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

following article was published in Greek in the local newspaper “To Galaxidi” March 2021 [1]

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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, and Tue 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 28 August at the Youth Centre.[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? 

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. Without any further filming taking place, I also wanted to give the film an open ending. 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.

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] Article translated into English by Dimitris Saltabassis (the title of the article was: Save the date: 28 August 2021 at the Galaxidi Youth Centre
Film Screening: passage to Europe by Dimitra Kouzi)

[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 • goodmorningmrfotis.com, 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 2013mitisa@gmail.com.

[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. 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. https://grfilm.com/awards/

(this award information was been added in 30 May 2021)

[9] passage to Europe, documentary film, 48ʹ, Greece, 2021. Written, Directed, and Produced by Dimitra Kouzi (dimitra@kouziproductions.com, 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] filmkommentaren.dk/blog/blogpost/4887, 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, https://www.spiegel.de/international.

[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

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.

https://variety.com/2019/tv/news/art-crimes-van-gogh-the-scream-picasso-documentary-arte-sky-1203410253/

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. 

“radiograph of a family” wins IDFA’s Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary 2020 and best usage of archives

What I love most about working with a great film is that it enables me to learn things as well as to become passionately involved with it – I can’t sleep at night, for behind the film there are people. It’s not a question of marketing; in the case of documentaries, things are more complex. It’s not a question of sales, either: It’s about making the community aware of the film – of its relevance to people’s lives and perceptions of the world. It’s about making people watch a film, appreciate it, feel passion, compassion; about making them get up and call their mother after the screening, about change for an evening, perhaps for a lifetime.

That’s what art is all about, isn’t it? To give comfort, strength, life, inspiration? To educate, as well. And it’s also about getting important news through stories, and responding emotionally to it, as the narrative resonates with your own experience. News, in this context, is everything that the film was intended and made to convey; but more than that, it’s a complex weave of multilayered narrative strands.

To return to the subject of the people behind the film: It’s the filmmakers’ interaction and chemistry that informs every sequence, every word. And my job, first of all, is to identify and then communicate all these elements by designing and implementing a strategy that conveys the film’s DNA to the media and the public. Such a complex project must be codified; every detail counts. You need to be able to see things from other people’s perspectives.

Firouzeh wrote to me about the two IDFA awards (IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary 2020 and best usage of archives) she received for her latest film, Radiograph of a Family:

‘As Truffaut said: “For you this is nothing more than a film. But for me it is all my life.”
I experienced the greatest invincibility, patience, and failure in the years of making this film. But it was not without pleasure. This film made me. And it continues to do so.’

When I received this, it brought a tear to my eye. 

I’d like to thank Firouzeh, her mother, Tayi, Bård (Bård Kjøge Rønning), and Fabien (Fabien Greenberg) (https://antipodefilms.com), for this journey across this new, online-only environment. My heartiest congratulations for their success and the two prestigious IDFA awards. I loved every minute of our warm, close-knit collaboration.

 

Firouzeh, Bård (Bård Kjøge Rønning), and Fabien (Fabien Greenberg) in Oslo.
Backstage pictures from Abbas Kowsari
Backstage pictures from Abbas Kowsari

The Arnode Kavos house welcomes Dimitra Kouzi

The ARNode[1] Kavos house[2] welcomes Dimitra Kouzi[3]

It felt like a visit to a church before vespers, exactly when the most interesting things happen.

Reverently, mystically, metaphysically, unhurriedly, at his own pace, as if in a ritual dance, he revealed to me the place of… worship. Little by little, with a hint of tender hesitation, perhaps embarrassment, but with the fresh youthful joy of the explorer. Like a monologue, but two-way and interactive, each sentence providing food for thought on multiple levels. An erotic confession.

It took me nearly a week to assimilate this experience of a guided tour of the ARNode Kavos house, Mit’s[4] house. At first, I kept the experience to myself, not knowing what to do, how to capture it on paper. Without crumpling it, without distorting it. Just the act of recalling it, I feared, might cause it to fade. In my mind, it was all there, but putting it into words may have altered it. 

But I never for a moment stopped thinking about it. What an honour! In Mit’s inner sanctum, where things appeared so familiar, yet so unknown. Everything was alive. I felt at every step that there were hidden aspects. And much more that I couldn’t see, parallel stories about everything, almost as if the drawings, embroideries, sculptures, furniture, lemons, garlic and Dexion shelving were in motion, communicating with each other. Everything appeared as one piece, but there were so many different stories. 

A mermaid stuffed into a bag, only her tail visible; I almost followed her on her dive into the sea. To create and then set aside, perhaps for someone else to find and discover how much freedom is there in parting with something voluntarily?  

Just everybody was preset there: Georgie (Makris)[5], Auntie Voula, Captain George (Mitropoulos), Auntie Mitsa[6] naked, taking a shower in her yard, the ouzo, the baklava in the baking pan, the 10 species of fish and other creatures in our sea[7] at the time, and a fishing line hanging from the window, “be careful not to get it caught in the railings!” (when fishing from the 3rd floor balcony).

Everything was there: deserted shores, his nudes, (which a friend of his found in a folder next to his headboard and later organised Mit’s first art exhibition in Brussels). The small sculptures, which he has not shown to anyone. I had certainly never seen them. But I would definitely like to see them again, touch them. Caress them. 

I remember them in the smallest detail, even their location, as if they had been revealed to me before going back into hiding in their secret world, their parallel world which momentarily met my own, I think, but I am again left with questions – I see whatever I can. 

The composition is his, every little corner: small desks, work left to one side, waiting for Mit to resume. Left, not abandoned; as if he had just got up, as if he sits down and gets up simultaneously, like a dancer moving with choreographed purpurse from point to point. Everything is alive, connected, pulsating, networks again, like those he has been creating all his life. Not with electricity, but with the Northern wind and the sea. The house is a ship, with bridges, stairs and tiny corners.  

The view around him, outside, with the North wind raging on that day. I had not experienced such a wind for a long time; the waves were crashing over the quay. Not a soul in sight. Where could Rouroulis the cat be? We were sailing in its stories. Together. 

And Auntie Voula’s embroideries, like icons, suspended from hangers. Seagull dreams – travels – votive offerings – Auntie Voula was there too – I heard her talking about her son Makis (Mit). I saw her, very much alive with Darina[8], at parallel at times.

