Agora Talks invites filmmaker and producer Dimitra Kouzi
Every year Agora invites film specialists to share their practices and expertise with the audience of the Festival. On Wednesday June 30th, Dimitra Kouzi delivered a talk bearing the title “The Audience as Inspiration” in the context of the Agora Talks.
Mrs. Kouzi started her talk by saying: “I am very glad to have an audience here, in this Festival. Let me introduce myself. I am a filmmaker, as well as a producer. My film Good morning Mr. Fotis was first screened at the 2019 Docs in Progress. I had finished making the movie in 2020, which was supposed to have its premiere at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in March 2020, but we all know what happened then. The Festival took place in May and the premiere of the film was held online. Thus, I have to say that I have gone through all this stressful situation of presenting my film online. I was thinking all the time whether there would be any viewers watching my film. The film eventually did well and it was awarded with the Youth Prize.
She went on to add: “I would like to say a few words for Mr. Fotis, the protagonist. This is a real person. He was a man in the audience of Kinderdocs Festival Ι hosted at the Benaki Museum. He was in the first group of viewers. As I was watching him sitting there with his kids, I realized that he was a very interesting man. So, I decided to visit the school where he was a teacher. And I found myself with a project to develop. I got in the class and I answered to several questions. Gradually, we gained each other’s trust. After a while, I started developing my film. Fotis is a very special man. He is this kind of teacher I never had. He is an authentic, creative and educated man, who leaves room for free speech. He comes from another era in Greece, many generations behind, something like Zorbas”.
Dimitra Kouzi asked herself: “What would be the target group of a film?” Then, she explained: “Your first target group consists of your fans. Through a festival, you have got the opportunity to promote your film. Friends and family are important, but the audience is the driving force. We are talking about the most important moment of the filmmaking, not because of the hours spent to make the film, but because the audience is there to applaud your film. When the whole process is online, there are no surprises, no magic. During the pandemic conditions of seclusion, I was at Galaxidi. We came up with an idea of an open-air film screening, with masks on and safe distance. People responded to this attempt. Next morning, I had my first review. This made me think of what I could do more with a film that already had its premiere. How could I treat my main story, the refugees’ story? I thought that most of the children in my film would prefer to go to countries that don’t have an island like Lesvos. These children have to be educated and Mr. Fotis cannot assume this burden alone. Each year he is there to educate children from different nationalities. At the same time, I was thinking about Europe, on how we will travel or work freely”.
The producer of Good morning Mr. Fotis mentioned: “I was wondering how important the the duration of a film is. Therefore, I reedited my film. I wished for an open ending. According to my film script, Fotis Psycharis has been a teacher for the last 30 years in a primary school in Vathis Square. Most of his students are immigrants’ or refugees’ children. The lack of a common language or cultural code forces Fotis to come up withnother kinds of teaching methods. Theatre, a mixture of many different arts, is one of his tools”.
Elise Jalladeau also stressed out, citing examples from her experience, the important role of the audience: “We have to offer feedback to the audience. Nevertheless, there are times where the producer offers a feedback the director doesn’t wish to hear about. Ι remember working as the producer of a feature film in China that had to be cut. The audience feedback of the film was similar to ours. Therefore, there are times where the audience becomes the producer”.