All posts by Dimitra Kouzi

Young audiences in the spotlight

Through cinema and creative documentary – an inexhaustible genre – we get fascinating glimpses of the world in which we live, we take distance from what happens to us, and we connect with all that’s happening to others and concerns us.

Guided by this motto, the KinderDocs International Documentary Festival for Children and Young Audiences in Greece celebrated its eighth year, with a fascinating programme of award-winning, thought-provoking documentaries complemented by educational activities, exciting encounters with international guests, and in-depth discussions that push the boundaries. Over the course of seven days, from 16 through 22 October 2023, three different venues welcomed cinephiles, film professionals, and enthusiastic young people, all seeking to delve into the many different facets of reality offered by documentaries designed specifically for young audiences. From a diverse array of perspectives a shared agreement emerged: these films hold importance and relevance.

An exciting and vibrant festival week

This year’s edition of KinderDocs kicked off with a Special Screening centred around the theme In search of our place in the world. Part of our extensive tribute to Germany, the event was held on Tuesday 17 October at the Goethe-Institut Athen.

Premiering in Greece, the desktop documentary Dear Dad and the episodic observational documentary Either Way skillfully capture the diverse concerns and aspirations of today's young generation in Europe through very distinct formats. Coming from Germany, the four promising emerging filmmakers (Karoline Roessler, Eva Louisa Gemmer, Hannah Jandl, and Lea Tama Springer) engaged in a comprehensive discussion on identity politics and other explorations that arise on the cusp of contemporary adulthood. Friedrich Burschel, drawing from his extensive experience as the Director of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Office in Greece, delved into the socio-political dimensions embedded in the films' themes. Moderated by the filmmaker Dimitra Kouzi, KinderDocs director, this enlightening discussion engaged the audience, providing an opportunity to draw parallels with the Greek context.

KinderDocs Industry Event

KinderDocs’ first Industry Event, titled ‘Documentaries for children and young people: International Approaches and Perspectives,’ explored strategies for engaging the coveted young audience on Thursday 19 October, hosted at the Goethe-Institut Athen. 

Acclaimed film professionals and representatives from prestigious festivals in the Netherlands, Germany, and Greece illuminated their approaches in how to make creative documentaries appeal to young viewers. Each presentation provided valuable insights into this multifaceted subject, encompassing filmmaking, content, programming, production, distribution, financing, and partnerships. Crucially, the ensuing discussion prompted insightful questions and generated fresh perspectives on current challenges and future possibilities. After eight years of working with young audiences, KinderDocs posed fundamental questions: 

What issues does documentary deal with? Are there other issues to highlight? What limitations must documentary overcome in order to mature as a film genre? What is the range of budgets in youth documentary production? Why are most documentaries for children shorts? How can you work interdisciplinarily with documentary films? What is the landscape in distribution and European co-productions in the Youth category?

, the first to feature documentaries for young people in its competition, entrusted this year's programming to award-winning director Niki Padidar (Ninnoc, All you See). She joined the KinderDocs industry event in Athens to present her vision for the future of the genre for the first time in public and posed the question on how we define a film for young people.

Marije Veenstra, IDFA's Head of Education, highlighted psychosocial approaches  and underscored the significance of diversifying genres and themes in a festival's educational programme; Having an enormous experience through her work at IDFA, she especially emphasised the importance of school screenings.

Gudrun Sommer, Director, DOXS RUHR Festival, underlined the genuine effort required at the European level in order to tell stories about specific situations experienced by young people through documentaries. This approach aims to gain a deeper understanding of their concerns, which go beyond mainstream topics and issues.
Drawing on the experience of organising KinderDocs for eight years now, and a decade of international collaborations in audience development for award-winning films such as La Chana, dir. Lucija Stojevic (IDFA Audience Award 2016), Communion, dir. Anna Zamecka, (EFA Best Documentary 2017), Radiograph of a Family, dir. Firouzeh Khosrovani (Best Feature-Length Documentary IDFA 2021) Apolonia, Apolonia, dir. Lea Glob, (EFA Awards 2023), Dimitra Kouzi a filmmaker herself works on, ‘How can we directors/producers/festivals/curators introduce creative documentaries to a wider audience, including  reaching out to young audiences, which are regarded as the most challenging to engage?
Sophia Exarchou, director of internationally acclaimed films Park and Animal, addressed the spreading conservatism in art, extending beyond youth documentaries; she discussed the implicit adjustments and moderations necessary when presenting a film. The spotlight should be on effective methods of educating the audience.
Directors Martijn Blekendaal (The Man Who Looked Beyond The Horizon) and Susanne Kim (Cabinets of Wonder) concluded with a profoundly important message that could only serve as a motivation for the industry: ‘We must take young people seriously’ – this involves not acting on behalf of them, but listening to their needs and engaging them, creating compelling stories.
Finally, director Martijn Blekendaal who starts his inspiring manifesto about youth documentaries sayig: ‘youth documentary has an image problem: it is the most underrated genre. documentary makers don’t take it seriously’ stated, ‘Almost any subject is suitable for a youth documentary; it's about how you tell the story.’ 

KinderDocs Festival Programme for Schools

Throughout the week, schools – both private and public – joined in the festival programme specifically curated for educational screenings at the Benaki Museum.

Elementary school children had the unique opportunity to meet the director Susanne Kim after the screening of her film Cabinets of Wonder. The school children that attended Sustainability: The Present Becomes the Future had an exciting hands-on experience inspired by one of the three short films they watched, Ramboy. The film explores the relationship between a grandson and his grandfather, a farmer in Ireland. The educational activity, titled The Wool Cycle: From Tradition to Today, was crafted in collaboration with The Pokari Project.

Meanwhile, secondary-education pupils attended a special screening of Aurora's Sunrise, a multi-awarded animation documentary recounting the story of a young girl who survived the Armenian genocide. Schoolchildren had a memorable Q&A with filmmaker Martijn Blekendaal (The Man Who Looked Beyond the Horizon), talking about personal fears and the limits we impose on ourselves to avoid the risk of failure. Pupils and teachers alike left the Benaki Museum enthused, inspired, and eager to continue exploring more educational material in the classroom.

The KinderDocs Festival wrapped up with the motto: EVERYBODY KinderDocs!

KinderDocs Family Weekend

The 2023 festival’s edition culminated in a vibrant weekend, inviting audiences of all ages to two days filled with back-to-back screenings at the Benaki Museum/Pireos 138. A total of 17 award-winning documentaries from 10 countries were screened in 8 thematic sections, tackling contemporary issues such as sustainable development, lesser-known aspects of world history, alternative youth pursuits, gender issues, human rights, juvenile delinquency, and the fragility of our digital selves. The films sparked compelling questions and stimulated lively discussions with guests from Greece and other countries, featuring international and Greek filmmakers (Martijn Blekendaal, Tine Kugler, Günther Kurth, Maria Sidiropoulou), historians (Serko Kougioumtzian), psychologists (Elena Koutsopoulou, Eva Spinou, Marilena Spyropoulou), and start-uppers (The Pokari Project). At the same time, participants immersed themselves in the imaginative world of youth in a unique VR experience linked to the film Cabinets of Wonder.

‘Standing in front of the camera was a form of psychotherapy for Kalle (the protagonist of the film Kalle Kosmonaut).’ Günther Kurth, Director/Producer
I was confronted with my own insights, because my film (The Man Who Looked Beyond the Horizon) is about being afraid and overcoming the fears that feed you. The end can also be seen as a beginning.’
Martijn Blekendaal, Director

8th KinderDocs Festival:
A genuine celebration for all creative-documentary enthusiasts,
offering a generous glimpse of what's yet to come!

Aurora’s Sunrise (97’), Inna Sahakyan, Armenia, 2022
Cabinets of Wonder (79’), Susanne Kim, Germany, 2020
Colors of Tobi (81’), Alexa Bakony, Hungary, 2021
Dear Dad (17’), Karoline Roessler, Germany, 2021
Either Way (45'), Eva Louisa Gemmer, Hannah Jandl, Lea Tama Springer, Germany, 2021
Herd (37’), Omer Daida, Israel, 2021
Ιnsight (20’), Emma Braun, Austria, 2022
Kalle Kosmonaut (99’), Tine Kugler, Günther Kurth, Germany, 2022
My Family is a Circus (16’), Nina Landau, Belgium, 2020
My Hair (3’), Max Jacoby, Luxembourg, 2021
One in a Million (84’), Joya Thome, Germany, 2022
Ramboy (31’), Matthias Joulaud, Lucien Roux, Switzerland, 2022
See you Tomorrow (20’), Kevin Biele, Germany, 2022
The Man who Looked Beyond the Horizon (26’), Martijn Blekendaal, Netherlands, 2019
The School by the Sea (29’), Solveig Melkeraaen, Norway, 2021
View (5’), Odveig Klyve, Norway, 2021
Water, Wind, Dust, Bread (25’), Mahdi Zamanpoor Kiasari, Iran, 2021    

Watch our interviews with KinderDocs 2023 guests:  

Either Way (So Oder So, Germany, 2021, 45ʹ): Interview with the Filmmakers
KALLE KOSMONAUT interview with the directors, Günther Kurth & Tine Kugler

Stay tuned, there is more coming out of the editing room!

We are always delighted to engage in partnerships with like-minded professionals across Europe who share our vision. If you’d like to collaborate with Kouzi Productions, we would love to hear from you!


[email protected]
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A Decade with Alice

Dimitra Kouzi Interviews Isabela von Tent, Alice On & Off before the world premiere in the international competition at Krakow Film Festival 2024

Dimitra Kouzi: What made you stay with Alice and film her story for more than ten years?

Isabela von Tent: The story goes back to 2014. I was in film school and, for an exam, I needed to make a documentary portrait of someone interesting. I had just moved to Bucharest a year before and barely knew anyone outside of school. Back in my tiny hometown in Transylvania, things were different. So, I asked my classmates for suggestions on interesting subjects. One of them, who also happens to be the sound guy on the film, knew Dorian and thought he could be a good subject. I found out he had a very young wife, and that's how I met Alice.