Simultaneously, the young girl, the bride in a violet dress, slightly older, holding a baking tray and posing for a photograph, reading a book, her glasses attached to a cord over her neck, later in life a beautiful olive-skinned woman (“she’s one of ours”, they had said in Egypt) and finally, at her elderly age. My mother’s godmother. My dear mother, you could not endure the idea of time and age, preferring, perhaps, to leave us while still young. Yes, Darina was also there, using the open wardrobe to sit inside it, waiting with towel in hand for Auntie Voula to finish using the bathroom (I even heard her heavy footsteps in the sitting room where they both slept) 

The sun is sinking behind Mount Parnassus as backstage. I have stopped my countryside walk, on a back road that winds through fields, once a lake. I am thinking that they have nearly all of them gone, they have all died: Uncle George – Georgie, with female nylon socks in his breast pocket, Auntie Voula, my grandmother, my mother – all those people who had experienced those magical times for which, unlike me, Mit feels no sense of loss. I am suddenly overwhelmed by nostalgia. That day, the Northern wind had blown the waves over the quay of the once Nautical Club which land use changes Mit so strongly opposed: the first example of arbitrary construction in this sacred place. Of course, for many it’s no big deal, since as in the case of the exotic environment of Galaxidi (which for Mit is the area of 5 square kilometres refers to as “38° 22ʹ N 22° 23ʹ E”. Most people don’t know what they have now lost because they didn’t know what they once had as Mit frequently notes (this always scares me, especially when he associates it with opportunities we all miss (my self included) . 

Roziki beach – the obsidian[9], it was all there, in the Kavos house – buoys hanging above our heads – buoys like Sophia’s[10], lemons in a bag – along with other things on the stairs leading up to the third floor. I hadn’t been up there for years. Travel bags hanging, ready for departure; I realized that these could be the sailors’ cabins, which I had never seen. Mit’s bed, with the royal navy blanket – I hardly dared to look at it, out of respect for the ascetic – one of those grey blankets that irritate the skin, this guided tour sometimes made me feel that I barely had the right to look – life, the mock-ups, all ongoing, connected in his eyes, much still unconnected in my mind. The sea, and Delphi on snow-covered Parnassus over the distance – the kore without veils and clouds, handed over to the west. “Make it a little more difficult,” I hear him say to me.

The seagulls fluttered from Auntie Voula’s embroidery into the kitchen. “There is still room for others,” said Captain George. I have almost become one with them, as Auntie Voula sends me kisses through the windowpane on the third floor; it was freezing on that feast of the Epiphany, we were on the balcony, she was inside, outside the flag is flapping – I can’t remember the year – thankfully there were so many. I liked the green frame that I had ordered, for the photograph I had taken of her, from the picture framer at 95 Kolokotroni Street, near the pharmacy of my mother, Maria Mastorikou[11] in Piraeus – what was he called? 

I have stopped at the side of the road, next to a field, and I am writing, while listening to Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne. I am thinking of Mit’s models, the coy ones.

Dimitra Kouzi, Galaxidi, October 2020

Read Mit Mitropoulos in To Galaxidi newspaper:
“Family Moments from a Galaxidi Sailor's Lifetime”, 6/2017
“The Sea Acted the Role of the Muse at the Time”, 2/2019
“On Complexity”, Alzheimer's 2/2017 conference, 6/2019    

The article The ARNode Kavos house welcomes Dimitra Kouzi was first published in the newspaper To Galaxidi, October 2020. It is part of on-going notes towards a documentary on the same subject.

[1] Archive Research Node in progress 

[2] The house of George and Voula (the captain's wife) Mitropoulos. 

[3] Journalist, filmmaker, dimitrakouzi@gmail.com From the guided tour, January 2020. Three floors facing the sea, above and beyond which part of the ‘Delphic Landscape’ extends. The family home is in the process of being transformed into a Research Museum that will be known as the Archive Research Node (ARNode), as just one node in a wider network. By the end of September 2020, two of the four ARNode definition phases had been completed. 

[4] Mit Mitropoulos (baptised Efthymios), Researcher, Environmental Artist (2013mitisa@gmail.com) taking over from his parents at 125 Akti Oianthis, (Kavos) Galaxidi.

[5] George Makris, the brother of my grandmother, Eleni Makri, and chief officer on the vessel captained by George Mitropoulos. As a child in Holland, Mit often shared his cabin with him. I remember at 186 Praxitelous St. in Piraeus, the left-hand, single-door wardrobe in the bedroom of G. Makris (Georgie, we called him) which instead of clothing contained all his tools, hanging neatly arranged. 

[6] Mitsa Mitropoulou, Mit’s (also my aunt).

[7] I don’t remember all the names but they included the annular sea bream, peacock wrasse, red scorpionfish, some other brightly coloured ones that looked more like tropical fish, Mediterranean rainbow wrasse, European conger, sand steenbras. And the octopus, which my father, Thodoros Kouzis, fished with a speargun off Voidikas beach (the site where the biological wastewater treatment plant was built years later). It is the islets of Ai Giorgi, Apsifia and Agios Dimitrios, places where we went on day trips in our boat “Dimelana”. These fish have now disappeared, due to pollution and overfishing.  

[8] Darejan Stvilia from Kutaisi--brought up in Sohoumi (in the Abkhazia region Russia annexed by force in recent years). The wonderful Georgian housemaid who, as if a member of the Mitropoulos family, assisted Mit and Auntie Voula when she began to suffer from memory loss, but nevertheless lived well for the next 10 years, up to age of 103. Information and Exercises for people with memory degeneration are available in the library of Galaxidi, the result of Mit’s 10 years of experience with the disease and his 4 Alzheimer's conference presentation. 

 

[9] Obsidian, hard glass formed as a rock, is found in volcanic areas. Sources of obsidian are few; in the Aegean, they are limited to Milos, Antiparos, and Yali. Because of its hardness, Milos obsidian was used in the Neolithic period to make tools and weapons. At Roziki, Mit had located one (of two) workshops sites. There was line-of-sight- visual contact between these sites, which afforded control over approaches by sea. As confirmed by Professor Colin Renfrew (Mit kept in touch with), the obsidian had come from Milos

[10] Sophia A. Martinou, The Glass Buoy, Iolkos Publications, 2017.

[11] The drugstore she continued to run following my pharmacist grandfather Dimitris (Mitsos) Mastorikos“ It was there, at 9 Bouboulinas Street, that a group of Galaxidiotes decided to resume publication of To Galaxidi newspaper as an integral part their association”. (Excerpt from To Galaxidi, 7/2018, by D. Kouzi "Our local newspaper in the era of fake news”). 

