26th TiDF: Spotlight on Dimitris Papaioannou

26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival // 7-17/3/2024

Spotlight on Dimitris Papaioannou

Documentary, poster, installation, short films, First Shot magazine


The 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival is delighted to welcome the internationally acclaimed artist (director, choreographer, visual artist and performer) Dimitris Papaioannou, shedding light on the multifarious aspects of an artist through different forms of art and expression, redefining the boundaries of representation, the allegorical power of images and the communication between a work of art and the audience.


The documentary Bull’s Heart (working title), directed by renowned Greek film director Eva Stefani and produced by Onassis Culture, will be screened at the 26th TiDF as a work-in-progress, in a special screening. In the documentary, Eva Stefani follows and records the tour of Transverse Orientation, Dimitris Papaioannou’s play that was produced by Onassis Stegi and had its Greek premiere in December 2021 and travelled to 3 continents, 20 countries, 31 cities and was seen by more than 80,000 spectators.


Dimitris Papaioannou has given for the poster of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, a black-and-white drawing of a kiss.


Dimitris Papaioannou’s video installation Inside, along with the filming of the installation’s backstage titled Backside, will be showcased in Thessaloniki, at MOMus-Experimental Center for the Arts.


In addition, the Festival is exploring the great artist’s work in cinema, screening his short films Nowhere and Primal Matter, where he re-choreographs his theatre work through the prism of a filmmaker and an editor, reshaping it under cinematic terms.


The First Shot magazine, released within the context of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, will be entirely dedicated to the work of Dimitris Papaioannou through the prism of the film director Eva Stefani.


The beloved artist will honor with his presence the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, attending the screenings of the above-mentioned films and the opening of the video installation Inside.


Special screening of Eva Stefani’s documentary


Eva Stefani’s documentary Bull’s Heart (working title), focusing on the performance of Dimitris Papaioannou’s theater production Transverse Orientation, produced by Onassis Stegi, will be screened as a work-in-progress. In Transverse Orientation, which kicked off its journey in 2021, Papaioannou orients us towards the source of the light. The term “transverse orientation” describes the insects’ method to maintain a steady angle towards a distant source of light for orientation purposes; the reason for which they fly in the direction of anything that shines.


Drawing inspiration from the myth of the Minotaur and its symbolic core, Dimitris Papaioannou transcends linearity, the established relations of power and hierarchy and the consolidated certainties on the notions of origin and identity, bringing forth a fluid and dynamic approach that reinvents language, communication and the boundaries that separate us from otherness and dissimilitude.


The multi-awarded director Eva Stefani follows and records the play’s tour in the most prestigious European theater scenes, taking a close insight, through her bold glance, into the efforts of Dimitris Papaioannou and his team to give shape and breathe life to the play. The camera documented for a period of years snapshots and scenes from the rehearsals and the performances in Lyon, Paris, London, Rome, Tel Aviv, all the way up to the play’s last staging in San Francisco.


The poster of the 26th TiDF


Dimitris Papaioannou signs the drawing for the poster of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival. The black-and-white drawing of the internationally acclaimed artist, made with ink, echoes the power of a kiss and the sweeping beauty of love. Two figures that eradicate all segregative lines and the limitations that derive from predetermined identities, are interwoven into an undivided body that praises the unbeatable force of togetherness.


The video installation Inside is travelling to Thessaloniki


A twelve-hour visual meditation will be presented in the framework of the 26th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival at MOMus-Experimental Center for the Arts, from March 8 – 17, 2024.

Admission is free for the public.


Dimitris Papaioannou invites us to sit back, lie down, drink, relax, dream or even sleep in the welcoming atmosphere of Inside.


Inside challenges you to watch the action as you would gaze at a landscape.


Alongside the video installation, Backside is presented -a film documenting the secret mechanisms of Inside and the irresistible charm of its protagonists- filmed and edited by Dimitris Papaioannou behind the scenes of the marathon six-hour performance.


Inside as a video installation has already traveled to festivals around the world having been presented in Amsterdam, Moscow, Montreal, Taipei, Turin, Dresden, Montpellier, Basel, Kalamata, Ravello, Lucca, and Athens.


Inside began as a large-scale artistic experiment, a theatrical installation that took place in Athens in the spring of 2011. Inside a room set up on stage, thirty performers identically repeated a simple series of movements, presenting our daily return home through countless combinations and coatings. The stage action started before the theater opened and continued after the last guest had left. The theater was open to the public for six hours each day. Inside treated the theater as an exhibition space and the work as an exhibit. An unedited single shot of this experience is presented in the video installation.


