Ελληνικά
English
FacebookTwitterLinkedinVimeoYouTube
OH MY DOG!
Θεμιστοκλέους 86
18122 Αθήνα, Ελλάδα
κιν: +30 30 6985 686232
email: info@ohmydog.gr

ΑΡΧΕΙΟ ΝΕΩΝ

δείτε περισσότερα view more

Συνέντευξη της Αννέτας Παπαθανασίου από την Βανέσα Μακ Μάχον στο Film Festival Social Network 10/5/2011

ANNETA PAPATHANASSIOU INTERVIEW about her film, “The Nymphs of Hindu Kush” (Oi nymfes tou Hindu Kush) (Greece, 2010), which first screened at the 13th International Thessaloniki Doc Fest 2011 two months ago. After many attempts to see her film and to speak with her, Anneta and I finally made our interview. And just before the circus of the 64th Cannes Film Festival begins with all its fiction films and fantasy glitz and glamor and yachts and movie myth, I thought I would start this -Day 0- of Cannes with an interview on this down to earth documentary about these women in the mountains of the Hindu Kush who exercise their right to independent power and a freedom of lifestyle that inspires and teaches. Anneta speaks about her film and the ‘nymphs’.

ME: Can you tell us what the nymphs exactly are and how they are so different than the women who live in the rest of the country?

ANNETA: The “Nymphs of Hindu Kush” is a symbolic title. I compare the women who belong in the ancient tribe of Kalash and live in the mountains of Hindu Kush in Pakistan, with the nymphs of their religion which is polytheistic. Kalasha people believe in many Gods, nymphs and fairies. Nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing and have an amorous freedom. Kalasha women, according to my opinion, have all these elements. They live freely in the valleys, they sing, they dance, they love, they elope, they get married, they separate, they get married again. The Kalasha women are really strong, energetic and free in contrary to the other Pakistani Muslim women who live next to them and are more conservative and restricted. The Kalasha women do not wear scarfs, they have nice colorful headdresses. They don’t wear the ‘salwar kameez’ like the Muslim women, they have very beautiful dresses and they walk alone freely without the company of any male along the paths of the valleys.

ME: Where was it filmed and was it a difficult production?

ANNETA: The documentary was filmed in Pakistan, mostly in the Kalasha Valleys in Northwest Pakistan, near the borders with Afghanistan. This kind of production cannot be easy for a western crew. First of all, the filming location is up in the mountains about 2.500 meters high. Second, you leave behind a lot of comforts and you have to adjust to the Kalasha way of life, which is totally different from ours. Last but not least, the security issues. The kidnapping of our friend Athanassios Lerounis from the Taliban was a shocking event that we had to cope with.

ME: How did you come up with the idea for the film? When did you first hear about the nymphs?

ANNETA: The Kalash people are less than 4.000. They are the only tribe that has preserved its own ancient religion and never converted to Islam. The legend says that they are descendants of the warriors of Alexander the Great. I am Greek myself and I was amazed when I first heard about this. So, I contacted “Greek Volunteers”, a Greek NGO located in the Kalasha valleys, which supports the Kalasha community since 1996. Athanassios Lerounis and Pitsa Droggari, members of the NGO, talked to me about Shamim, the first Kalasha woman who studied in the University with a scholarship from the Greek NGO. I was impressed by her story and the story of the Kalasha women in general. As a woman, I am strongly interested in women’s affairs, so I decided to make a film about the Kalasha tribe through the stories of the Kalasha women, which I call “The Nymphs of Hindu Kush”.

ME: How has the film been received locally and internationally?

ANNETA: The film was premiered at the 13th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in March 2011. Both screenings were sold out and the discussion with the audience after each screening was really pleasant as I got to answer many interesting questions. The film was also well received in the Festival Market, where it was rated as the highest viewed film among all titles (530!).The journey of the film has just begun. We have sent it to some festivals and we are about to sign a contract with a distributor. We are also discussing the theatrical release in September in Athens.

ME: Can you speak more about the Greek professor who was kidnapped by the Taliban? How did it happen and what did this do for Greek relations?