Both pictures taken from same seating position in 'desk area' ground floor studio (the sur-elevated pavement) (connecting the group of 4 houses facing the water). One photo shows the interior as you turn left, that includes blackboard,tools, found objects, artworks.Turn to your right you face the sea, beyond the coastal road and ,and above and over the water Delphi stands.

Good Morning Mr fotis Premiere at the 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Good Morning Mr Fotis

Documentary, 70ʹ, Greece, 2020


Written, Directed, and Produced by Dimitra Kouzi 

In the heart of Athens, in a once desirable residential district. In the 1990s, many Greeks moved out to the suburbs; successive waves of immigrants from the Balkans and former Soviet Union moved in. Since 2009, in Greece’s economic crisis, the area declined, with poverty and gloom spreading and crime rates soaring.
Today, the neighbourhood is home to a diverse array of migrants and refugees from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, some tourists, and a few old residents.

Fotis Psycharis has been teaching at a regular state school in this neighbourhood for 30 years now. Aged 6–12, most of the school’s pupils are migrant and refugee children, largely unfamiliar with the Greek language and culture. The lack of a common linguistic and cultural background has prompted Fotis to develop other teaching methods and modes of communication. Theatre, a synthesis of many arts, is an essential part of his toolbox.

Watch the trailer.

About The Film

The documentary film Good Morning Mr Fotis goes into the classroom to follow the everyday reality of a 6th Grade at a public elementary school in the heart of Athens. Reflecting the diversity of the area where it is located, near Omonoia Square, this class consists of 17 pupils from 7 different countries, with varying degrees of familiarity with the Greek language and the European culture.

The teacher aims for inclusion, not mere integration. Enlisting creativity in many forms, not exclusively based on the linguistic code, Fotis has for 30 years been developing his own, innovative teaching approach by combining different arts and techniques; he teaches children – irrespective of background – a way of thinking and acting, applying an experiential teaching method that engages the heart, mind, body and senses. Children are given space to explore and discover while developing their personalities – in a film that humorously captures the importance of a teacher who proposes and delivers solutions.

This is a beautiful film, which with great delicacy and skill shows the power of understated goodness to engender hope and effect transformation in both individuals and communities.  You will be rooting for these children and their inspirational teacher to succeed.  His deployment of theatre and philosophy in the classroom to develop understanding and empathy makes a compelling case for the importance of the Humanities in our schools.

Professor Angie Hobbs FRSA

Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy

University of Sheffield

Director’s Note

In this universe, parallel to our own yet so different, just a few kilometres away from where I live, with my own habits, I felt inside me the need to go back to school, at that school.

A school, a hope. Children who are children against all odds. And in this colourful classroom, with its wooden theatre stage, there is space for the joy of learning to flourish – an innate joy, shared by all humans, a path to education, rather than degrees and marks. Words are not what counts here; what counts is actions. And, in the bittersweet comfort of art, the power to transform. Education through the joy of creativity; spontaneous inclusion, rather than integration.

A creative treatment of an infinitely harsh reality just a breath away from Omonia Square and its astounding diversity of faces, ethnicities, and cultures concentrated within a few blocks in a city like Athens, where international inhabitants where few and far between only a few years ago.

Meeting Fotis, an authentic, creative, educated person, introduced me to a luminous side of life – how to be what you do, what you say, without any disconnect; when your job is your life, your work something important to leave behind. A pioneer, yet also a man out of time, as if coming from a few generations back, from another Greece, a country more approachable, slower-moving, wiser, poorer in material terms yet richer, mature, familiar yet distant. I’ve always loved to explore and discover, to travel, meet people, listen to their stories and relay them. I’m grateful for having taken this journey in space and time, for capturing this moment on film. All around us, those incredible children, each in their own way – windows and journeys to new worlds. And that other child, within, once again found a space of its own, the joy of learning and creating.

 

Credits

Written, Directed, and Produced by Dimitra Kouzi

Camera/Sound: Konstantinos Georgoussis

Editing: Nelly Ollivault

Original music composed by Michael Kapoulas

Sound Lab: Kvaribo Sound 

Sound Design/Editing: Vallia Tserou 

Sound Mixing: Kostas Varybopiotis 

Image Lab: 235

Colour Correction/DCP mastering: Sakis Bouzanis 

Poster/Credits/Website Design: Daria Zazirei

Translation/Subtitle Editor: Dimitris Saltabassis

Production Assistant: Rosie Diamantaki

Still Photography: Katerina Tzigotzidou, Mania Benissi

Location Sound Recordist: Aris Athanassopoulos

Special Effects: Yannis Ageladopoulos

Drone: Tassos Fytros 

Trailer: Penelope Kouvara

Legal Advisor: Aris Kontoangelos

Original music published by Illogical Music/Acuatrop LLC

Drawing: Sahel Mirzai (5th Grade, Elementary School 54)

World Sales

Visible Film, Thierry Detaille T +32 477617170 E thierry.detaille@visiblefilm.com

Press Enquiries

Dimitra Kouzi, Director/Producer
info@kouziproductions.com

With the kind support of 
The J.F. Costopoulos Foundation 

The film was selected by the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival to participate in Docs in Progress 2019
Docs in Progress 2019 Award – Thessaloniki Documentary Festival – Greek Film Centre 

©Kouzi Productions 2020

Contact

Kouzi Productions
33, Praxitelous St.
105 60 Athens
T +30 2107219909
info@kouziproductions.com
kouziproductions.com

My first Film win​s its first award! the Greek Film Center Award at Docs in Progress 2019!


It was a fantastic Thessaloniki Festival for me this year. My first ever film as director was selected at Docs in Progress and earned an award from the Greek Film Center! It was selected among ten great projects. During the festival, we had a preparation session with Anna Glogowski (former C.E. at France Television, now doc consultant and festival programmer) and a group rehearsal. The presentation was back to back at Pavlos Zannas Theatre, where we had three minutes to present our film and another eight minutes to show the audience scenes. There was no "show" and no questions from the public. Just straightforward presentations and meetings. That meant that the people who asked to see me were really the people who had chosen and were interested in the project. The film is in postproduction and I am looking for pre-sales, distribution, and partners. I can't begin to describe how proud and happy I am. Thank you all at Agora TDF team (head Yanna Sarri) and thank you to the Greek Film Center for the support and trust in my work!

