Exclusive Interview with Dimitri Athanitis – Film Director
Dimitri Athanitis is an outstanding Greek film director, member of the European Film Academy, founding member and first secretary of the Greek Film Academy. Born in Athens, he studied cinema and architecture.
His last film Invisible (2016) gained 16 Awards at more than 40 festivals, playing for 17 weeks at Athens theaters and in more than 35 Greek cities, making an incredible record.
“For innovating Greek cinema” with his debut Addio Berlin (1994) he gained the Jury’s Special Prize at Thessaloniki IFF. This low budget indepedent film became cult at once, while Athinorama noticed “maybe the next big name in Greek cinema”.
His second feature, the provocative and classic now, No Sympathy For The Devil (1997), shot also in black and white, created a scandal in TIFF and gained the Best Actress Award, representing Greece at the International Competition, honored also by a Ministry of Culture Distinction.
2000+1 Shots (2001), Athanitis’s film on millennium, combining fiction and documents, creates the mosaic of a city and the stigma of the whole world at a specific moment. It gained international recognition and in the cine bible Senses of Cinema, Bill Mousoulis chose it among the 10 best films in the world for 2001.
An Athens Summer Night’s Dream (1999), a modern adaptation of the theatrical play, was included in Oxford’s Shakespeare and World Cinema by Mark Burnette, while Planet Athens (2005), on the Athens Olympics, is the one and only fiction ever shot in real time during the Games.
Three Days Happiness (2012) gained 4 awards, had a high critical perception was presented in more than 30 festivals and was selected by the TIFF among the 100 all-time top Greek films. His first documentary Labyrinth (2019) on Athens galleries, gained 5 awards.
Athanitis’s short films are also extraordinary; Philosophy (1993) prophets the Greek bail out and gained the Phantasy Award at Drama IFF, Mister X (1994) is a silent story about a clerk living in his suitcase while Madonna Calls Fassbinder (2008) is actually what the title promises.
Athens Underground (2011-2018), a completely original reconstruction of the city’s image based on 6+1 films of his, is a mega video installation in continuous progress. It was included in the world review for visual arts by the Italian Cultura Universale, 2/2012, the only Greek reference.
His first book Secret Encounters (2017), a cinematic voyage through meetings with stars, directors, writers and even underground figures, had a special first presentation at the Athens Book Festival and later in Thessaloniki Film Festival, Drama FF and many Greek cities. His second book Scripts (2020) contains the scripts of his first two films, Addio Berlin and No Sympathy for the Devil.
A trully indepedent filmmaker, Dimitri Athanitis is also writer and producer of his films and allways the sound and music designer. As an actor he has appeared in Radio Moscow, Strangers in a Strangeland, A Man for all Seasons, Addio Berlin, No Sympathy For The Devil, Vox, a.o.
Medea (2022), his tenth feature, based on Evripides masterpiece, is his new project. In 2017 was published his first book Secret Encounters. His work is analyzed in many books like Poetics of Cinema, D. Bordwell, Mise en Scene and Film Style, A. Martin, Shakespeare and World Cinema, M. Burnette, Ethnic Cinematographies, T. Soumas.
NY Glam: Tell us a little about yourself, growing up and your passions.
Growing up in Athens downtown, I had the intention to study architecture, when I discovered cinema. And that happened just watching one night a specific film in an almost empty cinema. I was just seventeen.
NY Glam: Did you have any specific influences growing up that lead you towards the film industry?
Architecture has a lot to do with cinema, as an art that combines many others. I had taken also lessons on drawing and on Art History.
NY Glam: What are you currently working on?
Medea is my new film, a completely original project, based on the masterful play by Euripides. It sounds bizarre but it is hard to find a film like this, in the last fifty years.
NY Glam: What were your main responsibilities on this film?
I am writer, director and main producer. I am also as in all my works the executive producer and the supervisor of music and sound design.
NY Glam: Can you tell us about your experience in working with your team in this film?
Well, as my film are low budget, my team is my power. For the last four films I have the same director of photography, art director and editor. They are great professionals and talented.
NY Glam: What was the most important thing for this movie to achieve from a narrative and character standpoint?
I had to turn the theatrical play to a cinematic script and I had to bring in life a character, Medea that has lived three thousand years ago. And more, to bring this archetype character near to today’s public.
NY Glam: What makes a film interesting for you? What are three qualities that you look for in a movie?
First of all, the cinematic touch, a strong, convincing, personal view. And that is rare. Second, a powerful story. Third, the interesting characters.
NY Glam: What project helped you launch your career?
My first film Addio Berlin created a name for me, now a cult, but also my next No Sympathy For The Devil which keeps making a career on vod platforms all over the world for two decades.
NY Glam: What criteria do your team?
Talent, ability to cooperate, flexibility.
NY Glam: What are you most proud of? Describe your biggest accomplishment to date?
I enjoy the creating of a cinematic world with ten features at the moment. Films that may look different at first, but with strong common ideas and of course common view.
NY Glam: As a screenwriter, what is the most important aspect of building a character?
To be unusual, interesting, powerful from inside and in a way attractive.
NY Glam: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Well I am ready to publish a book that shall shock. I am talking there about the sixty more interesting films in cinema history and it is not what someone would expect.
NY Glam: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re super excited about?
I have almost ready a film essay on the “seeing in cinema” while I am preparing a documentary on cemeteries.
NY Glam: Can you tell us about your experience being part of European Film Academy?
It is important to belong in a greater friendly, cinema company like EFA but being creative remains the real thing.
NY Glam: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the film industry, especially as a film director?
Must have a great passion, a personal vision and be able to adopt a critical view on his work.
NY Glam: Can you discuss any future projects or direction you are taking in regard to film making?
Making my first documentary Labyrinth (2019) and rewriting a theatrical play as a script, gave me more freedom and opened more creative dimensions. So now I adapt another classic play, working at the same time on a bizarre documentary.