ANNETA: Athanassios Lerounis is the president of The N.G.O. “Greek Volunteers” that has performed a number of welfare projects in the region. He stayed in the Kalasha valleys for a long time and cooperated with the teachers and the elders of the tribe to record the unique Kalasha tradition in the Kalasha language. Before these efforts, the Kalasha language was verbal and no written documents existed. Since 1996, Athanassios has been helping the Kalasha tribe by constructing schools, giving scholarships etc. All people in the area love him and respect him as their mentor. He is revered by the Kalasha as their benefactor. His kidnapping filled them with with deep sadness, insecurity and fear. For the Greek relations Athanassios’s abduction was a very difficult situation. The abductors were Taliban who demanded $2 million in ransom and the release of three important Taliban leaders kept in the Pakistani jail. Athanassios was kidnapped from the Kalasha Valley in September 2009 and immediately moved to Nooristan Province of Afghanistan. So there were three countries involved. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said Pakistan had taken up this issue at the highest level with NATO and Afghan Forces and assured the personal envoy of the Greek Prime Minister that his government will undertake every possible effort to seek the safe release of Athanassios Lerounis. On the other hand, Greece accepted Pakistan’s demand for legislation to grant citizenship and voting rights to Pakistani immigrants. It is the intention of Greece, as a member of EU, to try to strengthen relations with Pakistan and promote its economic growth. Finally, the negotiations and efforts from both sides resulted in Athanassios’ safe release.

ME: How hard was it to make this film, being Greek? Were you ever afraid something might happen while filming it, like problems with the Taliban?

ANNETA: It is really hard for every western (non Muslim) to make this kind of films in areas where terrorism exists. I had many security problems when I was working on my previous film “Qadir an Afghan Ulysses”, filmed in Afghanistan. At that time, the Taliban had announced their intention to kidnap every foreigner visiting Afghanistan. So we had to take very strict security measures under the guidance of the UN in Central Afghanistan. Being a woman makes things even more difficult in these countries, especially when you are a female director giving orders here and there in order to complete your shooting! Still, this was not the case in the Kalasha region. There, being Greek was something like a “passport” for me and my crew because the Kalasha feel related to the Greeks and because of my close connection with the N.G.O., “Greek Volunteers”. I have to say that when I want to make a film I don’t feel fear that something bad will happen. My crew and I take all the precautions and try to protect ourselves in any way we can. Of course, the abduction of Athanassios Lerounis never crossed our minds! Athanassios was the person who invited us there and offered us hospitality. The good thing is that he is healthy and free among us today. Despite all the difficulties, I enjoy exploring these countries, learning about different cultures, meeting people, sharing thoughts and making friends. Things that would have never happened unless I went there. I want to continue making films around this area of the world. So different and so interesting. Journalists write about and record the wars, the political situation, and terrorism. I want to make films about culture, about the people and their feelings. I can’t stop dreaming and thinking of my new film.

ME: Do you have another project in mind or will you follow this film first for a while before beginning your next project?

ANNETA: Of course, I will follow “The Nymphs of Hindu Kush” for as long as it takes for the film to find its way to an international career. At the same time, I have a new film in mind. The story takes place once more in Afghanistan. You see this area intrigues me! The film is titled “Aftaab, Theater in Kabul” and it is about a theater group in Kabul who play classical theater (lately they performed "The Miserly" by Moliere). Aftaab, which means “sun” in the Afghan language, is a multi-ethnic theatre company of women and men, which has been performing for five years. My intention is to follow the lives of the actors in and out of the theater.

ME: Is there anything you would like to express about your film that you haven’t been able to? Anything you would like to add?

ANNETA: The biggest difficulty that I had to overcome regarding the film was that certain circumstances did not allow me to really follow the treatment of the film that I had initially in mind. Real unprecedented events that took place caused significant changes to my storyline, most importantly the abduction of Athanassios Lerounis. To be more specific, I did the first shootings in the area in October 2008. I was planning to go again in May 2009 in order to complete the shootings, so I did all the preparations; I had the crew ready and our tickets in hand. Still, the security situation in Pakistan got worse and the Pakistani authorities delayed granting us filming permission and issuing our visas. We couldn’t but cancel our trip and wait. Finally, we managed to get permission in August. We started all preparations from the beginning but it was at that point that the abduction of Athanassios Lerounis occurred and once more we were denied access in the area due to security reasons. All Greek Citizens were forbidden to visit the area, including our crew. My disappointment was enormous, not to mention the worry and agony about my friend Athanassios. Still I tried to continue our shootings and change the storyline of the film according to the current situation. I had to film how the abduction affected the Kalasha and especially the women’s lives. Therefore, I hired a Pakistani crew to continue the shootings in the area. I gave the directions via email and made hundreds of phone calls to make sure everything was going as requested. I could not but change the storyline because this is the very meaning of documentary filmmaking, to document the reality in your own creative way. Read more...

ΕΠΙΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑ

OH MY DOG!
Θεμιστοκλέους 86
18122 Αθήνα, Ελλάδα
κιν: +30 6985 686232
email: info@ohmydog.gr