SCHOOL 54 (working title) by Dimitra Kouzi – Greece (Kouzi Productions). A teacher for 27 years at a public elementary school in central Athens, Fotis Psycharis has developed his own approach. He uses drama to build teams, overcoming the linguistic and cultural barriers of his mostly refugee and immigrant pupils. Following Fotis in class, teaching and developing a play that he has written for the graduation ceremony, this humorous, positive film is a rare opportunity to witness from within a school microcosm in a declining city centre. A teacher and his class at a small public school on the outskirts of Europe provide inspiration for the education of future Europeans. The film is in postproduction, slated for release in summer 2019. Duration approx. 60 min. There will also be a TV version.

Read about Docs in Progress awards:

https://www.filmfestival.gr/en/professionals-b2b/media-press/26899-21st-thessaloniki-documentary-festival-the-awards

Photo: Fani Trypsaki (ΦΑΝΗ ΤΡΥΨΑΝΗ) Motionteam

DISTOMO: TEEN DIALOGUE IN THE WAKE OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR

BY DIMITRA KOUZI
I pass by Distomo almost once a month, on my way to Galaxidi (Delphi Municipality), a seaside village where my great-grandfather was born. Since today the destination is more important than the journey, I had never been to Distomo, although it is only a 2km digression from the main road. Known as one of the "martyred towns,"(1) the village, ravaged in the late phase of the Second World War, should have prompted my interest, since I am a German-school and -university graduate, and often work with German people. On 10 June 1944, German troops savagely massacred 223 civilians – mostly older men, women, children and infants – as reprisals for partisan attacks that cost the Waffen-SS unit 20 dead and 36 wounded(2) during the first week after their deployment in the area(3).
I first visited Distomo to conduct an interview for the ARTE-produced documentary Greeks and Germans – A Difficult relationship.(4)
The interview concerned an exchange involving two school clubs – one at the German School of Athens, run by the teacher Regina Wiesinger, and one at the Distomo Lyceum, run by the teacher Vasso Karanassou. Pupils of both schools learn extensively about this incident at the first grade of Lyceum (age 15). And this is where the interesting part begins: In both schools, they are introduced to it from the “Greek” point of view. The exchange is meant to encourage the children from both nations to meet and learn about the past of their countries. Could this contribute to reconciliation? What does reconciliation mean? Who must reconcile today, how and why? Germany is today central to Europe economically and politically; yet, when one brings up the name of the country in Greece, reactions are often biased or stereotypical (5). Media handling of the financial crisis did nothing to improve this relationship. (6)

THEY HAVE MORE IN COMMON THAN NOT
These pupils are expected to work on a common project over the course of six months, including three meetings of the two groups: one weekend in Athens, one at Distomo and a trip to Berlin. This year, the children will work on topics related to adolescence, inspired by the documentary film All This Panic by Janet Gage (79ʹ, USA, 2016) (7).
I can infer from discussions with them that the massacre looms heavily over the Distomo children, as justice is yet to be served; there has been no taking of responsibility, no acknowledgement. No families are spared: They all count victims among their members. As years go by, they worry: “Witnesses will die, and the story will fade.” The annual commemoration events help both forgetting and remembering. “I talk with my grandmother about it more during that time of the year, not in our daily life,” a second grade of Lyceum pupil said during my visit to the small school (40 pupils only).
They were born at Distomo, and this determines everything for them: “It’s not just a matter of war; this was a terrible crime, a massacre [...] Which is why we feel it our duty to communicate it.” Panagiotis, third grade of Lyceum pupil points out.
On the other hand, German-School pupils express their concern: “Is it right for us to visit [Distomo]? How could I meet [these people]? How could I face them?" Children with a double nationality (one parent Greek and one German) wonder: “Who am I? As Greek, I feel mournful; as German I feel guilty.” At the German School, I met with five pupils of the third grade of Lyceum who have already participated in the project; they are well-informed, concerned, at times intense and at times relaxed. Was there value in that interaction? “Yes, it helped us discover the country and experience history first-hand; it makes a world of difference,” according to Isabella: “Stereotypes are dispelled by personal contact. Up until yesterday they were only numbers; today they are people we’ve met.” After 70 years of historical analysis, do the Germans acknowledge any responsibility, and if so, how? It’s one of the questions posed in skepticism.

On 28 October 2018, I went back to Distomo. Catie Manolopoulou, a writer from Distomo who lost members of her family in the massacre, was invited to talk to the Lyceum pupils. “Post-war years were even harder... Nothing can replace a lost loved one. Yet, the issue of war reparations is not my focus; other people strive towards that goal. However, I expect good intentions on the part of the Germans – for instance, they might offer to establish a university at Distomo. For youth from all over the world to attend.”

This opens a channel of communication based on personal contact and interaction. The dialogue is ongoing. A German-School pupil Leandros, continues, “Distomo pupils who participated in the project and went on the trip realized that it's normal people that live in Germany, too. A certain reserve towards all things German is still evident; yet, these children are better informed than other Greeks are. There is hope to get over the horrors of war and let go of the past. Yet, the road ahead is still long."

NOTES
(1) The Greek interior ministry compiled a list of "martyred towns" after the end of the war. To be included, a town or village had to either be entirely destroyed as a result of arson or shelling, have lost 10% of its population in mass executions, or fulfil a combination of these criteria. Seventy-two towns from this list suffered reprisals by the German army, most of them witnessing mass executions. “Massacre memories: German car sales and the EZ Crisis in Greece,” Vasiliki Fouka (Stanford University), Joachim Voth (Zurich University), https://voxeu.org/article/massacre-memories-german-car-sales-and-ez-crisis-greece. Retrieved on 23 October 2013.
(2) Χανδρινός, Ιάσονας, "Η σφαγή στο Δίστομο και στο Καλάμι (1944)" [Chandrinos, Iason, The Massacre at Distomo and Kalami (1944)], 2012, Encyclopedia of the Hellenic World: Boeotia (in Greek), Foundation of the Hellenic World.
(3) "Σφαγή, φωτιά, βιασμός, ληστεία. Όλη η τετραλογία της κτηνωδίας, προς δόξαν της φυλής των Αρείων" [Massacre, Fire, Rape, Robbery – The tetralogy of savagery, for the glory of the Arian race], newspaper Ελευθερία, 10-6-1945.
(4) I am co-author of the film, with Ingo Helm; the film traces the history and human relations of the two nations from King Otto’s reign until now; to be released 2/2019.
(5) Unfortunately, stereotypes about Greece abound in Germany, too.
(6) "Die Berichterstattung deutscher Medien in der griechischen Schuldenkrise", Studie, Prof. Dr Kim Otto & Andreas Köhler, M.A., Professur für Wirtschaftsjournalismus, Universität Würzburg
(7) Premiered and nominated for best feature-length documentary at Tribeca Film Festival, New York; nominated for a Grierson Award, London Film Festival. The two school clubs will watch the film at its Greek premiere at KinderDocs Festival in February 2019.

