Category Archives: Festivals

passage to Europe 

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

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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? 

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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 • 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.

[9] passage to Europe, documentary film, 48ʹ, Greece, 2021. Written, Directed, and Produced by Dimitra Kouzi (dimitra@kouziproductions.com, 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] 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

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. https://grfilm.com/awards/

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

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

Interview with Firouzeh Khosrovani (“Radiograph of a family”)

There are films destined to become classics, here to stay, to be watched again and again and reveal ever new facets – films to inspire. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and jotted in my notebook: ‘collective memory through archives.’ I felt I must remember it, that and: ‘documentation of memories,’ a phrase Firouzeh Khosrovani used over the phone earlier, she in Tehran, I in Athens.

An effective title ushers you right into the film: Radiograph of a Family. Factually as well as symbolically, the story of the director’s family and the history of her country unfold before your eyes, and you want to see and hear it all, touch it even; smell the scent of rosewater; yet at certain moments it feels like having sand in my mouth.

The film’s opening phrase – the phrase that inspired her to make this film – immediately grasps the viewer’s attention: ‘My mother married my father’s photograph.’ Weird though it sounds, it’s true.

There are architectural elements in this film; not only because it is set in an empty house – their home in Teheran – but also because it is richly stratified, with materials that highlight textures, interactions, and trajectories in space. ‘The film builds a puzzle with precious family archives that blend with powerful images of collective moments of great significance.’*

It all began, the director Firouzeh Khosrovani notes, with the photo archive and her memories, out of which she started to weave the story she was most familiar with, as well as to fill the gaps:

‘Looking at our family albums as a child made me develop imaginary stories about my parents’ relationship. The pictures in our family albums became the primary archives in the film. Other formal and informal archival footage provided opportunities to expand the story of our family photos. At times, the archive more accurately conveyed what I had originally imagined or remembered about a story. So, sometimes the images created the story, and sometimes we looked for images to advance our story.
I also used out-of-focus Super 8, their elusive texture resembling the hazy texture of our deep-rooted memories.’

One can only admire the way this film speaks about the history of Iran, posing questions, avoiding bitterness and dogma, casting a critical yet lucid glance into a fascinating world, telling a riveting story before our eyes.

The revolution occurs at the exact middle of the film.
‘I had appealing ideas but no real plot. I knew that a well-constructed plot often moves along a cause-and-effect chain. The film structure is created through my lived experience and vivid childhood memories.’

Unless you know precisely what you want to say right from the start, you run the risk of becoming lost in the different strands of the material. I witnessed the making of this film like someone weaving a carpet, an arabesque of yarn and dye.

‘I had too many interwoven themes. It was easy to get lost in the multiple threads of ideas and forget to think of a compact narrative structure. The fusion of my own fantasies and reality made me excited to share it with others through this film. I sought to lay out in a structured order a chain of connected ideas; tore up photos; produced X-rays of distorted backbones – scans of our home – a narrative space divided into two poles and telling the story of how Islamic laws penetrated our life and our memories of it. Many other peripheral ideas gradually came to my mind.’

‘I did everything I planned to do. Step by step. Working with a great art director, Morteza Ahmadvand, who contributed significantly to its development during the long production journey.’

An act of re-examination and reconciliation, this is a therapeutic film to watch over and over again to discover new aspects of world history and its impact on the stories of three individuals, of a family. Firouzeh doesn’t like the word ‘identity. I respectfully didn’t ask her why; I guess the term may seem to her one-sided, not enough to qualify as self-determination – an identity is never one identity.

This applies to the film, too. In addition to the archives, it is the sound, music, voices, whispers that evoke an environment. Firouzeh Khosrovani explains ‘We considered many different options for speech. Because of the tendency towards realism, it was not possible for the narrator (me) to tell the story before I was born. I tried to find a distinctive conversational tone. Sometimes with whispers. Sometimes loudly.’

I loved the conversational tone of the film. The dialogues truly bring the couple’s conversations to life.

