CULTURE

Greek connection in three directors

Their last names are all of Greek origin – Xan Cassavetes, Sotiris Dounoukos and Dean Kapsalis – though this is very much where the Greek connection ends, because none of the three were born here or have lived here for more than a few days or months at the most. Nevertheless, there is something of a connection between these three filmmakers who live in the USA and Australia and, although they have probably never met, they all have a trace of Greece inside them. Xan Cassavetes (daughter of the celebrated director John), Sotiris Dounoukos and Dean Kapsalis have taken their first steps in cinema, and those to rave reviews: Cassavetes screened the documentary «Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession» at the last Cannes Film Festival, while Dounoukos and Kapsalis have made their mark with award-winning short films, such as Dounoukos’s «Mona Lisa» and Kapsalis’s «Sara Goes to Lunch.» Cassavetes and Kapsalis live in New York and Dounoukos in Sydney. Kathimerini got in touch with the three young filmmakers on the occasion of a tribute to «Greek Filmmakers of the Greek Diaspora» at the upcoming Premiere Nights film festival in Athens, running from Friday to September 26 at the Attikon, Apollon and Danaos cinemas. Do you have roots in Greece and if so, where? Cassavetes: My father’s parents were Greek. To be precise, my mother was born in New York, but considered herself entirely Greek. My father’s father, Nikos, was born in Athens. Dounoukos: I did live in Greece for a year and I come often to meet up with friends and relatives. Both my parents hail from Arcadia and I frequently visit the family home, just outside Tripolis. It is a wonderful place and I somehow feel very attached to it. I have cousins and friends living there and it is very important to me to see them as often as possible. Kapsalis: My mother is from Pirgos and my father from Sparta. What kind of image do you have of Greece? Have you formed it because of your families or are there other factors as well? Cassavetes: I formed an image of Greece when I lived there for a few months with my family several years ago. Before I ever saw Greece with my own eyes though, I expected to see the most beautiful place in the world; both my parents had made sure of that. When I came, it all felt so familiar, like home. I think that many people who have Greek origins feel the same way. Greece is the most unbelievable, beautiful and magical, as well as absolutely real, place in the world. And beside the beauty and the history of the country, Greeks are also the coolest people in the world. Whether you meet them in the US, in Greece or anywhere else, they are the best. Dounoukos: My image is based on my personal experience of the country and its people. There is something very special about my relationship to Greece. It’s rich and complex, like the country itself. This wealth and complexity combine with the images we see in the religion, language, music, literature and folklore, and which have influenced me greatly. I think many Greek artists have very vivid images of religion, mythology, history – personal memories, memories they’ve borrowed – and that connects us to a degree. Kapsalis: My images come from my parents, the books of mythology and Greek art they used to give me, the stories they shared with me. My image of Greece is of culture, beauty, philosophy and an unbelievable strength… How do you feel about participating in the tribute to diaspora Greek directors and do you feel a member of the diaspora? Cassavetes: I am really happy about the fact that my film will be shown at this festival, in Athens. When I think of Greece, Greeks or anything Greek for that matter, I think of my father. It brings me close to my father, who I adored, but also to a connection with the country that I am very proud of, like he was proud of it… Dounoukos: I am very honored to be a part of the tribute to the diaspora, which covers a great breadth of trends and talents. It is also an opportunity for my voice to become part of a dialogue between Greek filmmakers, the artists and the audience… Kapsalis: I think of myself as a proud diaspora Greek, which means an artist of the world. What genre of film interests you? Dounoukos: I am interested in dramas that look at the human experience in a way that is honest and complex, developing the emotional side of the characters. The big themes to me are the small dramas played out in everyday life, especially within the family. Kapsalis: I am interested in all types: comedy, drama, fiction. But there has to be something human about it, something poetic, something visually attractive and unusual in terms of the characters and the story.