First published at Vision Network (in German).

What more can a documentary be?

As the future fast approaches, Dimitra Kouzi, raises questions about how evolving technologies are impacting the way we produce and present information
published in Modern Times Review (the European Documentary Magazine) autumn issue 2018.


The Case of ERT in my Personal Experience – A Personal Assessment

Three years after the shutdown of ERT, I realise that when ERT was shut down I was so much a part of that system that it was impossible for me to conceive writing what follows.

The shutdown and reopening of Public Television in Greece
· Tuesday 11/6/2013: An announcement by the government spokesman is broadcast on ERT at 18.00 that ERT will stop broadcasting at midnight that same day.
· 11/6/2013, 24.00: A black screen begins to be broadcast by all public channels.
· ERT employees continue (illegally – ERT is officially closed) to produce programme and broadcast online by host sites such as the one of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) until 19/8/2013.
· Late August 2013: A makeshift agency at the Ministry of Finance called “DT” (the acronym of Public Television in Greek) begins broadcasting on the frequencies of the former ERT channels. Some employees are hired (mainly from former ERT ones).
· 7/11/2013: Following a public prosecutor's order, riot police forces (MAT) raided the ERT building in Athens at night and evicted the remaining ERT employees who had stayed on for almost five months working for free.
· In the following days, ERT's main evening news bulletin, as well as some news programmes, were broadcast from the street outside of the ERT building. A few days later, ERT employees were moved to the ERT3 studio.
· All employees were dismissed and received dismissal payment.
· 30/1/2014: Inauguration of ERT Open facilities at POSPERT offices (the ERT Employee Union, except for journalists), across the street from the ERT building. Some of the former ERT employees continue to produce programme through ERT Open (without a salary).
4/5/2014–11/6/2015: The New Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (NERIT), the new public broadcaster of Greece, launches (incorporation and statutes were approved as of 26/7/2013). Its headquarters were at the former ERT building at Agia Paraskevi. There were three TV channels – NERIT 1, NERIT Plus and NERIT HD – and five radio stations. Its revenue came from a reimbursement fee and from advertising.
· 11/6/2015: all aspects of NERIT’s activity (radio, TV, internet) cease and are replaced by their ERT equivalents; ERT reopens after 2 years, again under the name ERT, and all its former employees who wished to return to their posts (within 5 days) were hired back.

Questions:
Was there a report on how much it cost to shut down ERT and reopen it? (An investigation was announced by the government on 4/10/2017 regarding the cost of ERT’s 11 June 2013 shutdown.)
Why was ERT shut down and reopened just as it had been before?
Why and where did the evaluation and what the government had in mind to achieve by closing ERT fail?
What was right in all this process?
What have we/they learned from this process that was then applied to the "new" ERT after the shutdown to make it better?
What does the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) have to say about it all?
How does Greek Public Television operate today? There is talk of a bias, censorship, and news manipulation at ERT now as in the past. How is ERT's independence guaranteed?
How does ERT cover journalistic-interest events?
What was the position of ESIEA and other journalists’ unions about it?

ERT – My Personal Experience
I became an ERT contractor in autumn 2001 to work on the morning show and do broader research. I was not aware that you could be hired by ERT without being a permanent employee; I did not know anything about “contractors.” I was, of course, recommended by someone who knew my work (a journalist working on the news). As a journalist I worked at the morning news programme covering breaking news and live broadcasts (2002–2008), the daily culture show Simeio ART (2010–2013), and the radio, where I produced and presented a talk show on documentary (the first of its kind on Greek radio). I worked at ERT until 2013. In the meantime, I was appointed as Head of documentary acquisitions at ERT Digital (2008–2010) and became the ERT representative at ARTE in Strasbourg (where I attended the monthly programming meeting under ERT’s agreement for international co-productions with ARTE). When ERT was shut down, I was made redundant, and when it reopened I returned within the time frame stipulated (five days). I stayed for about one month, working in the protected environment of the Radio, exploring my options and thinking that something was bound to have changed. I resigned when I realised that, not only had nothing changed, but things were much worse than before, because the two years of shutdown had to be made good from one day to the next. TV staff was in a panic: Not only did they have to manage to produce the programme but they also had to prove that they were not lazy public officers hired back. I feel profound relief for resigning and have not regretted it once in the past three years. In retrospect with the necessary distance today, the situation when ERT reopened was identical with before, and unfortunately it continues to be so, in my opinion, to this day.

· Party-appointed persons, usually having no relevant experience or qualifications, in executive positions
· Censorship
· No interest in meritocracy and evaluation – excellence
· Focus only on news and bulletins that serve the government
· Introversion and obscurantism (e.g. the agreement for international co-productions with ARTE was, and still remains, neglected)
· Efforts for factory-type total control of staff (especially journalists), while certain people returned to ERT salaries yet failed to show up to work every day
· Poor-quality journalism
· Under-representation of arts & culture
· Even fewer islands of freedom and creativity
· Even more powerful POSPERT (administrative and technical unionists, other than journalists)
· An endless misery pervading the very building itself, reflecting the prevailing financial situation in Greece
· Scant personnel since those who returned sought to retire as soon as possible
· Low viewing (much lower than before shutdown)

ERT before the Shutdown
There was always a rumour that ET2 (one of ERT’s three channels, the arts & culture channel) would be shut down. It is not clear why exactly, but it was there. Perhaps it was due to the fact that it had poor ratings (less than 2%) and was the "cultural channel” – therefore served the interests of no administration. Personally I was shocked when the shutdown came, although I worked there and I, and everyone else, should have known better and been prepared). I found out a few hours later by fellow journalists, political editors at VIMA newspaper who I run into on the street after work, around 4 p.m. on 11 June 2013. They already knew; they had information to that effect, which was finally being confirmed. In the evening I went to ERT, like most others, where I stayed overnight so that the "bad guys" who were closing us down could not come and close us down for real. As long as the microphones were on, we had power. We were the public television – without any government intervention for the first time ever.

