Two different auteurs, who crossed paths by chance a decade ago, in the newly-founded Cinema Faculty, sharing a teacher-student bond. 

Apostolos Karakasis – Gabriel Tzafka

A success story made in cinema

Text: Tasos Retzios

A chance meeting between two directors who met nearly ten years ago at the local university’s (then) newly founded film school, one as a professor and the other as an eager young student, confirmed that some people’s paths are destined to cross, no matter what, yet this aleatory encounter may have been all that was needed to carve a new fate for both.

Knowing both Apostolos Karakasis (presently assistant professor at the School of Film Studies, Faculty of Fine Arts of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), and Gabriel Tzafka (a 2010 graduate with an MA in Film Directing and now a Denmark-based talented director), one easily notes another crossing of paths, one that wasn’t in the least a result of chance: in spite of the dissimilarities of the images and stories they depict on screen- and regardless of their diverse narrative methods (Karakasis’ being earthly and assuaging, whereas Tzafka’s is dreamy and intense) -, when watching their films one senses that these directors burrow deep into the human psyche and -more often than not- strike upon primordial gems. Sometimes it’s faith, perseverance and fortitude, at other times it’s merely resilience against the sweeping passage of time.

From very early on, even as far back as 1998 with his poignant film “98 Years”, Apostolos Karakasis viewed his films through the eyes of a documentary maker.  In truth, he discovered his narrative style while making documentaries, a style which he perfected not only through his small screen work, but also through his unpredictable filmmaking plans such as the «National Garden» (2009).

His adroitness in shaping ideological stances simply through the art of observation was widely recognized in the awarded «Next Stop: Utopia», a 2015 film about a Greek factory in Thessaloniki that had gone bankrupt and its workers occupied it in order to operate it on their own (the «VIOME experiment»).  While another director may have opted to focus on the drama of unemployment and the rage stemming from the injustice, Karakasis, without overlooking the ensuing turmoil, instead lies it next to the protagonists’ sullenness and unspoken words as they oscillate between self-reproach and righteousness. Karakasis, once again, underscores his genuine faith in the potential of humanity.

On the other hand, Gabriel Tzafka, made his first stride in filmmaking with a greater momentum, if not with exasperation too. The funny yet rudimentary film «Champions: A Comic Tale» (2011), illustrates the haphazard and chaotic state of film education in Greece, although this is not what distinguishes his style and work.

Following a series of short films which are routinely awarded at the Drama Film Festival («Oblivion» 2009, «Leader» 2011), Tzafka was selected to join the Danish film school «Super16/Nordisk Film» (2013-2016) and became a member of the Danish Film Directors Association.  As he is among the talented Greeks who have ventured onto other lands, drawing an analogy between Gabriel Tzafka and Yorgos Lanthimos is just inevitable.

 In the year 2014 he delivered a remarkably enhanced writing style through the extraordinary «Soemand» (Sailor), filmed in Denmark, while a year later when «Euroman» was screened Tzafka affirmed himself as an accomplished filmmaker, one with a distinctive style and a sense of humanism that is free of naïve arrogance, yet is sculpted within the norms of the western world’s rationality. In other words, nothing short of a success story.