Gregoris Rentis aesthetic touch is evident in all of his works.

Gregoris Rentis

Cinema communicates a truth

Text: Yiorgos Papadimitriou
Gregoris Rentis​

Gregoris Rentis studied Electrical Engineering in London and went on to have his postgraduate studies in Film Directing at California Institute of the Arts. Over the last years, he has directed many successful and award-winning advertising spots and video clips, while his short film Sundown was screened at the Rotterdam Festival. His full-length debut documentary Dogwatch celebrated its premiere at Nyon’s Visions du Réel, while gearing up for its Greek premiere at the >>Film Forward competition section of the 25th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival. What incited him to turn to the documentary genre for his first full-length attempt?

“I find that cinema is not meant to record facts but rather to communicate another kind of truth, intended to be experienced not only mentally but also physically. Werner Herzog has put it rather eloquently, speaking of an ecstatic truth as opposed to an accountant’s truth. If you can communicate an idea through an article or a series of pragmatic references, there is no reason to make it into a film. The way I see it, a film should be experiential, a journey during which you are wholeheartedly engaged and form an opinion on the direction things are heading to. I find that the documentary form is more liberating than fiction and, I believe, that is the reason we come across bolder, even experimental, narratives in documentaries, which at the same time maintain their connection to a wider audience. My educational background is in fiction, but I am drawn by both forms and I approach them in similar fashion. My starting place is within the real world and from there I develop a character-driven story. My next film is actually fiction, inspired by real testimonies”.

Gregoris Rentis aesthetic touch is evident in all of his works, in every field of his professional activities; no surprise, therefore, he’s one of the most sought after Greek directors in the area of advertising spots. In what way and to what extent has he benefited as film director by this pluralistic stint? “It goes without saying that the gamut of my professional background has enabled me to experiment and gain experience in different narrative films, but most importantly it taught me how to handle the element of time. In a commercial or a video clip you are asked to unfold a story with moderation and precision in terms of duration or music tempo. How you fill a frame with all the necessary info and how dense a scene should be are my constant preoccupations while directing. What is the shortest way to say something, when and why do you choose to devote filmic time to an idea? What’s the stature and the imprint of an image? Because at the end of day time, and by extension our attention, is one of the most invaluable commodities of our times and all artists must show the proper respect.”

“I find that cinema is not meant to record facts but rather to communicate another kind of truth, intended to be experienced not only mentally but also physically"

The multiple prizes and distinctions bestowed to Greek documentaries on an international scale emphatically corroborate a remarkable and impressive growth. “I believe that documentaries are less restrained by the stress to record and document, thus having the ease to work as a means of expression. That is why we see so many documentary films endowed with a strong sense of personality. Everyday reality in Greece definitely plays a part, with its endless and often absurdist content. I would agree that Greek cinema is on a good moon, although still lacking a true discourse with the audience. If I were to name one area that needs improvement that would be the way films are displayed and promoted to the audience. However, whenever a Greek finds its way to the audience, a wonderful interaction with society is triggered”.

Drawing inspiration from the story of a group of people whose lives exceed by far the common standards, Gregoris Rentis’ Dogwatch is moving in Beckettian territory, where inactiveness is transfigured into the core of an existential whirlpool, gradually weaving a subtle study on the absurd and the irrational, as well as the eternally ludicrous and fragile of the male imaginary.

“Maritime piracy in Somalia was a topic that made the press headlines from 2008 and on. Amidst the financial crisis, many people working in the security sector opted to become mercenaries assigned to protect ships from pirate assaults. My uncle was one the first mercenaries to work in the area that later came to be known as High Risk Area. Returning from his trips he shared stories of a world totally unknown to me. The myth of piracy was my passport to the film’s psyche, but the true source of inspiration came later on, when pirate assaults started to decrease in number, partly due to the mercenaries’ presence. The action and the danger were reduced and so was the money. Nevertheless, the work remained unaltered and so did the anticipation of meeting with the “enemy”, which may or may not be realized. This feeling of limbo worked as the framework for a contemplation on male nature”.