ERT after the Shutdown
On 11 June 2013, the Greek government, through a joint ministerial decree, announced that on midnight of the same day, the ERT broadcast signal would be cut off, which was effected using riot police at broadcasting antenna facilities. Ironically, the announcement was made on the 18.00 ERT news bulletin. The bubbles of our "open-ended" contracts, which "ensured" that we could never lose our jobs, burst. According to the statement made by the then government spokesman, after a brief (but unspecified) time period a new public broadcaster would be established, which would be up to date, completely independent, disengaged from the corruption and wastefulness of the past, whose staff would strictly be selected on merit and at much lower numbers than the "old" ERT, to number less than 1,000 persons. ERT was the first state-owned company to be shut down under the government's agreement with the Troika for shutting down state agencies and organizations, as well as for civil servant layoffs. Thus, 3 television channels of national coverage (one in Thessaloniki) plus 1 for the Greek diaspora, 7 radio stations, 19 regional stations, the archive/museum, 3 orchestras, and a television magazine (the latter had ceased publication a month earlier) went out of operation. Automatically this meant that some 2,656 ERT employees would be laid off and compensated. In spite of the theoretical (1) budget surplus ensured by the fee embedded in every electricity bill, paid by all, whether they had a TV set or not), the government spokesman described ERT as a "shelter of waste” that cost more and had less viewers than private media. (2)

Employees take an Active Role
ERT employees held a general assembly to determine their stance and issued this statement:
"ERT must be open: to society and its contradictions, issues, concerns, ideas, and actions. ERT must be open: to culture, the world, the various trends, pursuits, and dynamics. ERT must be open: to every citizen of the world in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia. Public Broadcasting has the power and the will to upkeep the public good of information, culture, and sport. It has the courage and determination to fight to stop ERT from being manipulated by any single-party or multi-party administration. We, its staff, are still alive and will prove equal to the circumstances. We will strive for an institutional framework for the operation of ERT, which will consolidate and safeguard the independence of public broadcasting, will finally cut off the umbilical cord with the government and every centre, visible or not, of political and clientelist interventions. ERT must be open – the property and true asset of all Greek citizens. Those who draft plans to shut down ERT can only serve other types of interests. They are dangerous. We, the journalists of the Hellenic Public Broadcasting Corporation, firmly state that we will keep ERT open by all means. We call on every citizen, from Gavdos to Evros, to prevent this nightmare. To prevent any attempt to mute the national Public Broadcaster. Let those who dream up nightmares remain in a fairy tale, or wake up before it's too late. We are awake. We are in a permanent General Assembly and we invite citizens, social and political actors, academics, literary and cultural figures to ERT building at Agia Paraskevi at 19.00. We won’t budge. ERT IS AND WILL REMAIN OPEN.

What Changed in the Employees' Attitude with the Shutdown
I single out from statements of the time:

“It […] will finally cut off the umbilical cord with the government and every centre, visible or not, of political and clientelist interventions.”

And,

“It has the courage and determination to fight to stop ERT from being manipulated by any single-party or multi-party administration,” which say a lot about how what went on in ERT.

Something else that happened was that, in the panic of the shutdown, ERT’s potential awoke from its slumber of long years. "We are still alive" and other such melodramatic statements were made, which resonated with other parts of the population, which feared for its future (especially holders of indefinite contracts with other agencies of the sprawling Greek state administration). Yet, there were other voices saying, "They did well to shut it down, we paid for them, we paid for nothing, ERT's partying is over." Everyone was right, if we had to say who was.
The General Assembly of ERT Journalists: "The ERT employee assembly decided on Tuesday night that all employees would remain both in the Agia Paraskevi building and in the buildings of the regional stations; they called on Athenians for support, and announced open-air protest concerts in ERT’s headquarters. Partying and protesting at the same time, and as the medium broadcast the message, it reached all those who had their own reasons to protest. Using satellite services, some offices and other facilities not yet shut down, journalists continued to broadcast online via EBU (until 19/8/2013). However, it was a time of diversity and some wonderful things came out, produced democratically. This was the first time I have ever had an experience like this. And it lasted for a month for me. Almost a month, which I spent at ERT, producing and presenting shows about the issues I knew best – culture and documentary. Everyone had an incentive to demonstrate that ERT should remain open, and they along with it. It was a matter of principle, a reaction of pride. Yet, why did it have to get to that point before we reacted? Why didn’t anyone speak out earlier? Was this material evaluated?
From the very first moment of the announcement, there were strong reactions from the entire political world, which seized the opportunity to make statements. Already on Tuesday 11/6/2013, at 19.45, SYRIZA President Alexis Tsipras (who eventually reopened ERT as it was before, when he became prime minister, in 2015) visited ERT and stated: “In the old days there were royal decrees – today there are legislative acts. This is the 19th in a row. This is a coup, directed not only against workers but also against the Greek people as a whole. They lie to the Greek people, saying that they seek to eliminate wastefulness; they lie because ERT gives to the budget, it does not receives from it. I warn the government not to try to cut out the signal. If it does, it will be accountable to justice. Public service broadcasting is a matter of democracy. It is the Troika that must be shut down." (3)

Streamlining, How?
Ιn the years when I was working at ERT (2001–2013), often there was watercooler talk to the effect that the only way to rid ERT of idlers, trade unionists, party-appointed worthless employees (which were only too many) and salaried people who never showed up for work (some 80–100 persons, two of whom I personally knew) was to shut it down after having evaluated everyone and reopen it the next day after doing what needed to be done. In other words, to get rid of the "useless” ones, make the best of the untapped potential, and, with a new organisational structure drafted in advance without compromise, to build a new, streamlined public television. It was also a common secret that ERT was basically "run" by contractors, not permanent employees. There were contractors in all specialties – technicians (the so-called “outsourced crews"), administrators, and journalists. Even trainers (there was a gym, of course, at ERT) and gardeners.

