EXOTICA, EROTICA, Etc. on DocStories

The film by Evangelia Kranioti was selected at the 56th Berlinale Forum, and Evangelia won  the Best Emerging International Filmmaker award at Hot Docs.  Next week Evangelia’s film will be the opening film at the Syros International Film Festival (Greece) and will then travel to Karlovy Vary. The director was my guest at Hellenic Radio 3 (ERA 3)’s show DocStories on documentaries and storytelling.  

It took Evangelia Kranioti nine years to complete the film research and shooting. She became a sailor herself,  travelling to 20 countries, from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, venturing into the Atlantic, the Magellan Straight and the Pacific, from Panama to the Baltic, all the way to the North Pole. The material – 450 hours of video footage! – was edited by Giorgos Lambrinos.

“Exotica, Erotica, Etc. navigates centuries-old trade routes and speaks to the universal orientation towards exploration, expression and affection. But above all, it is a love note to the forgotten, hidden and ignored men and women whose long sojourns, dangerous travels and bouts of loneliness are paradoxically essential for societies to function. Exotica, Erotica, Etc. is a documentary conceived as an endless journey, an ongoing dialogue between man and woman, nature and the world. The film’s non-linear narrative embraces the rhythm of merchant ships in perpetual motion and unfolds like a landscape, an archipelago : a retired woman of the night reflects on encounters with past lovers long gone, perhaps lost at sea. We listen to her as she longs for one to return and fulfill the final romantic chapter of her life. The voice of an old captain coming from faraway –the solitude of the ocean or the hotel room of an unknown port– becomes an echo to her monologue. Both characters are real and their personal narratives, kept intact, eventually weave a dense discussion on longing, memory and loss.”

Watch the trailer.

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Evangelia Kranioti with Dimitra Kouzi at ERT 3rd Radio Programme’s show DocStories on documentaries and storytelling

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Νew Greek film wins Docs in Progress, Thessaloniki 2015

The Longest Run is one of those films that can’t wait until funding is found before shooting. You either do it now or not at all. And Marianna Oikonomou (Food for Love) did. It is an important story unfolding in a juvenile prison in the city of Volos, in Greece, where the director enjoyed access – which is not a common occurrence at all. The film was already presented at the 10th International Dok Leipzig Co-Production Meeting in October 2014.

Here is an interview that the director, Marianna Oikonomou, gave me at the 17th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in the aftermath of receiving the award for best Doc in Progress in March 2015.

The story follows two teenagers, a Syrian from Kobani and a Yazidi from Northern Iraq, who spend their long days in a juvenile prison in Greece, accused of smuggling illegal immigrants, while their parents experience  the war in their home countries. The Longest Run  follows their lives  before, during,  and after their court case and exposes the  tragic  phenomenon of professional smugglers forcing  underage illegal immigrants to transport  people across the border from Turkey to Greece,  thus making them smugglers themselves. This means that innocent young boys can serve sentences up to 25 years in a foreign country while their parents are equally ‘confined’ in their war-stricken countries.

The Longest Run documentary photo
Jasim in his cell in the Greek prison

The project garnered the top prize in Docs in Progress, receiving 17.000 euro in editing and post-production funding, but still needs a distributor, pre-sales, and more funding.

Here is a 7-minute demo of this interesting film:

https://vimeo.com/121977493  (password:32015)

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Alsaleh & Jasim in Prison

Art in Greece amid the Crisis

THE REVIEW by Villa Mediterranée
THE REVIEW by Villa Mediterranée (International Centre for Dialogue and Discussion in the Mediterranean)

Here is an excerpt from the article I wrote for THE REVIEW of Villa Mediterranée, translated into English by Dimitris Saltabassis.

In a perceptive overview of the Greek cultural scene, Dimitra Kouzi talks about the current mix of gloom and hope in a country in a state of deep economic crisis.
Beyond the news and headlines, art reflects the political, economic and everyday-life changes. Hasn’t art in Greece been always in crisis? What’s the difference now? “Art is inconsequential without our insistence. It seems that there is a need for it; this explains its survival,” says artist Alexandros Mistriotis.

