Tag Archives: ARNode

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

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.