Young Greek artist on the move

At the Opening Ceremony of the Athens Olympics last year, Athina Rachel Tsangari was credited as the production’s video director-producer. At the Thessaloniki International Film festival in 2000, the young artist made a mark with her first feature film, «The Slow Business of Going.» Over the course of the past five years it has become clear that Tsangari is a talented, active and creative artist. She also organizes the Cinema Texas festival of experimental short films, video art, installations and performance art, now in its 10th year. «It has become quite a significant festival,» says Tsangari, «because we show material that would be hard to show anywhere else in the US.» Though the festival began with showcasing experimental film only, it quickly evolved to embrace other media. The location – Austin, Texas, which the filmmaker says is «like in the middle of nowhere» – was selected for the simple reason that she was at university there. Tsangari had previously studied film at New York University and then went on to Texas, where she was hired as a lecturer after graduation. Tsangari was born in Karditsa, central Greece, and at first studied literature at Thessaloniki University. As a student she began putting together a broad and varied resume of work that had to do with the art of images. Among her early activities was the organization of an event at Thessaloniki called «Orgasmic Cinema,» featuring late-night screenings of «alternative, groundbreaking works in terms of form and content,» she explains of the successful mini-festival. The winter of 2002 found Tsangari in Amsterdam, where she had been invited to teach. Her stint there, however, lasted just one semester as preparations for the Opening Ceremony were keeping her in Greece for much of the time. In 2005 Tsangari struck up a collaboration with filmmaker Giorgos Lanthimos, and now she is wearing her producer’s hat for his feature film «Kineta.» «The role of producer does not interest me professionally but personally and creatively,» she says. «A real producer is a co-creator. If a friend asks me to help and I have no other commitments, I am always happy to help.» The film «Kineta» was picked up by the Toronto Film Festival and made it onto its Discovery program, which features young talent from around the world. It will be screened tomorrow, the opening day of the festival. At the same time as working on «Kineta,» Tsangari has another three projects running. The first is a documentary with American-Palestinian filmmaker Nida Sinnokrot, in which she holds the dual role of co-producer and cinematographer. «When the wall between Israel and Palestine was being built, Nida received a scholarship from the Rockefeller Center to make a documentary,» Tsangari says. «We each took a camera and spent two months filming in the West Bank and Gaza. That was the last time Gaza was open to film crews and observers. We returned when the situation became too difficult. The material we collected was over 300 hours. Last fall we worked together on the editing, and I think that we will be done by the end of this year.» The other two projects she is working on are screenplays. The first, titled «Duncharon,» is a «big-budget production,» according to Tsangari. «It is a screwball, science-fiction comedy which I want to shoot in Greece, on the volcanic islands of the Aegean, with an international cast. Maybe in 2007,» she says of the film, which she is writing in collaboration with Matt Johnson, a close associate. The second movie is a low-budget film, again set on the Cyclades, but with a cast from the local population. «It’s a zombie movie, but it is quite poetic and symbolic,» she says.