DK: How did that first encounter go?

IT: We were both shy. At the first shoot, I was super polite, asking formal questions, and Dorian gave these long-winded replies. Alice was mostly taking care of their child. After a few days of filming with them, I finally built up the courage to ask Alice if she wanted to talk. She said yes, but only after asking Dorian's permission, which he casually gave.

DK: And what kept you coming back?

IT: In the beginning, it was the exoticness of their lifestyle that drew me in, something completely unfamiliar to me. It took me a while to realize that we had similar pasts. I was raised by grandparents too, and my childhood wasn't easy, not like hers, but I understood her feelings – that longing for love and guidance while growing up.

DK: What exactly made you curious about them?

IT: It was the first time I wasn't being told what to do. My grandparents were very strict, and here I had this chance to explore and find out who I really connected with. Meeting Alice was a special experience. It was a feeling in my gut, a strong instinct that told me I had to stick with her. After finishing the short film for school, I thanked them and moved on. Funny how things turned out, but I randomly ran into Dorian on the street later and asked him about Alice. He told me the sad story of their breakup and how Alice had to give up her studies at the Fine Arts University to focus on taking care of the family. This news coincided with needing another documentary project for my next school year. Slowly, the idea of making a feature film about their messy but captivating life together started to form.

DK: So, how much footage did you end up with after ten years?

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IT: Not so much – around 70 hours.

DK: And did the story come together in the editing room then?

IT: Exactly. A big turning point came when my short film about Alice won a National Film Academy Award. Irina (Malcea, Luna Film) is a member of the Academy, saw the film, and someone connected us. It was a lucky break because at 23, I wasn't prepared to approach producers on my own.

DK: How much did these ten years of involvement influence your own life and decisions? What kind of mark did that involvement leave on you?

IT: A lot. I think the biggest thing that happened to me during this process was that it helped me understand why I was acting the way I was. I mean, why I just wasn't myself. For a long time, I was very very upset with how my parents and grandparents treated me. Of course, therapy is an option, but this was my process, through Alice, through our developing relationship. She wasn't very forthcoming about her past. Letting her tell her story helped me understand my own. That's why I agreed to share a bit of my personal journey in the film. Training my patience was a challenge for me as well. Throughout this process, I was constantly honing my patience while surrounded by colleagues who were actively working on various projects and films.

DK: You made the brave decision to become part of the film.

IT: Yes, but that decision came later, I guess. It was made in the editing room, because that's when a lot of things became clear. Over these ten years, I think the awakening moment, the moment I truly understood what the film was about, came during editing.

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DK: How did the producer, Irina Malcea, help you get to that point?

IT: Irina fulfilled many roles for me. She was a mentor, a sister, and a very caring and loving friend.

DK: Did you ever feel like putting the camera down?

IT: No, I never felt like quitting. However, I was always very careful about how I filmed them. We have a lot of raw footage that's more aggressive, or grounded in reality, but I didn't include it because I didn't think it was essential.

DK: How about the scene where Aristo shuts his ears while they're fighting?

IT:  When I went home afterwards, I questioned myself a lot. Why didn't I put the camera down? Why didn't I call the police? The answer is, I think I was more scared than he was. For him, this was a kind of reality, and somehow, he knew how to cope with it. If I'd stopped filming, I would have chosen not to show a very important part of this child's life. Even though it's difficult to watch, and many people will criticize me for continuing to film, I'm more than happy to answer their questions and explain that I couldn't ignore this significant aspect of Aristo's life.

DK: How much responsibility do you feel towards Aristo in general? You've followed him from birth until now, when he's a young boy aged 11.

IT: I actually feel a lot of responsibility. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. I've heard many opinions on how to act or behave with your characters after filming is complete. But I choose to behave like a human. It's important to me to be part of his development, as much as he allows me to be, especially now that Dorian has just been diagnosed with cancer. We found out two weeks ago [April 2024]. So now I'm quite involved in what's happening with Aristo.

DK: That is very sad to hear. So what's happening with Aristo now?

IT: He's actually doing okay. He's continuing his martial-arts training, which has helped him develop a lot. He's changed a lot. He's a teenager, of course, a young teenager just starting his journey through those rough teenage years, but he's changed significantly. He looks healthier and more energetic. This sport has really helped him. I connected him with his trainer and helped him start training. It's been very beneficial for him. That's one way I'm helping him. Also, after his mother disappeared, I never stopped searching for her. We searched for her a lot.

DK: What other ethical challenges did you have to overcome? How did you manage to balance being an artist with making your film?

IT: It wasn't an easy journey to overcome the ethical questions. But most of the time, when I faced ethical dilemmas, I tried to imagine how I would feel if I were the character being filmed. I did this a lot and asked myself, 'Would I be comfortable with this?' We participated in many workshops where I shared my thoughts and fears with others, especially at Ex-Oriente and the Doku-Rough Cut Boutique. Those discussions helped us solidify the understanding that respecting the characters was the right approach. The rule, I think, was always to respect your character – respect Alice as a friend, respect her as a woman, and keep that in mind at all times.

DK: Would you say that your protagonists also learned something through this process?

IT: I want to believe that, after seeing the film, something changed within Alice. It was an hour and a half of roller-coaster emotions because it was the first time they were together in the same room, watching their lives unfold. I saw a shift in her, a sense that change might be coming. I don't know if it will happen in two months or three, but for the first time, she said to me, 'Thank you.' Just hearing her say 'Thank you' – it was very deep and heartfelt. She looked me in the eyes and said it, and that was very emotional for me.

DK: In general, Alice was very self-reflective in the film. I was very impressed by that. Do you think that's just how she is, or was it the filming process and your questions that brought that out?

IT: I think it was a combination of both her personality and her needs. The documentary process, the filming itself, became a way for her to be heard. She felt trapped in a family dynamic where she was solely responsible for providing – for the child, for Dorian – and her own needs were left behind. Talking to me, and having most of our conversations focus on her, I believe, created a balance that allowed her to be heard and to talk about herself.

DK: So, how would you describe Alice now that the film is finished? Now that you have some distance and perspective.

IT: I think Alice is an unloved girl, an unloved child trapped in a young woman's life. There's a lot of beauty within her that often goes unseen. She has a lot to offer. I saw the hope and the spark of joy within her. I truly wish that it will come back and that she will find the strength to overcome this very dark period in her life. She's vulnerable, but at the same time, she's powerful. Somehow, through her craziness and her courage to express her feelings authentically, she's grown. I saw the light in her paintings, a place where she felt safe. I saw the light when she played with her son.

DK: Can you reflect on the film's logline: 'How can you be loved if nobody has taught you how?'

IT:  It just emerged instantly. Mirroring myself through Alice's story, when I asked myself what I was missing in my personal development and what Alice was missing, the word 'love' came to mind.

DK: You refer to Dorian as an anti-hero.

IT: I appreciate him a lot for what he did for the child and how he helped Alice. When they met, she was in a very dark place, full of drugs and alcohol. He gave her hope. He had the emotional space to listen to her and encourage her to find a better path. He also gave her the space she needed to do that. But at some point, his darker side emerged – perhaps selfishness. He can be selfish when he wants to be, when his own interests take priority over their common ground. Interestingly, he was very aware of the camera.

DK: In what sense?

IT: In terms of his behavior. For example, remember the scenes where they were fighting? He was very quiet, uncharacteristically silent. I think, because he knew I was there, he put some limits on himself to avoid looking bad. During workshops, many people felt that Dorian wasn't all right, that he didn't always make good choices. On the other hand, you can't entirely blame him. We have beautiful footage of him caring for the child and taking care of Alice when she was younger. And after she left, he continued to care for the child. It's difficult to solely blame him for not always being honest.

DK: Where is Alice today? What's she doing?

IT: She has a new boyfriend, and from what I understand, he also struggles with drug addiction. She still visits her son often. I was surprised to see her at Dorian's place when I went to show them the film. She doesn't have a phone or internet access now, so I had no idea she would be there. I found her to be in a much better state than the last time I saw her, which was after an overdose. She was in a very bad shape then.

DK: Do you think there's a chance she can be saved or escape this path?

IT: She can escape it if she wants to. I can try to help her in a million different ways, but if she doesn't want, she won't be saved. 

DK: What emotions do you hope the audience experiences when they watch your film?

IT: I want them to question themselves. I've learned that uncomfortable feelings can reveal a very beautiful truth.

DK: Thank you, Isabela. It was a pleasure. I feel like I know you a bit better now. 

IT: Thank you for giving me this opportunity.



Isabela Von Tent, Director, DoP

Isabela's filmmaking journey began after she studied film directing and journalism.  She initially served as an assistant director on both national and international productions, collaborating with renowned Romanian filmmakers like Radu Jude and Tudor Giurgiu. These experiences provided invaluable training, but it was Isabela's unique perspective on reality and her passion for storytelling that drew her to documentary filmmaking.

Her debut in this genre, a short documentary, garnered the prestigious Romanian National Film Award. Driven by a desire to explore non-classical approaches to documentary storytelling, Isabela embarked on her first feature film. Shot over a span of ten years, this ambitious project led Isabela to participate in influential international training programs like Docu Rough Cut Boutique, ExOriente, and ZagrebDox Pro.


All the Names that Start with C (2016), 14 min

short fiction

  • Festivals: Anonimul IFF, Romania 2016; STIFF Student International Film Festival, Croatia 2016

Chat with Alice (2015)

short documentary, 20 min

  • Cinemaiubit ISFF 2015 Awards: Best Short Documentary
  • Gopo Awards 2016: Best Short Documentary Film
  • Visegrad Film Forum: Case Study
  • Alter-Native 24, Tg Mures: Official Selection
  • STIFF International Student Film Festival, Croatia: Official Selection
  • Toamna La Voronet International Film Festival: Special Mention
  • Astra Film, Sibiu, Romania, 2016: Official Selection
  • DocuArt Fest, Bucharest, Romania 2016: Official Selection

Alice (2014)

Short documentary, 7 min

  • Cinemaiubit ISFF 2014, Victor Iliu Prize for Best Director of Short Documentary Film
  • Premiile Gopo 2015: Nominated for Best Short Documentary Film

Girl’s Stories, Girlhood Magic


Director Aga Borzym talking with Dimitra Kouzi

DIMITRA KOUZI: You introduce yourself as a director (once), animator (in-between), editor (usually), mother (by choice), engineer (by accident), and girl (from the beginning). How did this interesting combination influence the creative process for ‘Girls’ Stories’?