Artists work in a stifling atmosphere. “Everybody works more or less for free, yet there is great solidarity for everything,” Art Historian Denys Zacharopoulos, Director of the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, adds.
There is such proliferation of art events that one is hard-pressed for choice. And that means new venues. In addition to the expansion and renovation of the National Gallery in Athens, currently in progress, and the establishment of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in the former Fix brewery, after many years of temporary housing, there are currently in operation about ten new independent art venues in Athens, often under the aegis of the municipality. Run by people who have studied abroad and have an international network of contacts, they provide the infrastructure for an independent art scene to flourish, hosting work by young artists in a variety of genres (theatre, music, visual arts, architecture, graphic and fashion design, workshops). Housed in a historical building, the former headquarters of the extremely popular magazine Romanzo in a central Athens area more reminiscent of a ghetto in recent times, the BIOS – Romanzo creative hotbed provides office space for creative young people and start-ups focusing on technology, art and culture, while also hosting exhibitions, concerts, performances, collective actions, workshops and seminars. The BIOS team managed to turn over the image and population makeup of the whole area. “All young people find it hard to turn their ideas into practice in today’s circumstances. Perhaps people think more in terms of cooperation now; a feeling of collectivity may have become more developed. The need to participate in the commons is more intensely and consciously felt.”

Amidst the crisis, Rosie Diamantaki decided to establish an experimental art venue – Anamesa Art Space. She enables budding artists to take their first steps, irrespective of the commercial appeal of what they do. She also supports upcoming musicians and showcases projects that combine music and the visual arts. “There is a new generation of artists in all genres who make a new proposition in Greece. In the visual arts, there are young artists’ teams which join larger groups or run their own spaces, working on projects featuring public interaction with a view to increasing the participation of art in a public dialogue, rather than being galleries in the strict sense, such as Arbit City Group, or 3137.” She points out that, “Even Art Athina, the largest foire in Greece has introduced Platform Project, an initiative for young artists.”

….  If you want to read the complete article (in French or English) you can order a copy of the the magazine or contact me.

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Illustration: Yorgos Lanthimos The Uncrowned King by Jefferson Paganel


Halfway between a book and a magazine, the Villa Méditerranée’s The Review is, in its own way, an invitation to a new space to discover and examine the current issues of the Mediterranean world. In addition to the Villa’s missions, the Review seeks to bring together different interpretations of today’s most critical issues. This second issue questions the sustainability of a mobile world, public space, memory and conflicts, youth and identity issues, as well as the challenges facing tourism. It is available in English and in French.


Is there a recipe for an ideal family? Be inspired at IDFA 2014!

25 years ago, Petr used to be an urban man studying computer science. Then he met Simona, and they decided to pursue their dream of freedom together. Choosing a traditional lifestyle of self-sufficiency, love and togetherness, the couple live in a self-made house in a meadow in the Bohemian Forest, with the bare essentials – and their nine children. Can fatherly love become suffocating for the children? Petr’s frugal, bohemian life choices mean sacrifices for the whole family. Will they be able to fit into modern society. Watch a clip of the movie here 

I talked about that with the Czech director Eva Tomanová, whose feature-length documentary Always Together, selected for IDFA 2014 Competition for First Appearance.

What are you looking for in that story?

The truth! And I’m very aware of the kids, of course. Ten years ago, that’s when we met.  The kids were much younger. And to me it looked like a little paradise in a way.  Getting to know them made me realise how far from paradise their life really is.

The man has built his own kingdom in the middle of nowhere. Both parents are university educated. They have nine children that they don’t send to school. In the beginning you might feel this is like paradise, but then it starts to crack. The eldest daughter gets pregnant by a local farmer. The eldest boy ran away once. The other children can hardly speak. And there were even worse times. For example, for years they were forbidden to use any paper, even toilet paper. To learn the alphabet they used wooden sticks.  I felt almost like a missionary because I brought them some stuff. I care about these children. I wanted to know them better. They have had such a different kind of education that I wonder how they fit into society.

