“A Greek exception”
by Irene Nikopoulou
- Producer Gregory Athanasiou is an important figure in the Greek film industry, who has significantly contributed to strengthening innovative cinema
Cineuropa: The collaboration with Zentropa Entertainment for Costas Zapas’ film was a recent achievement. What does it mean for you, given the fact that you have been collaborating with Zapas for quite some time?
Gregory Athanasiou: Even from Uncut Family, which was Costas Zapas’ very first film and screened at the 2004 Thessaloniki Film Festival, large production and world sales companies were extremely interested in this young Greek filmmaker who managed through his innovative view of cinema to present a modern perception of the Greek tragedy. In 2007 I was invited to Cannes by European Film Promotion in order to present my company’s (Minus Pictures) projects.
Meanwhile, we had already started working on Minor Freedoms [+see also:
interview: Costas Zapas
interview: Gregory Athanasiou
film profile] when we reached a collaboration agreement with Zentropa Entertainment and Trust Film Sales, currently known as TrustNordisk. It takes time for success to come your way, especially when you produce auteur and arthouse films.
Minor Freedoms is about to be released internationally, yet the film has already made remarkable strides in achieving acclaim from much of the film community. What are your expectations for the future?
The film had only one special screening, at the Athens International Film Festival. Audience and film critics crowded in the theatre and some were even standing in the aisles. Their excitement and enthusiasm was really moving for us.
This time we are lucky to be supported by Zentropa Entertainment and TrustNordisk. Furthermore, Minor Freedoms is honored to have Denise Breton, a grande dame of cinema worldwide, as its international relations representative.
There is also a group of film intellectuals who watch and support Costas Zapas’ work. I should probably mention well-acclaimed film critic Michèle Levieux, who wrote one of the most important articles for understanding Costas Zapas’ work, entitled “Regarding Costas Zapas, a Greek exception”.
What do you think about the fact that none of Zapas’ films has been theatrically released in Greece yet will be distributed in Europe?
I have always thought that his work needs to grow into an audience’s consciousness, as it bears a unique identity. Everything has been changing, though. Minor Freedoms will be released in Greece by one of the biggest domestic film distribution companies. His previous films will be also released. We are currently working on the final contract so I should not mention further details.
How long did shooting last and what challenges did you face?
It took approximately 18 months of hard work until we had the final print. Production was demanding as we had to adjust interior and exterior sets located in the mountainous Greek countryside to Costas Zapas’ aesthetics. He himself managed all related activities while supervising rehearsals.
The biggest challenge that a producer of an auteur film encounters is [achieving goals] without betraying the director’s vision. This is even harder in a country like Greece, which presents too little cinema education while “easy” TV methods permeate every production stage. However, we achieved this due to Costas Zapas’ perfectionism, our small and devoted production team and my German education.