Permanent and Semi-permanent Staff
The “permanent” staff was a nightmare to work with for the 12 years I had to work with them. Simply because most of them worked as if they were making a personal favour to you. “Don’t worry, be happy" was the technicians’ motto whenever they were asked to actually do their work. The unprecedented loafing of some people who were just wandering around aimlessly at work was hard to put to words, and of course if you were willing to go the extra mile at work you were accused of “unfair competition." To be able merely to get your job done required careful social engineering; to manage to work with colleagues of this kind you had to have a world of patience with technicians, or if it were your lucky day you might get someone who shared your willingness to work during your shift. How much energy wasted! On my very first shooting, the sound engineer told me, "I wanted to get a job at Olympic Airways, but my guy only had connections at ERT, so here I am." This mechanism was so firmly established that it could crush you if you did not play along. As long as I could, I always sought islands of safety.
My own contract was as a journalist, also as a contractor initially and then an "indefinite" contract based on a 2005 Law that converted all outsourcing project contracts at the time to indefinite status for those who had three successive such contracts within a certain period of time. This Law made permanent ERT’s last 1200 contractors. More than half of those did not even have a university degree. Yet, the Journalists’ Union (ESIEA) didn’t say anything about those 600 journalists without a degree who were hired under an indefinite-time contract. As a journalist I had the right to work on the side, with a side work permit, or to claim an "exclusive" contract with ERT (in addition to the indefinite-time contract), through which I could have another salary, a much higher one (of course). I got such a contract (a 6-month agreement for 2,500 Euros before tax, instead of 1,800 Euros) when I was appointed as Head of documentary acquisition at ERT Digital (a post which did not even exist in the organisational chart).

What Was Happening at ERT?
The issue of “permanent status" was inhibiting all areas of work and productivity. The ERT salary served as a basis for working on the side, and therefore work for ERT had to be done expending the minimum amount of energy. Journalists’ self-promotion and privileges were a motivation for work (and claiming more privileges – exclusive contracts, for instance) but to the extent that the management allowed you to do your work. There was the "fridge". If you were not liked by the management, or did not suit it politically, they did not drive you away (because it couldn’t), but it set you aside for some time – on the shortwave radio for example. I spent time "in the fridge," when the administration decided to shut down ERT Digital television overnight.

The Golden-Boys Era
In mid-2000, the most successful show, for example, was Lyritzis and Economou, where I worked for 7 years covering breaking news and live interviews. Lyritzis and Economou, who had radio experience, where they had a very successful political show, did not have an indefinite-time contract, but a contract in the order of 350,000 Εuros per year each, for ERT’s daily morning news zone (6.00-10.00).
Of course, journalists, as I said, enjoyed a better status and more freedom (or at least an illusion of freedom) than the administration. Good shows were untouchable, the news bulletin was the flagship of the news department, sports always came above shows and news (very often the TV and radio programme was shifted around for their sake). The only opportunities to do other things, perhaps more creative and worthwhile, from 2001 on, when I was at ERT, were for example culture and radio.

ERT Digital – A New ERT (which did not last long) within the Old One
From time to time, certain exasperated efforts to get over the status quo of ERT’s operation were made. One of these was ERT Digital, where I worked in 2008–2010. ERT Digital operated like a separate ERT, without an organisational chart of its own, yet with a distinct status and budget, with the tolerance of “mother" ERT, as we fondly called it, because it was under the protection and management of one of the three ERT chairman’s advisors, and enjoyed flexibility and freedom. ERT Digital was the first attempt to re-invent ERT while it was in operation. In other words, a concurrent ERT, which seemed to be intended to replace mother ERT eventually. Employees were contracted from the private sector; there was a news channel, a channel for people with disabilities, an art & culture channel, and a sport channel. The most privileged ERT employees and some who were qualified, such as myself (not that I was privileged – I was simply being lucky), were transferred from mother ERT to staff ERT Digital. This was in 2007–2010.
It was an experiment: for instance, a 24-hour arts and culture programme was built, having ARTE as a model – Cine + – on a budget of 1 million Euros. Perhaps that is precisely why it was shut down. Perhaps so that it was not competitive to pay-TV channels. Or so as not to compete with mother ERT, which always saw ERT Digital with suspicion (and rightly so, as the latter was more "independent" and did not operate under the mother ERT's hierarchy, obviously). A few years later, three to be exact, ERT would be shut down completely for two years under a right-wing government and another prime minister.

Greeks and ERT
The government shut down ERT without imagining the impact. The people, however, always turned to ERT for reliable information on all big events, when the channel showed its best self. I remember the tsunami in India, 9/11, elections, extreme weather – the people always switched on ERT for information on such events. So, the shutdown, which became known as “the black screen” did not go down well with the people. And people “rebelled," demonstrating outside ERT and blocking the road for days on end. I do not know if this reflected the majority, but they were determined and certainly had nothing to lose. Yet, this was the same ERT that we all claimed back – the one that in 2012 censored a kiss between a gentleman and a male servant in the first episode of Downton Abbey – and after the uproar decided to broadcast, a few days later, the episode, with the scene in question, after midnight.
I believe that the pressure of the people, the Greek sentimentality, and the, albeit brief, explosive reaction, helped to put on pressure for a solution. (Yet, was there finally a solution?) Even the timing helped, being in June and hence summertime, and good weather facilitated concerts, demonstrations, endless debates and protests in front of ERT’s main building, in which hundreds of thousands of people participated passionately. From day one, you would be forgiven to believe that it was a fair, with dozens of illicit (naturally) street vendors roasting souvlaki and corn, the smoke covering up the dozens of banners and slogans from various trade unions from all over the country that hung across the front on the fence. They had ruffled the Greeks’ feathers by closing “the people’s ERT". The same ERT, which others blamed for “a program that sucked, government-manipulated news," saying that "we're paying for loafers, lazy buggers who enjoy a permanent job while people all around are being fired and face the crisis." Do not forget this was 2013. Emotionally reacting, Greeks responded to the cuts they suffered, to the pressure they were under, due to the insecurity caused by the financial crisis and a future that looked bleak. ERT (its employees) had a moment of awakening and began to give and to demand, to open up to its audience, to whom it had turned its back until then. The symphony orchestras went out to the courtyard and gave free concerts for the people every day. The archives were put to good use, for once, as a way to fill in the gap in the programme. There was contact, a common ground, dialogue, great programming – everyone gave their best, and a large part of the people responded. Public television was a public good: Everyone could claim it, and finally did.
This was also a time of public consultations using democratic procedures, and debates on democracy, on “what kind of public television do we want,” moderated by journalists. We all volunteered to offer what we knew how to do best, and the broadcasts, structured in zones to which everyone had the opportunity to contribute, were on 24 hours a day. Films were provided free of charge, royalty-free – everyone gave what they could. I think this was a phenomenon that called for a psychological analysis. I stayed on for about a month. Then I began to think about what I was going to do with my career. Others went on at ERT Open, going without a salary for two years, until ERT reopened and they all returned to their posts or were promoted to a "coordinator" position.
But back then nothing had happened – under the pressure of this unexpected people’s reaction for ERT, the government had to do something. Constitution of the Hellenic Republic, Article 15: (Cinema, Recording, Radio, Television)
1. The press protection provisions of the previous article do not apply to cinema, recording, radio, television, and any other similar means of transmitting audio or video. 2. Radio and television are under the direct control of the State. Control and enforcement of administrative sanctions fall within the exclusive competence of the National Council of Radio and Television, which is an independent authority as defined by law. Direct control by the State, which also takes the form of the status of the previous license, aims at the objective and equitable broadcast of information and news, as well as of the products of literature and art, ensuring the quality of the programmes imposed by the the social mission of radio and television, and the cultural development of the country, as well as the respect for human value and the protection of childhood and youth. The compulsory and free broadcast of parliamentary proceedings, as well as of election messages by the political parties by broadcasting media is provided by law.
The two State Council decisions following ERT’s shutdown said, in free translation: "You were wrong to shut it down – there must be a public television." A Ministry of Finance agency was promptly set up, named Public Television (DT), and began broadcasting makeshift programme in late August 2013. Certain employees were in fact hired (by a process that is not clear to me). I was asked by phone to "go and give a hand," which I did not do. I remember the phone call was promising a lot; it was on a weekend on my cellphone, while I was at Galaxidi (in Delphi Municipality) just before or after the 15 August holiday. At the same time, the tribute I was working on as a journalist and presenter at ARTE – a 24-hour tribute to Greece without bias and beyond the headlines – aired.