AGA BORZYM: I wrote it as a joke, but it’s true. That directing is the first time I’m doing this in this project. I’ve been an editor for a long, long time, but I was editing shorter things. But my dream was to edit a documentary movie because I thought the editor has a lot to say in the creative process. I came across this documentary, I was really interested in it. And for a Polish person, it was something really new, because we don’t have such films. And it’s not so popular to have a documentary where the protagonists are kids. Generally, Polish documentaries like to show really tough topics.

It is true. Like Communion, for instance.

It’s a great movie, of course.

People often reduce the film to just one story, about the first menstruation. Which it is not.

Menstruation was something with which I really connected, with this body thinking, and I realised I wasn’t doing that when I was a young girl. And nobody talked with me about a lot of stuff. And the body was somehow like a taboo. Even my mother, who wasn’t a person who didn’t want to talk, yet I think she didn’t know how to do this.

In the beginning, a lot of people were like, are you crazy? What do you want to show? And what do you want to talk about? And I thought, yes, these subjects are very fragile. And it’s a taboo in Poland. So maybe we should see animation, not faces. And I was in really nice workshops, where there were documentary-based people, and they like animation, but they want to see people, they want to see faces. They were like pushing me, come on, just try to show protagonists, try differently. They were challenging me, so I started to shoot different girls with my friend, Karla Baraniewicz, the DOP, and we did three groups of girls. I thought the best idea would be to shoot friends or sisters of similar ages. I was looking for that. I was also looking for girls who were before their first menstruation, who were maybe during this (this was the hardest), and who were a few years after. So we did it.

Did you cast them?

Yes. I even did a post on Facebook. It was more like to show other people, my friends, that I was doing this project. Sometimes it was nice because I was talking on Facebook. Facebook is from 13 years old. So, of course, the girls who wanted to talk with me, because I also did some interviews on the phone, looking for the protagonists, they were more like 16, 17, 18. They were older but they were saying some nice, interesting stuff. It was more like this project could be showing those really different aspects of this special moment in your life. But, of course, these girls which we have in our film in the end, they were the first girls we shot.

So we had this luck somehow that the first girls, even though I kept looking afterwards, the first girls were, I don’t know how to say it – brilliant. And this first scene we have in the film, it was just happening in front of our eyes, and we were amazed with Kachna (the DOP). I just wanted to talk with them. And this boy just came!

This first scene, where he asks, ‘What are you talking about?’.

Yes. We don’t see it, but it’s Zuzia’s brother, because he was a little bit jealous; he wanted to play with them as normal. But they told him, no, no, we are making a movie. Sorry, you can’t join us. So he dressed up, ninja style. And the girls were so in the movie and that we are shooting a documentary about girl stuff. They didn’t know at the start that this was Janek. This was really funny.

I think that the important thing is that you manage to connect with them. This is the key. This is why this film is also for adults. How did you win their trust and not just become a kind of ambassador for grown-ups?

I think with Jakota at first it was quite easy because I knew her. Maybe I wasn’t a really close person to her because I was closer to her mother. But of course I knew her from when she was born, and she knew me and she felt quite safe. Maybe it was also this age that she was really joyful, she really liked it when we were there with the camera, she really enjoyed it. She was excited. At the start it was quite easy, and she was very open. I didn’t push her to any subject.

How involved were the girls in the storytelling?

I was really calm and just looked very quiet. What Jakota wanted, maybe, what it can be, I was talking with her, of course, and then having an idea: OK, you have this friend and maybe we can film with her. OK, she’s coming to you for a sleepover. So, of course, there was the material, we were looking for some friends of hers, boys, girls, because she’s this girl who has a lot of friends. In the film, we see a few of them, but she’s a really social person. And she’s also a person who does a lot of stuff, sports stuff. At the start, in the script, even, she had this idea that she would make a football team, a girl football team, in her school, because at that time she was into football. She’s a person who does a lot but also changes very quickly.

How did you crystallise the issues and how did you write the script?

The script was quite challenging because a lot of people were asking me, OK, what is the goal? I was also a little bit not sure, of course, they are kids and then they become teenagers. But what does this transition mean? The subject was the two young girls, kids, changing to adults, I mean to teenagers. And the subject was what is changing in their life when they are becoming more visible as a woman? So, yes, that was the idea which I was looking for.

I was looking for the stories of Jagoda and Zuzia alone and thinking, OK, we will have their stories because they are friends, but they are not always together and they have different lives and their schools and they have different friends. They are more like those friends from the neighbourhood and they are not together all the time, they can talk about that. And, of course, those subjects sometimes were subjects which I asked them or just provoked somehow the idea that they can talk. It was good with them that they really like to talk together. They were unique in that, because even when we were shooting Jagoda with her friends from school, it was totally different. They didn’t talk so much. They didn’t complement each other. They were more childish because Jagoda is younger. But with Zuzia, you don’t feel this because she really likes that Zuzia probably challenged her somehow. So, I couldn’t imagine what they would say because they were saying so much stuff, sometimes so mature that I was really amazed myself. There were simple subjects which I just wanted to ask them about menstruation, their body changing, but I didn’t want to push them. I was really waiting for what they would say. And maybe I was provoking those subjects. But sometimes, of course, they were just talking by themselves.

What was the process of you directing them?

I was looking for situations. It could be that something could happen, Jagoda with her friends, with boys. I knew that they spent time with another girl, whom we don’t see a lot in the film. I knew that they were doing this stuff, more doing, not talking, stuff like skateboarding, going to the river, all this which we feel we all did somehow, maybe not everyone, but it’s very connected to this moment of life. And there is some freedom and some childish feeling still. And with Zuzia, I was just looking more for the places we could go and talk. I had notes, which subjects we could discuss. And I was looking for what’s going on there, what they are talking about now. Sometimes we did sleepovers, we would just meet at Zuzia’s place or Jagoda’s place. And of course, a lot of time we met in the playground. We did some walks in the neighbourhood, going for ice cream. 

In the script, sometimes the stories didn’t work out somehow, this football thing. OK, with Zuzia, I had the school, she had exams, she was overwhelmed – a lot of stuff was on her shoulders. And she’s in this nunnery school. I knew we had to do some mornings, when she’s waking very, very early with her brother. And it was more like to get the make up, the invisible makeup to go. Of course, I was interviewing them a lot also.And some interviews I also did after the whole shooting, I knew that I needed more story to be set, because at the start I thought it would be more observational. But then it came out that maybe we need more voice off. It was a kind of collage, I would say. There was this idea that she goes asking questions to adults, and we thought there would be more of that. But I wanted those questions to come from her. After, I don’t know, one year, she told me like, oh, no, this is so childish. I don’t want to do it anymore. I thought, OK, we will start to do this and make a different situation like the talk with her father. I had some questions, but what she asked him, I mean, what she said, I didn’t know, I didn’t expect. I really had this great protagonist, I knew that when I put something in their head somehow they will manage to transform it somehow.

What were you like at that same age?

Oh, I was very, very shy. I was more childish for sure. Of course, there was no social media like today. Yeah, I think I was really shy with boys, for example. And with Jagoda I love that she’s so spontaneous with all the people she meets. And with Zuzia I love that she talks about the world in a very funny way, but very wise also.That you are laughing and you’re also reflecting. They are so special.

Do you think that Jagoda and Zuzia are representative of the average Polish teenage girl?

No, no, no. I think it would be a lie if I would try to say yes. No, they aren’t. Of course, maybe they are average girls from big cities and from those good, like typical good families somehow. But maybe on the other hand they are special together, because of how they talk and what reflections they have. Sometimes 30-year-old women say, hey, come on, they are thinking like me. How come? Of course, probably they are reflecting some parents’ ideas, or they read a lot, Zuzia reads a lot. They aren’t average.

Is this why it also works for adults?

Maybe that’s why sometimes adults like to watch it because they have those ideas, and they are teenagers and you’re amazed, like, oh, my God, I’m thinking the same. They were like, maybe it’s not only for young people; maybe it can also be for adults. 

But did you feel, because it was your first film, insecure by many different opinions and many different people who said this and that?

Yes, it was like that. Actually, I’m an editor and I’ve been one for a long time, but I’d never edited a feature film before. From the start I said I want to edit this, and everyone was saying, no, it’s not professional. Don’t do this. Please don’t do this to yourself. And I was like, what are you talking about? No, I want to edit my own film at last. But then I understood it’s really hard to forget…

To have distance?

Yes, to have this distance. And of course, and now I understand it. And I got some really nice consultants. But one of my consultants was a really good editor and really well-known person. And at the start, it was really hard when we did something because we had this three-day consultation. And after all, we had like a…

… rough cut?

Yes. Of course, it was still during filming. We didn’t have the ending and other stuff. But I really needed time to understand that I want to change some stuff. Because I was like, oh, my God, he’s such a great editor.And maybe I should leave it because he said it.

But of course, it took time for me to understand I want it different, and I want to change some stuff. It was like I had to…

… follow your instinct.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

I’m sure that your relationship also evolved during the course of shooting the film and it affected also the final project, not only the shooting. Can you elaborate a bit on how your relationship evolved?

With Jakoda, it was really, really easy to just be with her. She loved the camera, and she could spend time with me and Kachna (the DOP), just walking around, doing things, and talking. But when she started to become more of a teenage girl in her eyes, I began to be more like a mother’s friend, an adult. Also, I think she started to feel insecure about the subject of menstruation. At the start, she was very open and didn’t care. For her, it was a normal subject. But then, someone at school said, ‘oh, really, you’re doing this movie, and there is this menstruation subject. So, she became influenced by others. It’s that phase when you start listening more to your friends than your parents and stop caring about what your parents say, becoming more concerned with what your friends and people your age think. 