The music also serves a narrative function in Radiograph of a Family, evoking, for instance, her father’s presence even in a scene with her mother alone.
The soundtrack consists of ‘recreation of sounds heard at home. Classical pieces recorded in my childhood memories have been selected and replayed by the composer. Also, a creative re-playing of the melodies of Revolutionary and war anthems that exist in the collective memory of Iranians took their place in the film.’

It took Firouzeh Khosrovani almost five years to finish her film. And it is really beautiful the way she treated her parents, how she values their places in her life and within society; how she respects her mother's political and life choices, despite all the differences that she might have with her.

‘[My mother] was touched profoundly [when she watched the film]. She entirely acknowledged the imaginary dialogues with my father before I was born. She appreciated the conversational tone of the film, the narrative arc, the visual aspect, music – everything. She congratulated me and hugged me.’

This sounds like closure, but it’s not – we all have our own paths to travel.

‘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.’

Firouzeh Khosrovani's Radiograph of a Family has been named the best feature-length documentary at the 2020 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) the film won also the IDFA Competition for Creative Use of Archive 2020

radiographofafamily.com

  • The excerpts are from the interview Firouzeh Khosrovani gave me on November 2020.

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

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.


KinderDocs 2020/21 new programme!

Welcome to the fifth edition of KinderDocs – the documentary festival of award-winning films made for children and teenagers,as well as their friends, teachers, and parents, running all year long in Greece and Cyprus.  Discover the magic of documentaries, explore new ways
of communication, get inspired by stories we all care about, have fun. Each film is a story on teenage life – friendship, family, education, social media, creativity, art, music, dance, psychology, migration, environment – an opportunity to enter the colourful world of kids and teenagers, a platform for constructive dialogue and after-screening events, building tomorrow’s thinking viewers today. Founded in 2016, KinderDocs premieres for the fifth season, in collaboration with the Benaki Museum (Athens) and the MOMus Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art (Thessaloniki), supported by the biggest documentary festivals in Europe – IDFA (The Netherlands) and DOCX! (Germany). Since November 2018, KinderDocs Greece collaborates with Festival dei Popoli in Florence, Italy (est. 1959).

For Schools
KinderDocs documentaries are a great educational tool and source of inspiration for modern educators looking for ideas for their lesson plans and ways to train students in media literacy. In specially designed events for schools, each screening is supplemented by lm-inspired discussions and activities, featuring select guest speakers. All lms have age recommendations (elementary-school children aged 10+ up to lykeion students – see individual lms); they can be integrated into classwork to inform and encourage dialogue as a means to improve bonding in class. Supplementary teaching material a hole method developed by our team for the whole program and each and every film, the KinderDocs Toolkit, helps to prepare students before the screening and provides guidance in the classroom during the follow-up exploration of the KinderDocs experience. Starting February 2018, a special preschool children programme (ages 4–7) was launched at MOMus (Thessaloniki); also, KinderDocs Art Lab, a workshop for children aged 9–12
Check out all the online programme www.kinderdocs.com

Make the most out of your premiere at idfa

Audience development builds awareness for a film in competition with both industry and viewers, and increases your chances to win a prize. Audience development can also take your career as a producer or director to the next level by developing your personal networking scope with decision-makers and press to know your latest film and support your next one.

Audience development means bringing people and cultures closer; it engages people and communities in experiencing, enjoying, and valuing arts and culture. The idea is to expand visibility and awareness, to diversify the audience, and to deepen the relationship with existing audiences. 
The specialist involved in an audience development campaign – audience developer, communication strategist, outreach/impact producer – designs a strategy using tools including the press, social media, graphic design, posters, flyers, ambassadors, an expanded network, personally engages in matchmaking during the festival and guides you through the festival's opportunities.

The goal of outreach is to make an impact for a film or a festival. There is no recipe, no standard procedure – the fascinating thing about it is it's tailor-made for you and your film! It's all about networking, experience, and timing.

If you want to talk about your film premiering at IDFA and its possibilities, contact dimitra@kouziproductions.com.

Dimitra Kouzi has designed and implemented audience development for:

La Chana, IDFA audience award 2016

Nowhere to Hide, best feature length documentary IDFA 2016

21 X New York, European Film Academy 2016 Nominated Best Documentary

Communion, European Film Academy 2017 Selected Best Documentary