It is vital to bring out elements which not even these characters know about themselves, sometimes; to break open their seals and their locks
From Thessaloniki, where he is based, director, producer and cinematographer Andreas Siadimas boasts over 20 years of experience in cinema, with work shown in numerous festivals around the world and several prestigious awards. The starting point for this trajectory were, unexpectedly, his studies in finance at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and then at Greenwich University. At the same time, he also practiced photography, taking part in solo and group exhibitions in Greece and abroad.
“Studying finance was my first choice; it gave me flexibility and knowledge in a subject that, in the ‘90s, had already started to have a significant impact and to be applied pretty much to every sector,” he explains. “When I was a student, one of my main pastimes was photography, and it soon developed into a professional pursuit. Inspired by my interest in photography, I gradually acquired high-end, quality equipment, which I took professional advantage of. I showed my work in exhibitions in Greece and Germany, took aerial shots flying in an ultra-light helicopter… There were no drones back then. It was the age of film.”
The link from photography to cinema ultimately led him to the moving images. “The seeds were there in photography: the canvas, the composition, self-expression through the lens, the common elements it shares with cinema. But there came a point when I realized I did not want to create two-dimensional photography. It was not enough for me to show my work on a wall. I was more interested in space. While working on a piece that was going to be my contribution to a group exhibition of photographer self-portraits organized by the Photography Center of Thessaloniki, which I was a member of, I realized that I wanted to make the leap to the moving image. And that was when my cinematic adventure began.”
Since 2000, Andreas Siadimas has been working on travel shows for television, while in 2004 he established his production company in Thessaloniki, called Dangerous Productions. “Founding a production company was still a closed occupation but I was technically allowed to do so because I had a degree in finance, so I went ahead with it. It was my excuse to take advantage of many years of studies without working in the sector. My main motivation was that I wanted to do some work of my own, taking full responsibility for both production and direction, which is especially difficult. They are two completely different specializations, often in competition: The director dreams things up, while the producer is expected to hold on to the reins of control and approach the process from a more technocratic perspective.” He chose the name Dangerous Productions because, as he notes, “this polarity between director and producer is a dangerous situation – and even more so in Greece and Thessaloniki. As a process, production can be testing for your relationships with your family and colleagues, your finances and your mental health.”
In 2008, he took part for the first time as director and producer in the Drama International Short Film Festival with the film Rosmarinus Officinalis [Rosmarinus Officinalis i Dendrolivanos o Farmakeutis], a short about the spirituality of nature, for which he worked with Petros Fyssoun, Nikos Georgakis and Athina Maksimou. It earned him the 3rd State Award for Quality. Handset Type [Kinita Stoicheia] followed in 2011, competing at the 34th Drama International Short Film Festival and taking home three awards. Both films were shown at several international festivals, gaining him even more acclaim.
Unquestionably, a milestone in Andreas Siadimas’s career was the exhilarating documentary Mataroa: The Journey Goes On [Mataroa, To Taksidi Sinechizetai]. “In the summer of 2014, on my way back from Milos Island, where I had been working on the Istories Polemou kai Technis project, I met in Athens a friend, historian Kostis Kornetis, who introduced me to Servanne Jollivet, also a historian. They pitched a documentary about the story of the Mataroa, a legendary ship that set sail in December of 1945 from Piraeus to take the flower of Greek youth to Paris. I knew the gist of the story but had reservations. Taking on a project is no simple decision. I looked into it further. Meanwhile, the financial crisis had already reached us, as had the brain drain, and I was seeing and hearing about friends and collaborators leaving the country. The Mataroa was sailing into our lived reality in a timely way. And the more I researched, the more its various guises found me, as a hopeful situation. It is, after all, a success story. I said yes, and joined the project with my friend and collaborator Panagiotis Vouzas. All this research yielded a large volume of material around the personalities who traveled on the ship and around the stories that give her an air of myth. We visited Paris three times for interviews and filming, identifying contemporary takes on the Mataroa and seeing her return today via different art forms. The values that the Mataroa stands for, in my opinion, and this very personal bet comprised a challenging but very interesting adventure that concluded after five years.” The film travelled to several festivals and events, including the 2nd GRECDOC Festival Paris 2020 (where it received a Bronze Award), 4th CineDoc 2019, 21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, 13th Chalkida DocFest (Special Award), 17e Internationale Festival Signes de Nuit Paris, Fondation Hellenique Paris and Polyphonic Festival, and was released in cinemas in 2019.
In all of Andreas Siadimas’s cinematic projects, research is a constant. “From the moment you take on a historical topic, research is what corroborates historical truth – and ought to be thorough, to the extent possible. It is part of what makes a project interesting to me. In fiction, I care about the script; in documentaries, I care about the story. And always the characters, of course. I want there to be an interesting primary idea; a good foundation on which to build.”
So far, at least, the documentary has won him over, as a genre that has more manageable production, real characters and real stories. Although the format remains a challenge, as he notes. “For me, it is vital to portray the authentic side of your characters on the screen, and it takes a lot of work to build rapport and comfort for someone to open up to you, to bring out elements which not even these characters know about themselves, sometimes; to break open their seals and their locks. Through them, you also redefine yourself. You lift the mirror and you forge ahead.”