So, I had to step back a bit and give her time. I was waiting for her to come around, and during that time, I was also more focused on Zuzia’s story. After a few months, Jakoda changed again and wanted to be more involved in the process. It was a continuous cycle. So, it was sinusoid, somehow. And, of course, I made some mistakes sometimes. For example, I asked some boys about menstruation. It wasn’t necessarily a mistake, but it turned out to be because they were so shy about the subject. One of the boys, who happened to be a close friend of Jakoda, didn’t want to be in front of the camera for half a year. I thought maybe I shouldn’t do this so quickly at the start. We needed time for him to forget about it. With boys, we relied more on observation. And they’re different, aren’t they? 

Would you say that boys, in general, approach this subject differently?

Yes, I think it’s not easy for them either. In school, they often segregate into groups, boys and girls, and talk about gender-specific topics. While segregating might help due to shyness, perhaps they should also discuss what girls go through during this time or what they feel. The same applies to girls; they should know what’s going on with boys. It’s a challenge in Poland; people often forget that it’s okay to address these subjects with boys. 

I believe this is a universal issue, not unique to Poland. How did you deal with the possibility that Jakoda and Zuzia might dislike the film in a few years or be embarrassed by it?

I was quite apprehensive about that. But on the other hand, it made me more cautious not to push them. While making a documentary, there’s a temptation to condense the subject.

It’s my first film, and it was really like stepping back and looking at them. But I felt that sometimes you may need to step back and give them space to express themselves. I believed they should be the first ones to decide how they wanted to present the film, after the shooting. We watched the film together, the three of us –me, Jakoda, and Zuzia, at Jakoda’s house. It was crucial for them to see if there was anything they didn’t want to share with their parents. I wanted them to feel that I was with them first and foremost. Of course, their parents were involved, but the focus was on the girls.

Is this the main difference when making a film for young people, that they become the primary decision-makers on the content and the final film?

In the end, they really loved everything, and we only removed one scene because Jakoda’s mother wasn’t sure about it. I understood that it might make someone feel uncomfortable, not the girls themselves, but someone they talked about in that scene.

Tell me about the animation. Did you create it yourself? Why did you incorporate these animation clips between scenes?

No, the animations were created by Monika Kuczyniecka, an animator with years of experience, specialising in clay animation. I love her work. The ideas were mine, and we had a script, but we collaborated closely, and sometimes, we made changes based on Monika’s suggestions. It was a wonderful collaboration.

The initial idea was that the animations would serve as metaphors and sometimes lighten the subject. They could also address topics that were challenging to discuss directly, like changes in the body. At times, they would convey emotions. It was more about conveying feelings than telling a story. Clay was something that I was dreaming about because it’s malleable, it’s childish work, and also has structure, like the human body. There’s a connection with the body. At the beginning, while I was making a trailer and we had a few days of shooting, I made a few suggestions for animations from the internet, just to show the feeling. I felt that it was really nice, clay added depth to the scenes and served as metaphors, nightmares, they often show us the subject of the scene before or after. It was like colour, sometimes. Editing this is sometimes quite hard… It’s like a moment from life. 

And what about the song, ‘Essa, Essa’? Was it written especially for the film?

Yes, it was, it was my dream to have a song written specifically for the film. Initially, I wanted a pop, empowering song for girls. The girls often used the word ‘Essa’ during their conversations. It became a sort of teenage word in Poland. It was interesting because when we first used it in the film, it became the teenage word of the year in Poland. It’s typical for teenagers to have such trends. Some people were concerned that we used it in the movie. However, this word was already being used by the girls themselves, especially as they transitioned into teenagehood. I think it’s associated with joy, relaxing, being cool. It’s hard to translate it into a single word. The word existed before; it wasn’t invented for the film. Basia Wrońska, a Polish songwriter and musician, crafted the lyrics based on what she heard from the girls while watching the movie. The song is also about friendship, which I adore.

Girls’ Stories has already seen success in Poland. What are your hopes for the film’s future?

I’m thrilled that the film will be available for educational projects, which makes it watchable in schools. It’s great to see it in that context. I’ve noticed that when children watch it in class, it offers a different experience compared to watching it with their parents. They become more reserved during discussions afterward. Maybe it can make a difference, encouraging them to open up.
The reactions have been varied. Some boys asked when we’d make a film for them, like a second part for boys. Some girls felt empowered by the film. In Poland, it’s not common to openly discuss such topics, especially in films. It’s a blend of conservatism and Catholicism, exacerbated by the current very right-wing government. Women’s rights are underrepresented, and young people are becoming aware of it. One girl told me she was amazed it was a Polish movie and that a boy was discussing women’s rights in it, giving her hope. Jagoda’s school may not be typical, but there are many young people who want to bring about change.

Did making this film change you?

It was quite a journey for me. When I was starting, I was really feeling insecure. That’s probably why I thought that I would make a short documentary for kids. And at the start, I thought it would be a docu-animation, because I’ve been doing animation for a few years now.

For sure, making this film has changed me. I feel more confident that I’m capable of making films now, more secure to create documentary films. I hope it was not just this one. It’s a growing experience, I feel more sure of my ideas. I feel more like a filmmaker.

I’m sure you’ll go on to make more great films. You are a great storyteller.

Follow the film on sm

‘Norwegian Democrazy’ international Premiere @ Hot Docs 2024! Interview

Bård Kjøge Rønning and Fabien Greenberg (Directors/Producers)

Interview by Dimitra Kouzi

Freedom of speech played out at the street level: A deep dive into the extreme Islam-critical group SIAN (Stop the Islamization of Norway) and the chaos they cause.

‘Norwegian Democrazy’ explores the clash between free speech and hate speech. It follows the controversial Islam-critical group SIAN and their protests, which spark heated debates and require heavy police protection. We see both sides - SIAN's leader and their opponents - as the film probes the future of free speech in a democracy.

1. What motivated you to delve into the subject matter of SIAN (Stop the Islamization of Norway) and its impact on Norwegian society?

Our initial idea was to dig into the history of integration in Norway with an optimistic approach and angle it towards freedom of speech and cultural expression, but we soon grasped the need for more immediate and current material. At the time, the BLM movement was roaring, and SIAN’s demonstrations caused a huge chaos. So, we decided to seek access there and reshuffle our storyboard. 

2. Could you describe the process of gaining unique access to SIAN leader Lars Thorsen and his partner Fanny Bråten for the documentary?

We phoned Lars, the leader, and arranged for a first meeting. We laid out our premise and intention, and slowly gained access into the organisation and its core members. They were very skeptical at first, but after each time meeting them they loosened up and let us be present with them almost anywhere, both privately and in the public sphere.

3. In the film, you explore the concept of freedom of speech in relation to SIAN's activities. How do you perceive the boundaries of freedom of speech in such contentious contexts?

Freedom of speech is highly regarded in Norway, which is considered to be one of the “freest” countries in the world. Article 100 in the Norwegian Constitution makes it the responsibility of the State to protect freedom of speech. Since Thorsen’s message, and even the burning of a holy book, is legal, the police must protect him, according to the law. When you regard freedom of speech in that equation, have we gone too far? Are we in fact protecting abuse of freedom of speech? Where do we, as a society, draw a red line? Should we let extreme right wingers roam freely, spreading hate? Are we going from Democracy to Democrazy?

4. The film touches on the parallels between SIAN's rhetoric and the tragic history of right-wing extremism in Norway, particularly the actions of Anders Behring Breivik. How do you navigate the sensitivity of this comparison?

This is indeed sensitive. We have seen what Breivik did, and what certain extremist individuals are capable of. Our main focus was an observational approach to the origin of hate, and how the most heated debate of our time plays out at the street level, a deep dive into how freedom of speech works in turbulent times, and the health of our democracy. We were definitely aware of the Breivik parallel, and it scared us, but we tried to stick to our focus and goals with the documentary.   

5. Axel, a young counter-demonstrator, is one of the main characters in your film. What drew you to follow his story, and what insights did you gain from his perspective?

We certainly needed a dramaturgical and narrative counterweight to SIAN. Axel is a bright and brave young man who, after thinking it through, chose to be part of the film, and we are very happy for that. Axel was also perfect because he is a liberal leftist with a very open mind and cognitive horizon. 

6. Can you discuss the challenges you faced while filming scenes of SIAN's rallies and demonstrations, considering the potential for confrontation and violence?

Oh yes! It was unpleasant and hectic at times. Tear gas, fences being thrown, punches given. And a lot of eyes were on us, being up there, with them, filming. For us, moving from the SIAN stand to the crowd of young counter-demonstrators, and back to the SIAN stand, we had to move and behave in a very low key and keep a low profile, but also boldly when needed.    

7. SIAN's activities have been described as racist and provocative by many. How did you approach portraying their ideology and actions while maintaining journalistic integrity?

We do mostly observational documentaries. In the case of “Norwegian Democrazy,” we weren’t sure if we could do it without doing interviews or engaging in critical dialogue with the main characters. But we chose to go for it, because we believed it would make a truer and deeper film. We did numerous interviews with lawyers, supreme court judges, politicians, and experts, but chose not to use them. We would risk to lose the immediate dramatic feeling in the film. The editing process, with Linn Heidi Slåttøy, was very helpful, in terms of making ethical choices with time and thorough thinking.

8. What do you hope viewers will take away from "Norwegian Democrazy" regarding the current state of democracy and freedom of speech in Norway and beyond?

We hope the audience leaves the cinemas eager to discuss and engage in debate. Democracy means so many different things. At a time where democracy declines in many countries, we want to foster an open debate that can give people a deeper understanding of democracy’s pillars and the risks it’s facing.

9. You have described the film as offering a "rough rollercoaster ride" experience for viewers. How did you balance the emotional impact with the need to convey complex political and social issues?

We gave it a lot of thought during the editing process. Here, we wanted to make the cinematic experience strong and intense, to create emotional impact. We also tried to be notoriously tidy with laws and paragraphs, and precise with our indirect gaze towards these topics.

10. As directors, what ethical considerations did you prioritise when making decisions about how to present sensitive topics like hate and racism in Europe?

