In pursuit of human subtleties

Athanasios Karanikolas, 40, studied photography, video and film in Germany, lives in Berlin, and already has eight years of completed work in short films, experimental projects, documentaries, video installations and one feature film behind him. We would have known nothing about him had he not taken part in last year’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival with «Elli Makra – 42277 Wuppertal,» a film that impressed and earned a Best Actress award for the role played by Anna Lalasidou. Conceived and made in a minimalist fashion, the film is surprisingly deep in terms of how the actress manifests the inner world of the main character she portrays, a Greek immigrant living in Wuppertal, Germany, who is caught between superficial and violent worlds. Judging by his work, the filmmaker is open to poetic ways, experimentalism, new technology and the close observation of people in various living conditions. Kathimerini interviewed Karanikolas ahead of an upcoming focus on the emerging director tomorrow and Sunday at the capital’s Bios venue, where six of his films will be projected. They examine various cultures, and focus on the finer subtleties of people and their lives in a tender, melancholic and unconventional way. The dark side of tenderness, loneliness and sadness seems to be your work’s core element, as is the battle between conventional and unconventional norms. Where do you feel most comfortable? My insatiable hunger for tenderness is always dark, even when I’ve enjoyed being in the bright light for a short time. The accompanying esoteric loneliness and sadness is both a part of me as well a result of modern society’s reality. I try to satisfy my personal feelings any way I can, both within and outside conventions. This is also the theme of my films. My way of thought and expression, and more practically, my lifestyle itself, lie between these two poles. It’s a fine balance. Photography, video art, film, theater, you’ve been involved with all four. Which of these do you find the most fulfilling, and which do you believe is the most potent and telling for you? I began with photography because it was, for me, at the time, the most accessible means of expression. It took me many years to attempt anything more complex, like film. I believe this suits me because I am touched more deeply by the common effort needed, and I feel better challenged by the various combinations of sound, image and human presence. The truth is that during moments of despair, both personal and professional, the only truly liberating medium I acknowledge is writing. Filmmaking is the most spectacular of all other means, but its cultural effectiveness in relation to them is not absolute. Photos with enormous value and effect, such as those by Robert Mapplethorpe and Nan Goldin, video art projects with an almost metaphysical dimension, like installations by Bill Viola, and significant theatrical productions, such as those by Frank Castorf, compete for the public’s attention against insignificant film productions, and the outcome of the battle is uncertain. After having lived in Germany for so many years, do you believe that different cultures can really blend and coexist? With the exception of some directly personal relationships, we live together and apart. Essentially, we inhabit parallel worlds, which, paradoxically, meet at some point. For the sake of financial gain and market-related purposes, we give a distorted impression of coexistence. Unfortunately, racism and sexism seem to remain deeply rooted in our daily ways of expression. In essence, we do not accept differences. Tolerating difference, which is something we consider important, is just a preliminary thing. Ultimately, our objective should be real coexistence, emotional attachment, and forgiveness. Have you found a new identity in Germany? [The dramatist] Heiner Muller said that home is where the bills are paid. In that sense, Germany is also my home. That’s where I work, express myself, pay and get paid. This, of course, does not mean that I’ve lost my identity and found a new one. Identity is not something of the present, but a series of personal choices based on memory and language. Blood relations and close friendships continued to bind me to Greece… I feel that Greece’s image of political corruption, social humiliation and cultural impasse also applies here in Germany. I don’t shut my eyes to this [in Greece]. I feel partly responsible and try, in my own way, to resist, even from a distance. In this sense, each time I return for work is a small success, a hard but liberating experience. And it’s my choice. Saturday and Sunday, Bios (84 Pireos, Athens). Six films by Athanasios Karanikolas will be projected. A parallel video installation by the artist will remain on show for an additional week, until April 7.

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