New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Takis Bardakis’ documentary, “Athens From Below”, the most important film in the 10th Annual New York Greek Film Festival, raises awareness of the urgency of the struggle for survival at its most basic level in an Athens strangled by austerity measures. Filmed while director Bardakis lived among the homeless and disenfranchised, “Athens from Below” is a firsthand view of their attempts to maintain their dignity in the midst of desperation. Hope and the humane and indomitable spirit of Greece is shown through Bardakos’ coverage of the positive, unexpected surge of vitality amongst Athenians who are finding inventive ways to save others as well as themselves.
GN: What was your first reason for making this documentary?
TB: The strange thing is that no one actually decided to make this film. It happened this way:
in late 2011, early 2012, in the “black years” of the crisis, I was seeing social and economic disintegration all around me, in my life, in my circle… desperate people eating from the garbage, daily suicides, daily evictions, queues at soup kitchens in every neighborhood; I had to do something. I took the movie camera and began to record these images of violence occurring every day in Athens on the streets and in homes ravaged by economic poverty.
I began having daily contact with neighborhood solidarity committees and citizens from soup kitchens, and over a period of three years of filming, I saw that it would be a shame if this compelling material didn’t come to the surface. I decided to make the movie, “The ATHENS FROM BELOW”.
GN: What do you hope will be the outcome of the film?
TB: What we would like is for the viewing of the film to sensitize society, to the immediate relevance and importance of this topic; to show that our country is not only made out of beautiful images for tourism; to show that there is another Greece, a Greece of pain and wholesale poverty. We wanted to say that it is human values that are ultimate in life, not just employment for the pursuit of profit. We want to help create awareness of humanism and solidarity.
GN: What are your impressions of the movie screenings and contact with the public?
TB: There was massive support for the production while we were making it. The film was screened in dozens of Greek cities, it was embraced fervently by Greek immigrants and expatriates overseas. We are particularly pleased by the great impact it had when it was screened here in the New York City Greek Film Festival. The theaters were packed and there was great interest in the discussions following the screenings.
GN: Where does one derive the strength to create an artistic product during a time of economic crisis?
TB: In times of crisis culture is considered to be a luxury and can be under considerable attack. Whoever seeks financial or material support to create an artistic product encounters frustration and apathy in this period. It is innovational, and it is commendable for Greek filmmakers who without official funding put their limited resources toward film productions. It is an act of humanity and solidarity.
GN: How did you overcome financial difficulties in order to complete “Athens From Below”?
We worked with film equipment borrowed from friends and other filmmakers during the last three years of filming. We were using different type of cameras, but due to our professional experience this isn’t discernible in the final result. The problems increased as funds were necessary to book studios for stage editing, image editing, audio editing, and post production, for the translations and subtitling, the purchase of hard drives and to create the trailer, etc., etc. However, every time we get stuck somewhere, we received donations through social networks (crowdfunding) and by professionals who selflessly offered their services on the film gratis. It was a mini economic movement; concerned individuals and groups in Greece and abroad gave material support for “Athens From Below”. They are all honored in the film’s end credits.
GN: Have you made other films?
TB: In my 30 years of service in the audiovisual field, I filmed TV series, movies, and documentaries, mainly as Cameraman and Director of Photography. During these difficult years there have been no jobs; there is over 90% unemployment in this profession. But I couldn’t sit with folded hands, so I decided to directing my own work. This is my first feature film; I had previously done a short film titled “METALLICA”
GN: What is your next project?
TB: The filming of my next project, “BORDER SOULS”, is almost complete. It is a film about the refugee crisis in Greece: the inhumane conditions at the border of Idomeni, the dead end of the closure of European borders, and the amazing, humane story of the monks and nuns of the Monastery of the Panagia of the Mighty Protection, in Halkidiki, who carry loads of food and other assistance daily to Muslim refugees. This documentary encapsulates humanism and solidarity, as supreme values that permeate all of Greek society, despite the economic crisis.
GN: What can we in the U.S. do to help?
The project “BORDER SOULS” has no financial support, either from the state or TV channels. As you know, it id expensive to make a feature film of any length, and it is particularly true in our case, as we are shooting throughout Greece, starting from Turkey, Mytilene, Piraeus, Halkidiki, Idomeni.
To complete this undertaking, we need you to join us and to help those who believe that those efforts deserve to rest. Greek Americans express solidarity on a high level. Whoever believes that our efforts deserve support can help, as supporters or sponsors. We will post “Border Souls” on both
the Indiegogo and Crowdfunding platforms.
Immediate contributions can be made through:
The National Bank of Greece:
Account Number: GR 380 110 179 00000 17900 117973
Account Holder: SQUAREFILMS
Contributions can also be made through Paypal: http://squarefilms.gr/en