gave them time. They benefited from meeting farmers and fishermen, and they realized what their real needs were. They didn’t give in to states of emergency, but rather listened to the pulse of nature. We’d like to think that, whoever watches this film - if they leave the city and step out into nature - will become a better person.”
In her film The Fish on the Mountain, Stratoula Theodoratou wanders around a city built around a shipbuilding yard which is falling into ruin. Describing her experience while filming, she said: “It’s a tragic situation. I met people living in complete poverty. They need to be heard. But I didn’t want to make another documentary about impoverished people living without electricity. This has been done by television and I think it resembles a voyeuristic look at other people’s pain. I wanted to examine it geopolitically. I used Perama to observe the whole planet. The crisis began earlier there than in the rest of Greece. I wanted to examine the effect of the emergence of Asian markets, what it meant that China was investing in shipbuilding, what the implications of China cooperating with Germany were”. Answering the question of whether or not she thinks something will change in these people’s lives, Theodoratou said: “It isn’t easy for me to answer that question, because I’m not a politician. Also, it’s not only up to Greece, or Europe for the matter, it’s a beast that has been unleashed that is roaming freely. It’s not even a matter of capitalism. China is a communist country. I don’t know if things will change, but what I do know is that things won’t change locally, if they don’t change on a bigger scale”.
In his film Milad – Μy Planet..., Menelaos Karamaghiolis presents images of immigration. Referring to the filming of his documentary, the director said: “The film practically started on its own about three years ago, as part of the work of the non-governmental organization Arsis, which is involved with the families of immigrants. At Arsis, it’s usually women that are asking for help. But we met a family that also had a father. Out of the family’s five members, only the youngest child spoke Greek. Slowly, we got to know their story. The mother and father were from two different tribes of Afghanistan, which were at war with each other.They fled their country in order to avoid being killed and after many difficulties reached Greece. Meanwhile their children were born. At one point their smugglers asked if they should send one of the children to Germany, and the family faced a dilemma. Should they sacrifice one of their children to save the rest?” According to the director, Jelani’s story isn’t a story of immigration. The film is about our country and our relationship to foreigners. There exists an Athens that we hardly know about. Every night at the Pedion Areos park children sleep unescorted. These people, these immigrants don’t intend to break any laws, but if they have to feed themselves then they do what they have to do, and in this case we are as guilty as they are”.