Public Television
Public Television (DT) (initially called Hellenic Public Television, or EDT) was the transitional public broadcaster, which broadcast a television programme between ERT’s shutdown and the launch of NERIT. The legal entity running DT was the Special Asset and Liabilities Manager of the former ERT S.A.," under the Ministry of Finance. DT broadcast on the frequencies of the former ERT channels. From the late January 2014, DT’s management had passed to the Board of Directors of NERIT until the new broadcaster went into operation, while DT staff was rented out to NERIT.

NERIT
The law provided for a Board of Directors and a Supervisory Board, and, in early May, NERIT began to broadcast a program that was largely makeshift and full of repetitions. The intention was to hire another 650 people by October. The ratings were sad. It was already one and a half years since ERT’s shutdown, and now there were two television stations (essentially only one in operation) and three radio stations – the First Programme, the Third Programme (external production), and Kosmos FM, airing a play list, which was also intended to be outsourced. NERIT also had a symphony orchestra and the museum/archive. There were some 900 employees (850 were hired by DT to continue until their contracts expired at the end of 2015 and 40 by NERIT).

What was happening in the administration? NERIT executives, including the CEO of the Board of Directors and his deputy, resigned, denouncing direct government intervention in their work. (4) Members of the Supervisory Board followed suit, complaining of government manipulation. (5) At the same time, the Single-Member First-Instance Court of Athens annulled the redundancies of former ERT employees, and reports of illegalities and fake certificates in the NERIT recruitment procedure were published. In 2014, a total of €190 million was collected from the contributory fee in electricity bills, of which 91% was allocated to NERIT (the remaining went towards Greece's debt). The total revenue was €194.2, but due to the compulsory retention of revenue, NERIT recorded a loss of €3.8 million.
The NERIT project was left incomplete, and ERT reopened “just as it had been," again hiring all former employees. Chatting with former colleagues three years later, in 2018, they all unanimously said, “You’re so lucky you left," and, “Things have never been worse."

Dimitra Kouzi (29/1/2018)

(1) Why should ERT's budget (which covered wages and content) equal the contributory fee? And be determined by it?
(2) A partially correct observation for points 2 and 3.
(3) Does ERT actually give back to the budget? It receives the compulsory contributory fee included in all electricity bills and gives it to the budget. So it is not ERT that gives – it’s the Greeks who give (again).
(4) What was previously permitted could not continue now. The question arises, “Since they did not want to intervene, and that was one of the reasons why they shut down ERT, why did they continue to intervene in the new ERT?"
(5) Pantelis Kapsis, who was in charge of the transition from the shutdown ERT to the new broadcaster, stated in his capacity as press secretary responsible for public television:
"I was tasked with building the new broadcaster, but there was a decision by the Council of State to the effect that a programme had to be restored immediately. Since the two new entities – the Supervisory Board and the Board of Directors – were established, I did not have any competence over them, only political oversight,” noted Kapsis, who went on to say, "In the struggle to set up NERIT, my role was auxiliary. And it was a big struggle, an unprecedented effort, to establish a public utility from the beginning. Now I realise that you cannot make a public utility under such stifling political, social, and time pressures. It’s practically impossible. I don’t feel I could have done something different. Perhaps in terms of the persons involved, it can be said that we did not achieve the best chemistry for this endeavour. Yet, I feel that when two centres of authority are put into place, this creates the conditions for friction." A recent amendment to the NERIT Act passed by the Second Summer Parliament House, provides that one of these two "power centres", the Supervisory Board, will be designated by the respective government. There were many reactions. "The NERIT Act in fact required time-consuming procedures, but the solution is not restoring government control. The Supervisory Board can and should be appointed by a more representative body, not by the House majority,” remarked Pantelis Kapsis. (Kathimerini newspaper, Giouli Eptakoili, "NERIT: Neither Public Nor Television,” Tileorasi, 28.09.2014)

The literary author Christos Chomenidis (who then resigned from NERIT’s Supervisory Board, in which he participated gratuitously) remarked: "The only way to avoid being criticised is to do nothing. I accepted the post because I considered it as an opportunity. I have an outlook on things that unfortunately is being refuted by reality. If this government cohabitation was sincerely aimed at reforming, it would have changed the rules of the game in Greece. It would also sooner or later force the opposition to enter into a game of substance. Yet, no one seems to be willing to make any reforms. We live in a pretext, rather than reality. And an apt case in point is public radio and television broadcasting." To the Chairman, Supervisory Board, NERIT, Professor Theodoros Fortsakis, Athens, 15 September 2014
Christos Chomenidis’s resignation followed the resignations of the CEO, Antonis Makrydimitris, and the deputy CEO, Rodolfos Moronis, last week.

Read also more facts and figures in Kathimerini newspaper 28.5.2018
http://www.kathimerini.gr/966050/gallery/politismos/thleorash/se-tentwmeno-skoini-h-ert

read also
https://archives.cjr.org/behind_the_news/greece_is_having_issues_with_m.php