We wanted to do it up close, on the street level, for the intensity and realness of it, because we wanted to make a good film, with a strong impact. There were many elements of doubt on the ethical side: privacy, young people, possible threats, and so on. The blurring is a measure we took in this regard. We also have tens of good scenes that we cut out, due to an image or content that could possibly be harmful or dangerous for someone.

11. "Norwegian Democrazy" has received critical acclaim and has been showcased at prestigious film festivals. How do you anticipate its reception internationally, particularly in regions where similar extremist movements exist?

We hope the film creates a debate on freedom of speech that is open and healthy. We want to create a debate on hate, on racism, on prejudice, on how a modern state deals with all this. We do believe its reception will be mainly positive, but it will for sure spark controversy and be criticised, as well. We have felt it in the Q & A’s, lots of hands in the audience going up in the air – like in a heated classroom.

12. What role does documentary filmmaking play in fostering understanding and dialogue around contentious issues like those explored in "Norwegian Democrazy"? 

We believe the documentary is becoming increasingly important. Reality is getting distorted in our world: AI, algorithms, fake news, social media, people read much less, woke/anti-woke, and so on… A good documentary has a topical quality about it, which is solid and indispensable. A good documentary shows; it doesn’t tell. A good documentary has the possibility to change people and their behaviour – that is our motivation with every film, to make a change somehow. Let’s see how it goes this time.

International Premiere: HotDocs, Toronto, 2 May 2024 (selected for THE CHANGING FACE OF EUROPE)
European Premiere: DokFest Munich, 6 May 2024
Norwegian Premiere: Human IDFF, 5 March 2024

Sales and distribution

Acquisitions l Journeyman Pictures l T: +44 (0)2087866050 l M +44(0)7789381184


Festival Distribution Norwegian Film Institute 

Festival Contact Elisabeth Aalmo, Norwegian Film Institute 

[email protected]

+47 932 66 554


Lie to Me Interview with Bår Tyrmi and Dag Mykland

by Dimitra Kouzi

Bår Tyrmi, director and co-editor, ‘Lie to me’

Dag Mykland, producer and co-director, ‘Lie to me’

Dimitra Kouzi: What initially drew you to the story of the OneCoin scam?
Dag Mykland (D): It’s actually quite a story. I remember the date well. It was 6 June 2020, and I was walking to the office, when I got a phone call from an unknown number. I picked up, and this guy just told me: ’My name is Bjørn Bjercke. I’ve sent you two messages on LinkedIn. Google me, and I’ll call you back in 20 minutes.’ I remember thinking: ‘Who the hell is this?’

Bår Tyrmi (B): Yes, I remember you phoned me just after that. We both googled and decided this was extremely interesting.

D: That phone call sent us straight down the OneCoin rabbit hole! 

Bjørn Bjercke is a central character. How did you gain his trust and convince him to participate in the documentary?

B: We had previously made two other feature docs on blockchain technology: 'The Bitcoin Experiment' in 2015 and 'The Code of Trust' in 2019. They both screened on the national broadcaster NRK, and Bjørn had watched them. He liked our approach to the technology and how we  made documentaries. He basically chose us to make the film about his story.

D: It was how we portrayed and explained crypto technology that caught his attention. I guess making hundreds of movies for educational purposes back in the day really paid off.

'Lie to Me' follows Bjørn Bjercke for over three years. What were the biggest challenges in capturing his journey in terms of your or other people’s safety? Did you as filmmakers ever feel unsafe or under threat?

D: Bjørn has received serious threats to himself and his family, and is still living at a secret address. This meant we could never disclose the real locations when filming, and we had to keep the shooting dates and places secret.

B: I remember meeting Jamie Bartlett with Bjørn in London. He is the journalist behind the award-winning BBC podcast 'The Missing Cryptoqueen,' and has been researching the OneCoin case for years. He had his doubts whether Bjørn was exaggerating the security issues. But after Jamie started receiving threats himself, he told us he was so happy to be protected by the BBC. That made him think how brave Bjørn was to stand up to these people.

D: We have not received threats. But when we went to the Stockholm event in 2022 and confronted the OneCoin leaders, they were quite angry with us for spreading 'lies.' But it’s really Bjørn, Jonatan, Duncan, Layla, Daniel, and Amjad who have been the brave ones. And for us as documentarists, such discoveries are golden!

How did you distinguish the truth from all those lies while doing the research? 

D: That is really difficult because the information about OneCoin comes from so many different sources: social media, blogs, online newspapers, court documents, emails, chat groups… There are so many stakeholders. Some want to clear their name, some want their money back, some want to keep on scamming, some want to bring criminals to justice. They all have their own side to the story.

B: You have to double-check the information.  When the same facts appear in different places, different sources and stakeholders, you can kind of conclude that they are true. It’s very time-consuming, and you can never be one hundred per cent sure that what you’ve found is true. You have to go for what is plausible and most likely to be true.

D: I remember us saying, 'It’s hard to spot a scam in a room full of liars.' That was our working motto while researching this story. But after working on it for more than three years, we have formed quite a good picture of what really happened.

The film explores the psychology behind the scam. Can you elaborate on the specific techniques used by OneCoin to manipulate investors?

D: The people behind OneCoin were very clever; you have to give it to them. It was the first scam that really combined crypto with multi-level marketing. At a scale never seen before. Erica says in our film, 'Not only are you gonna get rich, but if you get your friend to invest, you'll get loads more money, and if you get other people to invest, you'll get lots more money.' It really hit people in a psychological weak spot. That, combined with the insecurity and hype around Bitcoin’s  investment potential – it really hit hard.

B: The combination of social psychology with branding, group and cult mentality, and prospects of getting rich quick was brilliant. If you just add a bit of scarcity or exclusivity to it, it creates a massive FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s all very emotional; it gets you hooked. And that cocktail spread like wildfire.

In terms of storytelling, can you elaborate on the specific techniques used to build the story? 
B: A challenge with ‘Lie to Me’ was that it is a complex, multi-character story. It stretches over a period of eight years, and the starting point of the film is in the middle of that timeline. But to fully understand who these people are and the plot, we take leaps forward and backward in time… We worked a lot with the narrative structure, when to provide and when to withhold information. Our editor, Jo Eldøen, has really done a fantastic job structuring the film.

We wanted to keep our audience in suspense throughout the 90 minutes, and make them feel the same way as we did while we worked with the film. When we thought we knew where the story was going, a new surprise would pop up out of nowhere. It is a real rollercoaster!

That emotionality was one of the things we tried to bring to the film through the use of archive footage and graphics.

D: It’s been a thrilling ride for sure. We also worked with the scriptwriter Siw Rajendram Eliassen as a consultant for the narrative. She really helped us figure out the main sentences of what we were looking into. That helped us when we had to make decisions on the fly.

B: I remember her saying, 'Somebody has to die in the fourth act.'

Does anyone die?

D: I guess you have to watch the film to find out.

The banker Duncan Arthur, a former OneCoin insider, is also featured. How did his perspective contribute to the film's narrative?

D: Duncan has been extremely important for the film. On one hand, he gave us a lot of inside information we could use to verify the actual story. He also made us realise that this story is kind of a tragedy for everybody involved, including the people behind it. Everybody loses on a scam like this.

On the other hand, his dubious persona impersonates the OneCoin scam, in a way. He’s selling, funny, open, and you kind of want to trust him – but can you?

The documentary highlights the international reach of the OneCoin scam. How did you approach filming across different countries?

B: The OneCoin scam is global, so we soon realised we would have to travel. We would research online, and reach out to people that had expressed interesting views in chat rooms or online publications. Sometimes it would take months to get a reply. A lot of people have been hesitant to participate. It is quite an undertaking to come forward in a case like this. It was also challenging because we never offered sign-off fees to participate in our film as many other production companies do. We wanted people to talk with us for the right reasons.

D: But when a person finally agreed, we would act fast to secure the shoot before they change their mind. This has been quite risky, economically, because we are a small production company on a low budget. Luckily most trips ended in solid stories and have ended up in the final edit.

'Lie to Me' is troubling because the scam persists despite being exposed. What do you hope viewers will learn from this aspect of the story?

B: Even if it can be shameful to realise that you have been scammed, it is never too late to pull out. Too many people continue just because they do not want to realise that they have been wrong.

D: It’s sad to hear and see all these people who have lost money but still have hope. I guess when you’re too far down a scam like this, it’s sometimes easier to accept another lie than to face the truth.

You mentioned the film utilises graphics and archive footage. Can you give some examples of how you chose them and how  these elements enhance the storytelling?

B: We wanted to reflect some of the tackiness and larger-than-life nature of the whole OneCoin environment in the visual style of the film. The OneCoin people live on lies, and that is reflected in how they present themselves. Gold, champagne, fast cars, Hollywood glam… but in a tacky way. This has inspired us in choosing the archive and the use of stock footage, and editing the sequences as compact film trailers.

D: Internally, we have referred to the archive sequences as 'film-poems.' We are not so concerned to illustrate exactly what the different persons in the film are talking about, but more about finding the feeling and deeper message in what they say.

The production spanned three and a half years. Were there any surprising discoveries or developments during filming? 

D: Too many! Basically we set out to make a retrospective film about a fake cryptocurrency already exposed as a scam, with the people behind it in jail or missing. Yet we ended up following an ongoing scam for more than three years… so the film was full of surprising discoveries for us. Even now, there’s new developments in the case against the leaders of OneCoin. This story never ceases to surprise us.

How did you work together as the  film’s two directors? 

B: Dag and I have been working together for almost 15 years, and for the last 10 years we have run the Hacienda production house together. In most productions, we cooperate on scriptwriting, production, directing, and editing. We have a saying that no ideas are too small, irrelevant, or crazy to be discussed.

Investigative documentaries are hard and expensive to make. What would make your work easier? 

