Thanos Anastopoulos • Director
“A director has a responsibility to be a witness to reality”
- We speak to Thanos Anastopoulos, director of The Last Resort, at the Bergamo Film Meeting 2017
For the past 30 years, Thanos Anastopoulos has followed the historic trajectory of his country, Greece. Unlike his colleagues, Yorgos Lanthimos, Alexandros Avranos and Athina Rachel Tsangari, who shot to fame through the exasperated radicalism of a new wave of Greek cinema, Anastopoulos has always chosen to depict harsh reality. Cineuropa spoke to him at the Bergamo Film Meeting 2017, where a retrospective exhibition was dedicated to him. This included his most recent film, The Last Resort [+see also:
interview: Thanos Anastopoulos
film profile], which was filmed with just two pairs of hands, his own and those of Davide Del Degan, and which won Best Documentary at the 2017 Hellenic Film Awards last night (see the news).
Cineuropa: Your 2007 film Correction already showed signs of the recession that would later hit Greece and the rest of the world.
Thanos Anastopoulos: A new wave of Greek cinema emerged after the 2004 Olympic Games. Correction was born of a desire to talk about the dirt that society so often sweeps under the carpet. I’ve always started with reality, which manifests itself in the places from my childhood, the area behind Omonia Square, the less touristy area – I like to call it the stomach of Athens. I decided to film the guts of Greece’s capital! After the fall of the wall, it was the first area to see the arrival of immigrants, and I experienced these societal changes as they occurred. The year of the Olympics was magical: Greece won the UEFA European Championship. But then came the decline. We were beaten by Albania in the qualifying stages of the World Cup. There were riots in the streets, and an Albanian man was killed by Greek nationalists. I told the story of the clashes with immigrants way before the world discovered the Golden Dawn political party, which is now known around the globe. But I’m not a fan of stereotypes, and I did so from a rather morbid point of view.
You now live in Italy, and after a trilogy of feature-length fiction films, you’ve returned to documentary with The Last Resort, presented at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Official Selection – Special Screenings.
My colleague is from Trieste. My 2012 film The Daughter [+see also:
film profile] was filmed in Greece but was edited in Trieste. It’s been difficult to organise the production of new projects over the past few years owing to the recession, so we thought about doing something with a smaller budget. My attention turned to a beach where my son and I used to go. It reminded me of the beach in Athens where I used to go with my father, who used to swim during the winter months. When I met the people at Pedocìn beach, I thought, "I already know these people!" The wall dividing men and women at the beach forced me to reflect on identity and discrimination. Someone told me that Davide Del Degan was working on an identical project. We had three options: make two separate films, give up or make one together, and luckily in the end we decided to join forces.
What do you think of the many documentaries and docu-fiction films that are enjoying quite a lot of success at festivals?
Reality has always been there! Observational and anthropological cinema did exist. But if you ask someone to move a bottle, it’s no longer a documentary. For The Last Resort, we stood alongside the very supportive people of Pedocìn, but did not interfere. We went to the beach to meet people for months before filming. It was more difficult for the women because they felt that we were on their territory. Slowly, however, we created a relationship of trust, thanks to their incredible generosity. Little by little, it turned into a waltz, in keeping with the Austro-Hungarian metaphor. I do think, however, that a director has a responsibility to be a witness to reality, to the things that happen, and the moments in which they occur. The recession caused film budgets to fall, and so this is the age of the documentary film and a time to reflect on the ways in which we view things.
(Translated from Italian by Beatrice Guarneri)
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