First Shot magazine


The First Shot, the Festival’s beloved magazine, will be exclusively dedicated to the work and the career of Dimitris Papaioannou. Eva Stefani’s documentary on Dimitris Papaioannou, produced by Onassis Culture, will take center stage, featuring the director’s take on the project and a series of stills from the documentary, while the artistic universe of the artist will be reflected on texts and rare photo footage depicting pivotal moments in Papaioannou’s career. 


Film screenings and discussion with Dimitris Papaioannou


Intertwining the live performances and the backstage filming of his work, Dimitris Papaioannou makes the transition to film directing and film editing, transforming these fundamental stages of the filmmaking process into an alternative choreography.


Dimitris Papaioannou’s films Nowhere (Director’s Cut) and Primal Matter, the entire work in seventeen minutes (2013) will be screened at the 26th TiDF, and the screening of the two films will be followed by a discussion with the artist. Nowhere - Director’s Cut conceived, filmed and edited by Dimitris Papaioannou, is a filmed version of the original titular theatrical production. In fact, the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival will have the honor of hosting the premier of Nowhere’s Director Cut.


Nowhere, commissioned and produced by the National Theatre of Greece to inaugurate its renovated Main Stage in 2009, was conceived as a site-specific project. The scenic space itself was choreographed by programming the new stage mechanisms. A group of humans confronted the spatial challenges created, measuring space with their bodies. Nowhere, performed twice daily in overlapping shows, bringing the audiences face-to-face, is a contemplation on the very nature of theater, as a machine that mirrors human life. The filmed version of the central scene (dedicated to the memory of Pina Bausch who had just passed away) was published 7 years ago in June 2014, and went viral with over 2.5 million views.


Primal Matter (2013), the entire work in seventeen minutes is a condensed cinematic summary of Dimitris Papaioannou's original production, Primal Matter, presented in 2023 at the Athens Festival. Originally spanning 1 hour and 15 minutes, this live performance featured Dimitris Papaioannou and Michalis Theophanous; Stefanos Sitaras filmed the theatre production, while the 17-minute version is edited by Dimitris Papaioannou.


Primal Matter is Dimitris Papaioannou’s personal response to a new political, social and ethical reality, where issues of national identity are re-interpreted. The challenge that lies ahead is how to face a wounded national identity, the trauma continues, but so does the resistance of creativity. Papaioannou employs the simplest means, the body itself. Primal Matter offers a universal language of decoding, and a shortcut to the truth-the fusion of the two bodies through optical illusions is a fusion of attitudes, of identities and a struggle between the matter and the mind, the shadow and the light, the creator and its creation.


The filmed version of Primal Matter brings forth the mastery of Dimitris Papaioannou as an editor, as through a 17-minute cut the artist reframes a different choreography by means of film editing, intertwining the filmmaking process and the human movement.



Born in Athens in 1964, Dimitris Papaioannou was a student of the iconic Greek painter Yannis Tsarouchis and has gained early recognition as a painter and comics artist before his focus shifted to the performing arts as director, choreographer, performer, and designer of sets, costumes, makeup, and lighting.

Dimitris Papaioannou is the first Greek artist of the performing arts to penetrate the international art scene as an auteur, with his creations co-produced and commissioned internationally and enjoying sold-out performances in long tours at the most renowned festivals and theaters on the planet.

Papaioannou is considered “one of the four most important choreographers in the world” (Le Figaro), "a masterful theatrical magician and imagist” (The Times), “the most original choreographer of our time” (La Repubblica), and “a master of contradictions,” whose creations “cross beauty with disgust, wonder and comedy" (The Guardian), and are an “act of artistic magic created before our eyes” (New York Times).


His most recent creations have traveled the four continents in over 30 countries and over 51 cities. His first international venture with ten co-producers, including the Avignon Festival, The Great Tamer (2017), produced by Onassis Stegi, enjoyed a run of 112 performances seen by 70,000 spectators and Transverse Orientation (2021), also produced by Onassis Stegi, surviving the pandemic, was presented for 108 performances to 80,000 spectators. His latest work, INK (2020), after 22 cities, 16 countries, and over 60.000 spectators, will conclude its world tour in May 2024 in Paris at Théâtre de la Ville before hitting once again the stage of Megaron – The Athens Concert Hall in April.


Papaioannou is one of the rare occasions of artists who feature in their body of work creations made of the minimum resources (Primal Matter, 2012), and of the largest possible scale (Athens 2004 - Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games). He is also the first artist to create a work for the Tanztheater Wuppertal after the death of Pina Bausch, as well as the first Greek artist to receive the European Theater Prize (2017) and has been nominated twice for the Emmy Award (2016) and twice for the Olivier Award (2019 + 2022).


Dimitris Papaioannou is an artist in residence at Megaron - The Athens Concert Hall.