D: We’re lucky to have a wide range of funding opportunities in Norway. But working with investigative documentaries, the lines between development stage and production are often blurry. It’s an ongoing process and story, and you never know what comes next – you simply have to be aware and throw yourself at what you believe is important to catch on camera. We all know shooting days are expensive, and I believe having access to more of the film’s total budget earlier in the process would make it easier and less financially risky for small production houses such as Hacienda. However, I must also give credit to some of the consultants at Norwegian Film institute and Sørnorsk Film Centre, who have been with us in every step. Especially how they are so open and helpful in creating the best story by adjusting budget, production plan, partnering in narrative and plot-talks along the way.

The documentary has already been acquired by TVE, NRK, SVT, and Al Jazeera. What is your vision for the film's future?

D: We hope the film can be screened in more festivals in North and South-America, Europe, and Asia. The topic is global, so I hope it would attract an audience that either wants to watch it or perhaps needs to watch it.

The ambition is that when financial opportunities like OneCoin or any other scheme come along, you’re able to see the red flags and keep away.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in making this documentary?

B: There are always many things that could have been done differently. We should have aimed for a higher budget to allow ourselves more time in post-production. And there were some leads and possible shoots that we had to cancel for financial or risk reasons… Looking back, it would have made the film even more global.

'Lie to Me' goes beyond simply exposing a scam. What is the larger message you want audiences to take away?

D: If something looks like a rat, walks like a rat, and smells like a rat… it is probably a rat.

B: There are a lot of people and organisations that want our attention, time, money, and endorsement. We all need to be aware of the red flags. If something looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Interview by ‘Silent Trees’ Director, Agnieszka Zwiefka, to Dimitra Kouzi

Dimitra Kouzi: You were impressively confident from the beginning about what you were doing, in a situation which was utterly chaotic. How was that? What drew you to Runa’s story?

Agnieszka Zwiefka: I try to follow impulses, instincts in my work. When I heard about the refugee crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, I had an impulse to just go there. I had no idea whom I would meet and what story I would find. We started to volunteer in a refugee camp. I remember when I saw Runa and her family for the first time. They had just arrived, and their mother was still alive, in a hospital. I felt this impulse yet again. To follow them, especially Runa as a teenage girl. I immediately understood that showing the refugee crisis through the eyes of the refugee children is the most powerful way to tell this story. After all, they are the ones affected the most by this humanitarian crisis. From the moment I met Runa I knew she should be the main protagonist. She had this unbelievable strength in her, this silent resilience. I think it was love at first sight. I believe that you need to fall in love at first sight with your protagonist.

Dimitra Kouzi: You left your hometown, your daughters, who are teenagers, and went far away to the border to help. Is this how you normally operate?

No, I’d say it was a state of emergency in a way. Me and my friends in Poland were shocked by what was going on at the border – the refugee crisis we knew from the Mediterranean suddenly was ‘next door’. But what was even more shocking was the reaction of the Polish government, which immediately restricted access to these people. Volunteers, medical aid, journalists, no one was allowed to enter, no one was allowed to help. And for me, that was so inhuman that I knew I had to do something about it. I guess deep inside I’m a punk. And whenever someone tells me not to go somewhere, it becomes very tempting to actually go there, to tell the untold stories. So that was the beginning.

DK: When you met the family, you immediately started filming. We all know how difficult it is to gain the trust of somebody we want as a protagonist. How did that work out, with the DOP, the camera?

AZ: I’m always very honest with my protagonists. I told the family I was not going to be there for a week, or two, or a month. It’s a long, long journey together. I used the help of an interpreter through the phone, so they were aware of what I was planning to do. But we were filming without the support of an interpreter, following our instincts. Later, when we translated the footage, we discovered that in most cases our instincts were correct. I also choose my crew very carefully. My DOP, Kacper Czubak, is a very kind and empathetic person. On an everyday basis, it was just me and him.

Establishing a bond with documentary characters usually takes a long time and requires patience, trust. I am always prepared for that. But in this case, it all happened very quickly. I guess being together with someone during the most traumatic events of their lives creates this bond very quickly. We were together with them at the very moment they learned about their mother’s death. We cried together. Of course, we didn’t film everything. We tried to carefully choose what to film and what not to film. And this is also one of the methods of working in such situations. But just being with them in this groundbreaking moment in their lives, created a much stronger and deeper bond.

DK: On one hand, you are empathetic and on the other hand you need to create scenes, to find these moments which will enable you to build the story. How do you deal with these issues and the ethical questions involved?

AZ: One issue was that we filmed in a language we didn’t speak. We didn’t have an interpreter on set because access to this refugee camp was restricted. But I think intuition helped us. There is an international language of emotions. In some of the scenes with Runa and her father, we didn’t know what was being said, but we could sense it was important. That was the biggest challenge. You need to develop another sense to pick up these elements. Baravan, Runa’s father, is an amazing protagonist because he is totally sincere. He never tries to pretend, to be someone else. He’s the first protagonist of any of my films that completely doesn’t have any mask on; he wears his heart on his sleeve. That also helped us to have a little light in the darkness we were filming in, because it was really filming in the darkness.

DK: What other challenges did you face during filming?

AZ: Filming the most emotionally difficult moments – especially the mother’s funeral. They actually asked us to film it. I was filming it myself and I remember I wasn’t even sure if the footage was in focus or not because my eyes were so full of tears. I didn’t know what to do, grab the kids and hug them, or film the scene, which was very important for the story. This kind of schizophrenia, I think, is embedded in every work of a documentary film director that touches upon tragedies, traumas, dramatic events, because we have to be at the same time a psychologist who knows how to approach people and open them up, a friend who is there to support, an ‘engineer’ who takes care of the film’s construction, and an artist who has a vision. A lot to handle.

DK: You must also be distanced, not emotionally involved.

AZ: But very often it’s the friend who wins. And that’s when we put the camera away. I always try to explain why we need to film some scenes. It got better with time because the kids started to understand first English, then Polish. Now we have a fluent communication. In fact, they watched the film last week.

DK: That’s also another crucial moment, when they watch the film.

AZ: It was an amazing evening for us because Runa was enchanted by the animations. And when she saw her drawings come alive, she had her mouth wide open and told me, ‘That’s exactly how it was in my head.’

DK: Nice! What is the message you hope the audience will get by watching ‘Silent Trees’?

AZ: I wanted to show the human face of the refugee crisis. Not numbers, not distant stories. Now the European Union is debating legalising pushbacks. That means that people will be sent through the freezing forests, through the Mediterranean, back to their home countries because some bureaucratic system decides so. I wanted to give voice to the people that very often don’t have a voice.

DK: How did you work with animators to balance and bring Runa’s feelings to life?

AZ: The reason we created these animated parts was to enable the audience to see the world through Runa’s eyes, to enter her mind and experience the world through her imagination. Of course, animations are not realistic; they give us the possibility of creating worlds that don’t exist. But we based them very strongly on Runa’s drawings. She had a sketchbook filled with disturbing images, such as trees swallowing people and spitting out bones, a girl sitting on the verge of an abyss. We wanted to bring these images to life. I knew that this world, the sub-world of the film, had to be black and white, harsh but sometimes also poetic. We were visually inspired by Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel ‘Persepolis,’ which also uses a young girl’s perspective. Our animation studio, Yellow Tapir, is one of the top studios in Poland. They were very engaged with the film because of its subject matter, as they were also shocked by the refugee crisis. They studied Runa’s drawings, and we slowly developed a style based on them.

The way we worked on combining the two layers of the film is that we first filmed all the documentary scenes and only then started to work on animation. We were looking for documentary scenes that could lead into the animated world, places where animations can add something, at the same time taking care of their rhythm.

DK: You often focus on girls and women, on the female perspective. Is it a statement you want to make by telling their stories?

AZ: I think women are still not portrayed in films enough, and if they are, they are often shown as victims only. One could argue that Runa is also a victim of circumstance, yet she’s so powerful and strong, being the leader of her family and taking care of her brothers and father. This is why I fell in love with her as a documentary character, because of this strength inside her. I want to tell stories about strong women. But there is also another topic I am a bit obsessed with: outsiders. Actually, all my films in one way or another showed people outside of the mainstream – whether it’s a gypsy community (‘The Queen of Silence,’ 2014), female fighters from Tamil Tigers, an organisation designated as terrorist (‘Scars,’ 2020), or an elderly DJ (‘Vika!,’ 2023). The elderly are often outsiders as well. And Runa, as a refugee, is an outsider in our society. I think this comes from the fact that I also used to be an outsider. I was a migrant child as well, I emigrated with my family to the USA. It wasn’t the same situation Runa faces, but I found myself in a completely different world with no familiar ground beneath me. I think I empathise with people who are in situations like that. I understand what it’s like to suddenly have your life as you know it radically end.

DK: You also tell stories about stateless nations.

AZ: Yes. Roma, Tamils, Kurds…  They are also outsiders wherever they go. The need for a home is something that is very much present in my films. I think home is a basic human need, and Runa is willing to sacrifice everything to build a home for her brothers.

DK: What other aspect binds your main characters together throughout your body of work in your perspective as an artist?

AZ: I look for protagonists who have light inside them, this kind of light that shines even in total darkness. But it’s always a subconscious choice. It’s not like I set out to do an anthology about specific groups or countries. I think it’s intuition, really.

DK: Do you plan to continue making documentaries, in addition to the fiction film you are currently preparing?

AZ: Honestly, I think this is my last documentary.

DK: You’re a successful documentary filmmaker with a unique style, and now you’re venturing into fiction. Why abandon documentaries?

AZ: Because it’s just too demanding psychologically. I find myself deeply affected by the stories and characters I follow. My filmmaking process involves staying connected, not disconnecting, from the world I portray even after the editing is finished. This constant exposure to trauma is psychologically draining. We, documentary film directors, while not experiencing the same level of trauma as the victims of the conflicts we cover, are still affected by it. When you accumulate this over years and years, at some point it becomes too much. This story with Runa nearly broke me, especially being with the children on the day their mother died.

DK: Why did they ask you to film the mother’s funeral?

AZ: Their future was quite uncertain, and films can sometimes change people’s lives for the better. I don’t believe that we can solve global problems and humanitarian crises. But we can help individuals. And they felt that bringing attention to their fate, their tragedy can help them be more secure in Poland.

