TO THE WOLF /THE IMMORTALS AT THE SOUTHERN POINT OF EUROPE / FOOD FOR LOVE
A Press Conference was held on Friday, March 22, 2013, as part of the 15th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. Participating were directors Marianna Economou (Food for Love), Yiorgos Moustakis and Nikos Labot (The Immortals at the Southern Point of Europe) and Christina Koutsospyrou and Aran Hughes (To the Wolf).
First to speak were Yiorgos Moustakis and Nikos Labot, directors of the film The Immortals at the Southern Point of Europe. The film focuses on an unusual commune that was established and operated for about 15 years on the island of Gavdos. Seven Russian scientists who went there after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, founded an Esoteric School following in the footsteps of Pythagorean thought, and cultivated a special way of life. Nikos Labot spoke about the way in which this community deals with the issue of production and consumption of energy, noting: “We learned that they had created improvised energy mechanisms out of beer bottles and other similar objects. At that time they said that they had managed to be 90% self-sufficient in terms of energy, and they only used a generator for about 10% of their needs. They also told us that everybody could do this, as long as they had some technical knowledge and a bit of willpower”. Yiorgos Moustakis added: “The members of this commune believed that natural resources are being steadily depleted, and the only way for humanity to go forward is nuclear energy. This is one of the contradictions we found in their theories, and it troubled us”. Regarding the relationships between the foreign scientists and the inhabitants of Gavdos, Mr. Moustakis said: “in the 15 years they have lived on the island, these people created good relationships with everybody. This was made easier by their technical knowledge, because they could do things no one else could do. Also, their house was open; they constantly held meetings and dinners. Their relationship with the locals cooled when they decided to build a temple on the island for the purpose of holding the mystical ceremonies that took place in ancient Greece. Thus ended a period of innocence”.
The film Food for Love by Marianna Economou has a completely different atmosphere. The protagonist is a Greek mother, and the love she has for her children, which centers on Tupperware full of home-cooked meals that she sends to her children when they are far from the family home. Speaking of this maternal prototype, familiar to all Greeks, that inspired her to make her film, Ms Economou explained: “The Greek mother adores her children, and it is impossible for her to part from them, feeling that they never grow up. Even once they are away at university she invents a system by which she can keep them close to her, and food plays an important role in this”. The director clarified that she didn’t base this on personal experiences, but she had many examples to draw from, from her circle of friends. “When I was a student in England, for years I saw my schoolmates receive Tupperware full of food from their mothers. What was interesting for me was to see what was in them, to explore the symbolic aspect of food”. How do the children react to this widespread parental practice? Ms Economou said: “The children generally seem to be ashamed, they don’t want the fact that they are receiving food from home to be too obvious. However, there are instances where they enjoy it. So I believe that this whole story has to do with both sides and how they understand the issue of the Tupperware. That is, the children might be ashamed, but at the same time this whole process is very convenient”. According to the director, the constant feeding of the child by the mother demonstrates the unique nature of the Greek family. “At this point, living conditions are pushing the Greek family to assimilate the western way of life, and the Greek mother is conflicted. Just as society is going through a crisis, so is the Greek family going through its own crisis”, the director noted.
Also about the subject of Greek uniqueness, but through a different approach, is To the Wolf by Christina Koutsospyrou and Aran Hughes. Set in an isolated village in the mountains of Nafpaktia, the documentary records the life of two shepherds and their families who are struggling to survive. Ms Koutsospyrou explained how she came to be in this inaccessible mountain region: “Since I come from Nafpaktia, I often vacationed over there. We were first inspired by the village’s cafe. I liked the way we saw human relationships built up there. Once the cafe closed down, things changed. People no longer had anywhere to go outside the house. So we found that this inaccessibility was interesting, and we decided to make the film”. Referring to how she chose the documentary’s two protagonists, she said: “I knew Yiorgos and his family a little bit. I met Pachnis and his wife by chance. They were incredible characters – aggressive in their speech, a little bit wild, but hiding beauty and love inside. We got to know them and we liked the way they communicated with the camera”. Aran Hughes, the co-director of Irish descent reminisced about the first time he went to the village in Nafpaktia: “I went there three years ago, on vacation. I liked the people of the village. For some strange reason I felt at home there”. The film touches on the issue of the crisis Greek society is going through, but as the two directors explained, they didn’t want to directly comment on this serious phenomenon: “We were more interested in focusing on the people and their lives. The crisis appears in the film through the media, through the use of television and the radio and that’ s how it reaches the audience”, Ms Koutsospyrou noted. The film takes place in the claustrophobic village houses, but at the same time the shots are marked by the dramatic cinematography. “While we were shooting, the region had one of the rainiest Aprils of the last 20 years. We were faced with a wet village and for this reason something poetic appears in the image, which we liked and kept. When we ran test shots, we saw that the light, both inside and outside the houses created an atmosphere all by itself, something medieval that we liked and which gave gravity to the characters”, the director explained. Asked about the way the locals welcomed him to their village, Aran Hughes answered: “there was a connection from the start. I don’t feel foreign at all there; I’ve grown used to it. Actually, I liked the way of life in the village so much that I might get a few goats and live there”. On this subject, Ms Koutsospyrou added: “We Greeks are warm people. It didn’t take much time for the locals to invite Aran to their homes. In the beginning I played the role of interpreter, but they soon found their own way of communicating, a kind a understanding grew between them that didn’t need my intervention”.
The Greek films program of the 15th TDF is financed by the European Union’s Regional Development Fund for Central Macedonia, 2007-2013.