On 25th March, Thanasis Protatos and his documentary the Journey won the Award of Excellence at the international Accolade Competition. The documentary presents a traditional Cycladic wedding ceremony and preparations on the island of Serifos through the way people taking part see it. Thanasis is a videographer who lives in Greece’s second biggest city Thessaloniki. For the past few days he has been in Athens for the shooting of the film Alpha, directed by Stathis Athanassiou, and we met him between shootings. His lively and full of hope interview is the outcome of our meeting, enjoy it!
What is it that made the Journey stand out among 2000 participations for the Accolade Awards?
I think that every artist sees his work in a way that does not allow him/her to judge it properly so there is no way I can tell you what made it stand out. I will however tell you what Thomas Bacer president of the comitee said during my nomination “The Journey is human centered and different on the way it is presented. It focuses on meanings and situations that are not normally seen in wedding videography.” It seems that my work presents through picture those exact characteristics, focusing on human relations and traditions alike while at the same time going deep into characters. What we have, are two people who are getting married but I search to record what brought them together, what brought them here and not somewhere else. It is an interesting process for both the couple and me. We always talk about it and come to the same conclusion: the whole thing is happening for the next generations, for our children; as if we are showing them the characters and people they will need to remember.
Why a documentary and not a movie?
I had always been interested in documentaries because they place me right at the heart of real stories. Real/everyday people who have to say an interesting or maybe not so interesting story that to me sounds of great importance have always intrigued my imagination. For the past 4-5 years I have been occupied with wedding videography and decided to add my way of thinking to the way I present them. To me marriage is a globally accepted idea despite one’s culture or religion and a symbol of two people’s bond so I see the whole thing more artistically and philosophically.
Throughout the journey, family bonds, friendship, hospitality, traditions and solidarity are all prominent. How real is that picture of Greece?
I believe it is authentic. The couple in the Journey did not even know I was going to send their wedding video to the contest so what you see in the documentary is real, as nobody was influenced and nothing was set. To my mind, the way Greece is presented in my documentary reflects most Greek families. Especially now that we are going through hard times most of us have taken a turn on the way we spend our personal time and of course the way we relate with others. There are still many who only care about themselves but judging from my personal experience most of us are turning to solidarity. It’s a process that will take time but it is going to lead there. It may be because of the current situation (recession) or the way younger generations think but I strongly believe we are heading towards that direction.
Does solidarity mean philanthropy?
Not necessarily. Solidarity is not philanthropy. It does not mean I will feel pity for you in order to help you. It mostly means that in order for me to develop a strong bond with you, we need to share the same vision, an idea that we both love and we will thus support each other in order to bring it to life.
How easy is it for the young to dream and create in Greece today?
I believe one could dream under any circumstances! It may sound as an overstatement but I would personally dream and fight to fulfill my goals even in case of war. That is a determination that has its source in my character. Sometimes going through hardship or facing too many obstacles helps us become more determined and passionate about the whole thing but it definitely has to do with one’s character. No one should give up or lose their courage, we should try hard because it takes time and it’s not easy but it does happen. All you need is to be determined and optimistic enough. From my personal experience this has an effect on everyone around you. It’s true that by thinking and acting positively you “drift” others with you; you transmit and receive positive energy. If we all thought like this, things would be different.
If you could only keep one moment from your life, which would it be?
It would certainly have to do with my family as we are very strongly connected. A vivid memory is my journey to my grandmother’s village, Kalodendro, which is in the European part of Turkey and from which my grandparents left as immigrants in 1922. It’s a village that’s been left untouched by time looking over Marmaras and my journey there brought me closer to my roots.
Do you think the Accolade Award of Excellence will bring you more professional opportunities?I guess, time will show. I hadn’t taken part in any contests before but time came for me to put myself and my work under judgment. It was more of a personal need. When we create something, our friends and family will applaud it but that is not always objective; they are too often carried away by their feelings towards us and they subconsciously tell us what we want to hear. I longed to hear the view of some prestigious people who did not know anything about me and were of a different culture. I thought a Greek wedding would look exotic to them and needed to hear what they thought of it hoping for a praise but certainly not the Award of Excellence! Other people’s opinion on my work, whether it comes from a prestigious director or a couple who have hired me to do it, is important and I long for it.
La Grèce J’aime is metaphorically translated as “What I love About Greece”. Which is the aspect of Greece that you love?
Exactly the one shown in the Journey. It may seem romantic or over optimistic but that’s exactly the picture of Greece that I have been carrying with me since my childhood. Just like every people around the world, we do have some negative characteristics which I do not only know but also tolerate in my daily life but I can’t stick to them. To me, Greece is connected to creativity, strength, resistance and determination. It’s very characteristic of our people that somehow one person or a group of people always manage to accomplish something great. There are many people around the world who do great things but we, Greeks tend to do impressive things that nobody ever expected us to do. That’s what Greece stands for to me and that’s what I love about my country and our people!
Photographer VDouros documented the Journey in the photos you can see in the article and is together with Thanasis Protatos a member of YESIDOC. To find out more about Thanasis’ work you can visit his website VOATFILMS