DK: Do you always work with the same team – the same cinematographer, editor, and composer?

AZ: Choosing a team is crucial. It’s like a marriage, working with the same people for many years as we always do in observational feature-length documentaries. With Kacper Czubak, my DOP, it’s our second film together, and we already have some new plans. But I am also open to new collaborations – as in the case of our composer. We are very lucky to have Niklas Paschburg on board. He is a very well-known musician, a true star of the arthouse music scene.

DK: What creative choices did you make about the music?

AZ: We wanted it to be subtle, minimalistic, and to evoke emotions. Through simple sounds, we wanted to make our audience feel the pain or the joy our protagonists are experiencing. It was more about subtracting than adding.

DK: How is Runa today? How is she today, how are things with her family, her father, and brothers?

AZ: Most of the film was shot in 2022. The situation is basically the same as you see at the end of the film. They have received temporary asylum. Runa is still going to school. Now she speaks perfect Polish. She still wants to become a lawyer.

Time heals, so they are a bit better now, but still moments come when this forest just enters Runa’s head, and I can see her disconnecting from the world around her. It’s a trauma that will keep on hitting back for years, if not for ever.

The film ‘Silent Trees’ is having its World Premiere at CPH:DOX in March 2024 and the Polish Premiere at Krakow Film Festival in May 2024.

passage to Europe 

Published in Greek in the local newspaper “To Galaxidi” March 2021[1]


Save the date: 27 August 2021 Galaxidi

Film Screening: of passage to Europe by Dimitra Kouzi, WINNER for Best documentary, at the San Francisco Greek Film Festival 2021, Special Jury Award Documentary at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival

Both by luck and design, a privileged choice, dictated by the pandemic, to stay in Galaxidi since late August 2020, offered us the pleasure for an even more unique in-person world premiere for my film, Good Morning Mr Fotis![2]Being in Galaxidi throughout this period gave us another blessed opportunity – to enjoy a swim in the sea almost every single day throughout the winter![3]

Everyone who was there at the October 2020 screening expressed their wish for something more.[4]

A few short hours after the screening, Mit[5] wrote a very helpful, to me, article/review, titled ‘Hosting Refugee Children in Greece’.[6]

The public’s response in Galaxidi, Mit’s review on the morning following the screening, a 5 month tutorial with him and later Tue's Steen Müller’s review, (two months later), prompted me to create a new film, during the lock-down.[7]

passage to Europe was selected to be screened at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival on 10–20 May and at the Greek Film Festival in Berlin on 1–6 June (both events online).[8] The first live in-person screening in Greece will take place at Galaxidi on Saturday 27 August.[9]

Mit's text might very well have been subtitled: ‘A guided tour to the new Athens’. Viewers, including the Greeks who don’t live in the city centre nor pass by Vathi Square, where the film is set, embark on a kind of a ‘journey’ out of their bubble and to this neighbourhood, which has dramatically transformed in the last ten years. The area is now almost exclusively inhabited by immigrants and refugees. This is a common occurrence in many European cities, but in the suburbs;[10] here, it has happened in the very heart of the city. It is the neighborhood that is the context in which the story takes place, that creates the conditions, that made me think and make a film. My own setting, my environment, is what determines the conditions of my life; it gave me the opportunity to think about making a film; yet my broader environment in Greece was definitely not what helped me turn my vision into reality – or will help me to make my next film. 

The issue of a lack of a conducive framework often arises in our discussions. We are lucky here in Galaxidi to have a reference to a very specific and easy to grasp framework once in place in the village – a framework developed by seamen, which was the differentiating factor for Galaxidi. What would these seamen say after the second screening, in August 2021, sipping their coffee in the three cafes (Krikos/Hatzigiannis/Kambyssos) on the Galaxidi port? 

A picture containing road, outdoor, street, person

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Mit argues that in the 70 minutes of the original film there was not a strong enough link to the refugee issue,[11]especially for Northern European viewers who are not immediately aware of the connection, but will certainly face the issue eventually, as it is in Northern Europe that almost all the children in Good Morning Mr Fotis dream of living in ten years’ time.[12]

So my goal was to condense the action and highlight the immigration issue. Mit proposed me to give the film an open ending which I did without any further filming taking place. Mr Fotis should not be alone in carrying the load, when every year he welcomes a new class of children of multiple nationalities, often with non-existent Greek, making us complacent and creating the illusion that, as long as there are teachers like Mr Fotis, everything is fine. For the different end I used black and white pictures by Dimitris Michalakis.

Shorter durations are more ‘portable’. They afford much more freedom. It’s like travelling light.[13] Evaluation – what goes out, what goes in – is hard and puts you to the test, as it requires exacting standards and constant decisions. In passage to Europe, as the new film is called, the beginning changes, the end changes, and the duration decreases (from 70ʹ to 48ʹ). 

In fact, all children wish to leave for countries that do not have their own ‘Lesbos islands’, writes Mit (10/26/2020). This adds moral value to Greece’s efforts, he adds. He supposes that pupils may well take for granted what Fotis does (he agrees on this with Tue Steen Müller from Denmark and his review of the film);[14] viewers do, too, I add. At the same time, we all wonder, ‘Why aren’t there more people like Fotis?’ 

passage to Europe deals with the issue of immigration in the light of social integration, with respect for diversity, not in theory but in practice. 

Fotis Psycharis has been a teacher at a public school in the heart of Athens for 30 years. The majority of his students, as in the wider region, are children of immigrants and refugees from Africa, the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asia, who often see Greece as an inevitable stopover to other countries of Europe. Cultural differences, the lack of a common language, the overcoming of these challenges, Ramadan, Bollywood, the unexpected things that occur during rehearsals for the performance they are preparing to mark their graduation from primary school, the children’s dreams and insecurity for the future, all make up a unique everyday reality in this class, which consists of 17 students from 7 different countries. Aimed at an adult audience, the film provides a rare opportunity to experience life in a public school in today's Greece, which is a host country for immigrants and refugees.

It is an observational documentary. Both Mit and Tue agree on that. I observe a reality that makes me think. What does it mean to grow up in two cultures, in a country other than where you were born? What can we learn from similar cases in history? To create the present, Mit says, one must go back to the past, and from there to the future. To create the future it takes creativity in the present, rather than taking comfort in the past, I believe.  What does that mean for a place such as Galaxidi, a formerly vibrant shipbuilding, ship-owning, and seafaring town? 

In early 2017, when I started making my film Good Morning Mr Fotis, I was planning for it to be 20 minutes long, reasoning that ‘smaller’ meant ‘safer’. I sought to obtain a filming permit from the Greek Ministry of Education to film in the school.[15] However, I went on to shoot a lot of more good material. So much so that it is enough for a third film, if only funding is secured.[16]

During making passage to Europe, things happened that can only happen when you actually do something. Now I think, combine, see differently, take more risks. I have my gaze fixed on this issue, which seems to have fallen out of the news[17] but is bound to return with a vengeance, aggravated by the pandemic. In mid-March 2021, Turkey-Germany negotiations resumed,[18] with the former demanding compensation in order to continue to ‘keep’ refugees outside of the EU.[19]

I feel grateful for making this journey in space and time together with Fotis and for capturing this moment on film twice.  It's a diary, a proposal to look at a story that concerns us all in Europe. In the film, one school year ends and the next one begins. Yet, it doesn’t come full circle and end with the end credits. My intention was for it to be an open circle, a relay, encouraging viewer interpretations, continuities, thought and action.

Dimitra Kouzi
Galaxidi, March 2021

[1] Translated into English by Dimitris Saltabassis

[2] I would like to thank all viewers who showed up at the Youth House on 25/10/2020 to watch my film, Good Morning Mr Fotis, an audience of some 35 indomitable persons who braved the fact that the screening was ‘al fresco’ in the courtyard in the evening, with social distancing and masks, in a freezing maistros (mistral, the north-westerly wind). Not only that, but they stayed on after the screening for a lively Q & A! For me, this was a magical moment, and I would like to thank everyone who was part of our audience – an indispensable element to a creator! Even more so during a time such as this, when everything takes place online! I was fortunate to show my film to people most of whom have known me since I was a child, and my parents and grandparents, too.

[3] ‘Sure, the sea is cold,’ is the standard reply – and that’s precisely what makes a brief winter swim (5–15’) so beneficial! Let alone how great you feel after you pass this test! 

[4] Good Morning Mr Fotis, documentary, 70', Greece, 2020, written, directed, and produced by Dimitra Kouzi •, Good Morning Mr Fotis: Greek Film Centre Docs in Progress Award 2019 21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival • Youth Jury Award 2020, 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival • Selected to be nominated for IRIS Hellenic Film Academy Award 2021 for Βest Documentary. 

[5] Mit Mitropoulos, Researcher, Environmental Artist, Akti Oianthis 125, 332 00  Galaxidi, Municipality of Delphi [email protected].

[6] ‘Hosting Refugee Children in Greece’, To Galaxidi newspaper, November 2020.

[7] This ‘discussion’, which could only take place thanks to the fact that both I and Mit were constantly in Galaxidi due to the pandemic, was the main reason why I decided to make passage to Europe.

[8]  Earlier on, the film was screened at the San Francisco Greek Film Festival on 16–24 April 2021.

[9] passage to Europe, documentary film, 48ʹ, Greece, 2021. Written, Directed, and Produced by Dimitra Kouzi ([email protected], at the moment Parodos 73, 33 200  Galaxidi, Municipality of Delphi).

[10] Jenny Erpenbeck (author), Susan Bernofsky (translator), Go, Went, Gone, Portobello Books, London 2017. Set in Berlin, where immigrants and refugees have also been received, the book is based on a large number of interviews with immigrants and their stories. The main character is a solitary retired university professor, recently widowed and childless. One day he suddenly ‘discovers’ the existence of refugees in his city; through the fellowship that develops and the help he gives them, he finds new meaning in his life, which seemed to be over when he retired.