Then there is the question of freedom. They are free from school and schedules, but confined to just one meadow. It’s also about him: how can a well-educated person become what he is. How can he make life so hard for his children? He believes the harder, the better. How come his wife is so obedient to him? Is it a crazy social experiment, or has he found some deep family values?

 Did you get your answers?

I’m quite satisfied. I could not get more at the moment. But it’s not just about getting answers – it’s also about posing new ones. Which I hope I have done.


 How do you feel about their bohemian lifestyle in the Bohemian Forest?

It is a very hard life. They gave up all the comfort we are used to. I have been to many places. I lived with rats in South America. I have visited the poorest parts of Africa doing a documentary about child labour and child trafficking. But then I always felt happy for simple things, such as having a bed of my own or a hot shower. They have never had this.


Is it a problem to lead a different kind of life than the majority, to rely on your own resources, rather than sacrificing your freedom to civilization?

You must be very strong and very convinced to do that. It is not easy. They are in a permanent struggle with authorities. The authorities wanted to take their children and put them into an orphanage. They have conflicts with the police; even Interpol was after them once!

A lot of people dream about choosing a traditional lifestyle of self-sufficiency, love and togetherness in order to live a frugal, bohemian life. How do we know whose lifestyle is the right one?

The countryside is a perfect place to live. It has a different pace, a different sense of time. But Petr decided to go many centuries back.

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Four DOK.Incubator Films at Competition in IDFA!

Four DOK Incubator Films are at idfa in Competition this year! Congratulations!

Always Together by Eva Tomanova, Drifter by Gabor Hörcher, Something Better to Come (Yula’s Dream) by Oscar-nominated Director Hanna Polak and The Queen of Silence by Agnieska Zwiefka!

If you are interested in applying to DOK.Incubator, meet their team at the round table sessions on Saturday and Sunday afternoon at IDFAcademy, or send them an email and meet the team at idfa between Friday 21st and Wednesday 26th.

Check out all the

screenings DOK.Incubator IDFA 2014


Always Together at IDFA 2014 Competition for First Appearance

An interview with the Czech director Eva Tomanová, whose feature-length documentary Always Together, selected for IDFA 2014 Competition for First Appearance, premieres on November 20, 2014 in Amsterdam. Always Together is produced by Jiří Konečný (Endorfilm).


This is your first film, and it is already feature-length and in competition at IDFA.

Why did you switch from journalism to filmmaking?

Interesting stories have accompanied my entire professional life. I love them. I collect them. It’s not a radical change – rather, it’s an evolutionary step.  It’s important to know how to tell the story; minutes don’t count so much. I ‘ve directed many TV projects, documentaries, reporting (comparable to 60 minutes) before.

Journalism is a way of life; to me it is above all about curiosity. I also think I have a nose for interesting topics; I need to look at a subject from many different angles. I know how to make people talk to me. The arts, also, have enriched my whole life – drawing, sculpture, photography.

Director: Eva Tomanová

How did you meet this family?

Another family that I helped as a journalist at the time introduced me. The man was very suspicious about me in the beginning. I remember standing behind the fence, being interviewed by him – he did not even invite me in.

Then, some weeks later, he expressed a wish to meet me again. He needed some help with the social welfare office. They did not like it that his children did not go to school.


How was your experience with the DOK.Incubator workshop?

DOK.Incubator was a great experience for me. I received very profound feedback from both sides, tutors and participants, which is always needed. The variety of nations and different points of view are another big advantage, and they all were so supportive. I believe it made me look differently at this and any other films that I might possibly make.
To be more specific, Sigrid Dyekjær gave me many dramaturgical ideas even before shooting. I met her through my work at the very first DOK.Incubator workshop. And the editor Per K. Kirkegaard (Armadillo) sort of reshaped my gaze and made it more relaxed, not so informative, and to let the characters speak for themselves.
Another important thing about this workshop is that you actually work with the whole team, the editor and the producer, and you develop the film together. Jiri has turned out to be a great help. Without him and without DOK.Incubator I would hardly have made it to IDFA.

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