Interview with Filmmaker Katerina Giannakopoulou (The Tragedy Of Domna Visvizi)

“The Tragedy Of Domna Visvizi” was awarded BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the April 2021 DANCE & MUSIC Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to create this film?

My multidisciplinary collaboration with Mixalis Iliaskos mirrors the relationship of the brave and patriotic Greek couple Visvizi in this cinematic homage. Our role as directors of our film and as the production company GREEK NATURAL VIDEOS is to showcase our beautiful country and share the richnes of Greece by combining poetry, history, music, dance and acting in a more modern cinematically artistic documentary format as we did with “The Tragedy of Domna Visvizi”.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take you to make this short film?

It took us almost six months. Mixalis Iliaskos released a new single: “You… My sweet Madonna,” with music by Sakis Tsilikis and lyrics by Toula Karoni for our film, which lead us, in the mysterious ways life does, to the little known and long forgotten story of Domna Visvizi. Deeply moved and inspired, we immediately began to work on creating a heartfelt homage to Domna Visvizi, poignantly recognizing both her great love and sacrifice for our shared homeland during the Greek revolution (1821). We started with a sketch on a mobile phone while completing our research, story line, scenography, choreography and the development of our main characters. The actual shooting, my voice over and the post production with our talented D.O.P. Dimitris Tektonidis by our side happened within one week. After that, we passed it on to Marc Fragstein who highlighted with his sound design the scenery, choreography and characters in a beautiful.way.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Greek Tragedy

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Definitely the distance since I had to organize everything from Germany to make the collaboration with Mixalis in Greece possible. All the circumstances and the shortages during the Pandemic made everything very challenging. We had to deal very carefully with our expenses… Any very welcome assistance was unavailable due to COVID19 because of the social distancing. No make-up-artists, no hair stylists, no sound or set runners were physically present to help us. Switching between my role as director to my dual role as Domna Visvizi (dancer/actress) was only possible with much preparation & teamwork. The time pressure also weighed very heavily on me as we only could do the shooting and post production during my short stay in Greece.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It was very emotional to watch the feedback with such attention to detail.

We couldn’t feel more grateful that people around the world are curious about and inspired by our Greek heartfelt project. Here is a small introduction for everybody who wanted to know more about the back-story:

„Domna Visvizi and her admiring husband express their love for Greece by forsaking their comfortable lives to fight for the liberation of Ainos and Halkidiki during the revolution of 1821 on their ship, Kalomira. Domna Visvizi’s unredeemed valor, formidable gallantry, and undaunted confrontation with fate in the critical moments of her life, and the revolution, entitle her to the position of an awe-inspiring heroine in Greek history. Her extraordinary loyalty and courage elevate her stature to at least that of Bouboulina and Manto Mavrogenous. She died abandoned, poor and forsaken. Through a series of documents, excerpts from which are quoted, one can see the anxiety of the Thracian fighter for the success of the revolution, her great contribution and subsequent utter abandonment by the very state she fought to defend and liberate. Our movie was shot in the beautiful Acritic Alexandroupolis, where the flags wave with the essence of Greece.“

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you know that you wanted to make movies?

I have been into films since I was a little child! I always was attracted to films without knowing if I wanted to work in front of or behind the camera. Everything went very natural for me as a multidisciplinary artist and director in most of my projects. The decision to built up our own music and film production company GREEK NATURAL VIDEOS started 2016. We feel blessed to have found international recognition with “The Tragedy of Domna Visvizi” with 33 awards, also honored by the President Ms. Angela Gerekou under the auspices of the Greek National Tourism Organisation, which gives us strength to continue down this path.

7. Which film have you watched the most in your life?

I really can’t choose only one! As a kid it was Flash Dance, I guess… hahahahahaha! But I would always watch any film released in the cinemas. I love Pedro Almodovar – he’s unhinged, but also so deeply human in his character development and stories. I have too many sides to love only one movie or one genre.

8. You entered the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings on the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I find the platform very user friendly and also a great way to make new connections and get a lot of exposure. I’d highly recommend it.

9. What is your favorite meal?

I love fresh fish on the grill!!

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Yes!! There is actually a lot more to share about “The Secret of Domna Visvizi” which will be a film with dialogs, combining the poetry of the lyrics, music, dance, acting, cinematography, sound design, and also special visual effects, telling the story of Domna Visvizi through both an artistic and modern documentary format, to illustrate the most important moments of the Greek heroine as a wife, mother and warrior.

I have also the privilege to be the director of a documentary film during the next three years. “Only Human“ is a project illustrating how we find art in us or art finds us and brings us together in a humanizing learning and healing process. This is going to be my first future film in collaboration with Music4Everybody and Cinemars.

There is also a future film in progress „As the Wave Broke“ directed by Alexandra Bekiou in which I have the honour of playing the main role. We completed the short reference film 2020.. an amazing journey with an incredible and high professional team.

Soon we will release my multiply awarded experimental film Pandemia which won, during your festival, the audience award for “Best Performance 2020”.

Filmmaking is a massive team sport and I’m proud and thankful to work with everybody involved in this projects. We won so many awards worldwide. Unfortunately, we couldn´t celebrate this success together but we will meet and connect in cinemas and film festivals again. I really want to thank the Experimental Dance Festival and the WILDsound Festival for all the support and promotion you do for us.

Being able to have our movies shown and be a part of this amazing online event at the WILDsound Festival was an unforgettable experience, especially during this strange times.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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