[11] The refugee/immigrant issue will historically always be topical – all the more so now that the revision of the EU policy is pending, which was transferred to the Portuguese Presidency that took over from the German one on 1/1/2021.  It is one of the most hotly contested issues facing Europe at a time when there are member states that call for ‘sealing off’ Europe to refugees and immigrants and only accepting people of specific ethnicities, cultures, and religions, according to Santos Silva, Portugal’s foreign minister (Financial Times, 2/1/2021, p.2).

[12] What’s striking to me is that refugee children wish to leave Greece for the very same reasons that Greek young people do: due to the lack of a framework.

[13] Like sailors, who never have a lot of stuff in their cabins. 

[14], 25/1/2021

[15] The film Good Morning Mr Fotis was not funded by the Ministry of Education. I addressed a registered letter to the Minister, Niki Kerameos, on 4/2/2021, to inform her about the film and to suggest that Fotis Psycharis be honoured for his overall contribution as a teacher. I have not received a response nor has Fotis received any acknowledgement of his work – at a time when the need for teacher evaluation is increasingly felt.

[16]  See article footnote 5.

[17] In early March 2020, some 7,000 persons live in Kara Tepe, the camp that replaced Moria. More than 2,120 are children; 697 are four years and younger. ‘The Desperate Children of Moria’, Der Spiegel (in English), 1/4/2021,

[18] At the time of writing (March 2021), Greece makes efforts to send back to Turkey 1,450 asylum-seekers whose application has been rejected. According to the United Nations World Food Program, 12.4 million Syrians live in famine and pressure Turkey in the form of an influx of migrants (currently holding, according to official UN figures, 3.6 million from Syria and another 300,000 from elsewhere). See Handelsblatt, 14/3/2021, ‘Deutschland und die Türkei verhandeln neuen Flüchtlingspakt – Griechenland verärgert, Die Türkei hält Geflüchtete von der Weiterreise in die EU ab. Das soll sie für Geld und Zugeständnisse weiter tun. Das birgt diplomatische Probleme.’  [Germany and Turkey negotiate new immigration agreement – Greece is annoyed, Turkey restrains migratory flows from continuing their journey to the EU. To continue doing so, it is asking for money and benefits. This creates diplomatic problems.]

[19] Handelsblatt: ‘New refugee deal negotiated by Germany and Turkey – “Greece upset”. According to information cited by Handelsblatt, the points that are most likely to spoil a new agreement are being discussed.’ To Vima newspaper, 14/03/2021

passage To Europe wins Special jury award for BEST documentary at los angeles greek film festival 2021

The film was also screened at the San Francisco Greek Film Festival on 16–24 April 2021. In San Francisco it won as BEST DOCUMENTARY the jury wrote about it: 'Passage to Europe' is an intimate portrait of Fotis Psycharis, whose passion for teaching is matched only by his compassion for his charismatic students. The filmmaker’s extraordinary access and skilled technique takes the viewer past the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding global refugees to open hearts and minds to the resilient children facing unimaginable hardship.

read more on how and why the film passage to Europe, 48', 2021, directed by Dimitra Kouzi was made after Good Morning Mr Fotis, 70', 2020 HERE

Art Crimes shoot in Greece

This is the protected Delphic Landscape and us (Jacob Stark, Stefano Strocci and Dimitra Kouzi) while the shooting for part of episode 3 of “Art Crimes”, a documentary series about some of the most spectacular art heists of the 20th century! The series is produced by Stefano Strocci (Unknown Media) in co-production with RBB/ARTE, SKY Arte and will feature dramatic reconstructions of thefts, with input from those involved: the investigators, prosecutors and some of the thieves themselves.

Episode 3 brings us to Greece and the city of Itea. This is the small Greek city (15 Klm from Delphi by the sea in Fokis) were the oil producer, Ephthimios Moscadescades lived. He and his brother requested the prestigious Renaissance paintings, including two Raphael artworks. The paintings were stolen by a group of Italian and Hungarian thieves from the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest in November 1983. After an anonymous phone-call the paintings were found in a suitcase in the garden of the Tripiti Monastery in Aigio.

We shoot (also with a super 8 camera) in Itea, the breathtaking area around it towards Aigio (on the Peloponnese) and then in Athens, where we interviewed the judge Leandros Rakintzis. Save the date the amazing series will be broadcasted in more than 15 channels across Europe in 2022.

Withered Flowers

Jahanbakhsh Nouraei is a renowned Iranian film critic and lawyer. He has written vastly on movies for many years. This is an English translation of his review of Radiography of a Family by is Firouzeh Khosrovani.

Two kinds of people use x-rays films: physicians, to diagnose distortions of the body —especially broken bones— and trouble- shooting locksmiths, to open closed doors. 

(They insert the x-rays film through the narrow opening that the naked eye may not see). 

Radiograph of a Family is Firouzeh Khosrovani's feature documentary that has both skills. It shows both that which is broken, and the opening of a door to the sad garden of memories. The break and the opening of the door are both symbols of a world wider than the family home and its four walls. 

The film goes from the particular to the universal and becomes the story of numerous other families. But the small and real world of the husband and wife of this family is drawn so softly and justly that similarities, and the visible and hidden looks at the tumultuous world outside the wall, fall into place naturally and without exaggeration. 

The woman and man's beliefs, attachments, and values slowly end up in opposition to one another. The beliefs of each one is not fake, but genuine. They emerge from within and inevitably drag the family into a war that, despite attachments, has no result other than the reversal of the man and woman's positions and their emotional separation. Both are flowers whose petals are scattered by opposing winds, in a marriage that began with love. 

The father has Western beliefs and behaviors. He is happy and filled with vigor. He has studied in Switzerland and become a physician there. The mother is religious, God-fearing, and worried about falling into sinful behavior. In between the two, their daughter is a neutral narrator who opens the faded notebook of days, and tells of the events and struggles, alongside mother's and father's voices.  

The father does not resist the course of events; as he loses everything that he loves, he slowly withdraws into himself and, with melancholy, prepares to leave a world that is no longer his. 

From the narrator's viewpoint, father and mother's union began with a visual attraction. The very first sentence we hear from her at the beginning of the film is "Mother married father's photograph." Father has taken one look at his future wife and mother has seen a photo of her future husband, they like each other and get married. But the photo portrait of the groom that takes the place of his warm body and breath at the wedding ceremony, bodes a cold future.

In this film, photographs are the instruments and links of a tense union between two different cultures and beliefs; the cracks in this union, brought about by a slow domestic rebellion, meanwhile find their wider reflection out on the streets that are brimming with revolt and social change. Home and outside the home are two parallel worlds that reflect each other like intertwined mirrors. The photos, aided by the spoken text and the simple, meaningful dialogues, communicate like the beads of a rosary, become memorable, advance the story, converse with the music, fall silent and finally collapse and surrender to being burned and torn to pieces. The broken-hearted father dies quietly in his sleep and the mother stays behind to move about in her wheeled walker, to seek refuge in her usual, old sacred ideal, and to have her life continue in this way. 

The walker as a real object acts as a cane for a weak human being; yet at the same time represents the paralysis of a rebellious soul, and speaks of the fate of a woman of traditional beliefs who was forced to go skiing in Swiss mountains, an act that damaged her body and soul — the damage that stays with her to the end, and is irreparable. This X-rays image aligns with father's profession, radiologist; and the real distortions of a wife's spinal column link symbolically to an intellectual and social current to which the mother takes part, finding broader meaning.

After her skiing accident mother said repeatedly that it was as though her back were split in two. Thus, she seeks peace of mind and the cure to a split identity in the therapeutic space of the Revolution. The ideals are expected to help her heal the spinal column of her oppressed soul, release her from the wounds of a foreign culture, and with God's help, to allow the withered flower to blossom again in the passion and zeal of revolutionary romanticism. 

The anti-tradition culture did not suppress her in Switzerland only. In the time that she was made to live in that country, where their daughter was conceived, the signs of Western culture began to influence and infiltrate her home land at great speed also. The land of her ancestors now looked like Geneva. 

Still, Fortune favors the mother, and her rebellious desire, after returning to Iran, finds a suitable outlet in the enthusiastic slogans of Dr. Ali Shariati, flag-bearer of anti-government religion. This revolt becomes more audacious daily, and a spring that had been pressured into coiling begins to expand. 

It does so within the family, it accelerates, the power equation collapses, and mother forces father — whom she often calls "monsieur" -- into sad retreat. The rearrangement of furniture according to mother's tastes causes father's decorations to fade, the balance of power is disturbed. Mother's progress is guaranteed just like the relentless victories of the trenches in battle scenes. The colors at home tend towards grey; a feeling of mourning and the absence of passion, delicacy, affection scatter over the home.  The re-arrangement of furniture causes destruction and renovation to intermingle, and recalls the verses of the poet M. Azad that: "From these rains – I know – this house will be ruined. Ruined." 

The climax of events occurs when the mother says good-bye to her unpleasant and "sinful" past in the effort to solidify her new position, and she tears up the photographs that, for her, represent giving in to sin and to foreign influences.  

Mother's act creates the impression that one of the aims and advantages of toppling values during revolutionary zeal is to deny the past and burn its signs, both in matrimonial life and in society. Here, the narrator's role becomes slowly more prominent and she does not remain silent faced with the ruin of the home and the removal of the past.  The narrator enters the scene and we witness her small hands connecting the fragmented pieces of the family's heritage and memories; if she cannot find a missing piece, she paints it in herself with the help of her imagination and her longings.  White and red and green, accompanied by engaging majestic music, take the place of the cold and empty area, and the space takes on a hopeful tone. It is as though the past of a family and a country whose to be recognized again wins over to be forgotten and thrown away. 

The form and narrative of the film do the same, by juxtaposing retrieved photos and faded old films, giving the past new life, making us look at it differently and ask where we stand. 

At the end of the film, which is a new beginning, the viewpoint changes and the camera looks from above, as though through the invisible eye of history, at the girl who lies in a white dress among an ocean of torn up photographs and is busy reconstructing and breathing new life into them. This delicate and effective scene can become a positive sign for a new generation, to bring one's home back to life; a home that, with all its joys and fleeting happy moments, in the end had nothing but bitterness and despair neither for itself nor for its wandering inhabitants.