Filmmaker inspired by Olympic Athens

Exactly one year ago, filmmaker Dimitris Athanitis was adding his own touch to the international crowd that filled the streets of Olympic Athens while filming «City of Miracles,» his fifth full-length feature. «I tried to depict the hidden parts of the city, to highlight favorite spots and to shed a different light on places that we know so well. I tried to reinvent Athens, a city we ignore or have forgotten due to routine and compromise,» said Athanitis. The film, which opens this week, will take us back a year. «I could not have screened it back then because that was when the filming took place. Another reason is that at the time everyone was too involved with the Games, whereas now, distance helps us see things more clearly and with a better sense of humor. Besides, the film is not about the Games. The Games merely provided the circumstances that caused all the happenings in the characters’ lives.» In the film, a Japanese couple comes to Athens to get married, an American student falls in love with a French photographer and a Russian returns to Athens seeking an old flame. A yuppie fruitlessly tries to escape the paranoia surrounding the Games, a little girl is looking for a new father and a reporter witnesses her life being turned upside down. Six, on the whole, different stories, sometimes become interwoven and sometimes develop side by side. «What unites all the characters is their need to keep their eyes and hearts open, so that they can see and live. They are all looking for love and they all find it through some small ‘miracle.’ What unites them is what separates them at the same time: the city. Their desires also lead them down different paths, sometimes resulting in conflict. Those 10 days play a unique role and are a life-changing experience for all of them,» explained Athanitis. Filming in the crowded city during the Games was not easy. «We had to move through the crowds but at the same time remain unnoticed. That is why I developed a method of shooting without warning and using a small and flexible crew.» Dimitris Athanitis, who broke into filmmaking in 1994 with «Addio Berlin» and continued with «No Sympathy for the Devil,» «Midsummer Night’s Dream» and «2001 + 1 Shots,» is a director who remains true to his beliefs about cinema: maintaining a low budget and focusing on a direct and honest depiction, with detail and depth. He seems to be moved by small stories that encompass bigger issues, such as loneliness, social deadlocks and confusion. That was his starting point for his last production, «2001 + 1 Shots,» and seems to also be the motivation behind «City of Miracles.» «The idea for this film came about strangely. I was one of the people who claimed they would leave Athens during the Olympics. But then I realized that apart from the sports events, the Games also included people, that the urban landscape would turn into a miniature of the planet and so many personal stories would cross paths. I wrote 12 stories and kept half of them. Deciding to film this movie was the first miracle for me.»