Society, politics and the fate of man crushed by events, are always in the frame of Koutsiabasakos’ camera

Dimitris Koutsiabasakos

The bond between man and place

Text: Tassos Retzios | Photographs: Dimitris Koutsiabasakos' Archive
Dimitris Koutsiabasakos

On one hand, man and his adventures, his muffled and hollow passions (and mishaps). On the other hand, the Greek landscape, rough yet beautiful, defining, if not foreshadowing, the individuals’ behavior. These are the key, but not the only, features of Dimitris Koutsiabasakos’ cinema: it is noteworthy how a cinema of such distinct Greek identity crosses borders, being screened, awarded and spotlighted by an international audience in festivals all around the world. In Koutsiabasakos’ latest film, Daniel ’16, the main protagonist is a German adolescent, Greek dialogue is sparse, yet the film encompasses vivid local traits of our troubled times.

As described by the director himself, “the film’s events unfold in today’s time, in an abandoned Evros village, near the Greek-Turkish borderline. Even though a product of fiction, the screenplay idea is based on real events and was the outcome of in situ research. A fiction film that sprang out of our contact with the inmates and the staff of a German juvenile offender community, established in Greece in the 1980s.”

The film’s core theme, a coming-of-age story, can be summed up in the following words: “caring for others might redeem you from never having been cared for.” “That’s the story of Daniel, the young protagonist of the film. We follow his bumpy and painful journey towards redemption, carried out with courage and boldness, despite the setbacks. His route defies bounders imposed by language, nationality and borders. It is at once a personal and a universal tribulation”, points out Dimitris Koutsiabasakos.

Born in Armatoliko, Trikala, Dimitris Koutsiabasakos studied Film & TV Directing at the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) of Moscow, developing a penchant for teaching, besides filmmaking! He worked as a teacher both at the University of the Aegean’s Department of Cultural Technology and Communication (2004-2007) and the School of Film of AUTh’s Fine Arts Faculty (2009-2015). In 2018, he was elected as an associate professor at the School of Film of AUTh’s Fine Arts Faculty, in the field of Film Direction.

He is discovered by the Greek and international audience in the 1990s, through three short films focusing on the desolate Greek countryside. The 30-minute documentary Heracles, Acheloos and My Granny (1997), scored by Petroloukas Chalkias, is awarded in Sweden and Germany. His film Hill 33 (1998), a fiction short set in a small alongshore military outpost in a frontier island of the Aegean, gains both international attention and awards.

In 2006, the time has come for his debut feature and The Guardian’s Son illustrates the harsh living conditions in the mountainous regions of Greece, while in 2013, his documentary The Grocer is bestowed with awards both in Greece and abroad. Documentariy films Silent Witness and Heracles, Acheloos and Mesochora come up next, leading up to now, amidst an unprecedented situation for the entire world, where Dimitris Koutsiabasakos is back in business with a fiction film of blatant realism.

We believe the film is of crucial importance in times such as these, when Europe is faced up against one of the greatest humanitarian crisis of its history, while Greece is found in the very core of that crisis. It is a story of hope that makes a case that people can reach out to one another and build bonds beyond boundaries and languages,” he stresses out.

The film’s canvas is the deserted Greek countryside, a scenery found in Koutsiabasakos’ previous fiction film, as well in many of his documentaries, but its real hub is once again the profound quest for humanity and solidarity set against the backdrop of the refugee crisis. After all, society, politics and human destiny, crashed under the events of fate, have always taken center stage through Koutsiabasakos’ lens, more than often in a gut-wrenching manner…


Dimitris Koutsiabasakos