Documentary both reveals and hides stories

‘Documentaries always hide great stories’: this was the phrase that Mark Reid, Head of Education at the British Film Institute kept in his mind from my presentation in the Film Literacy day in La Ciotat, south of France a month ago. He added: “we usually think that documentaries tell stories, but you interestingly showed how many the hide…”.

A Melies studio photo decorated the programme.

A Melies studio photo decorated the programme.

In my presentation I deliberately deconstructed a short length documentary I did 3 years ago about a traveler child in the suburbs of Athens. The “truth” which was guiding me through my research and shooting period, was completely challenged and subverted a year after the film had finished. I had chosen the young girl as a character because she wanted to get out of the ghetto and had a wish to continue school. This girl, never made it: she gradually dropped out following the majority of her community. As it proved, two “directors” were not enough to help her not quit. Firstly, the school director, a unique teacher well known for her systematic efforts to bring and keep Roma kids in the school and second, me, a  film director who cared enough not only during shooting but also after. Truth as always, is bigger than documentaries.

The sister of my protagonist learning life in a muddy road.

The sister of my protagonist learning life in a muddy road.

The educational aspect

In a film literacy context, the presentation developed to show how the film itself gives us several chances to read it as a space for communication, information exchange, language development and form creation . Meaning that documentary can be very useful from a media education point of view, something rare, as, usually, fiction films are used for this purpose.


Young professionals become Documentarists

Learning interviewing among the olive trees

Learning interviewing among the olive trees

participants lookig at rushes

Viewing rushes and selecting materials

The environmental association APARE invited me to guide a 4 day intensive documentary workshop for young professionals of the environmental and social sciences sector during their research for the Cote Blue area near Marseillles. It was a great team which advanced their knowledge and consciousness on what a documentary might be. MA students and young professionals from 4 countries added with their questions and initiatives to drafting a script about their area of investigation. The team worked from idea to research and from planning to shooting. The most interesting part was editing where working in small teams they managed to both learn and develop rough cuts, alternatives and challenge their initial research.

An international team from 4 countries:

An international team from 4 countries: UK, France, Italy, Greece

A short making of of the workshop


Film literacy for librarians

On the occasion of the publishing of my subtitled interview on the media language workshop for librarians I also post a few words and photos.

Interview for the Future Library workshop

The Future Library program gave me the chance to work with 100 people who are surrounded by books, who work in a space full of words, jumping out of pages. Who currently search for new ideas and paths to approach their visitors (and their books). Our photo-stories, built from images and story lines proved a great tool, handy and accessible for short and longer term methodology, for younger and older, for digital and paperback!

participants taking photographs

Creating characters and perspective

An imaginative team played with figures and sarcasm

Participants looking at each others work and photostories

Always important to share and comment




A colored object was the starting point for our stories each time, following the overall theme of colors in books and literature. In 2,5 hours the tams had to grasp the idea of creating a story with images and words and produce it!


Story hunger

Cover of Paul Auster Sunset park on a bed

Lost in reading

A wonderful description by great Paul Auster (“Sunset Park”, Picador, 2010, page 149) of our relationship to TV and storytelling .

…he will watch a film on television, the one sedative that can always be counted on, the tranquilizing flicker of images, voices, music, the pull of the stories, always the stories, the thousands of stories, the millions of stories, and yet one never tires of them, there is always room in the brain for another story, another book, another film, and after pouring himself another scotch in the kitchen, he walks into the living room thinking film, he will opt for a film if anything watchable is playing tonight.

The closing down of ERT, our national broadcaster, made me feel some hunger.


Young intruders in a 150 year old library

The National Library, Panepistimiou Av., Athens (1860)

All Athenians and tourists have seen that. How many have been inside?

I walk past the grand and beautiful building once a week, like most of us. I have so often used its pavement as a meeting point and I have been in marches going past it. Hunger strikes by Palestinians used to start nearby in the 80’s, conscientious objectors delivered information, then the Iraqis, the Afghans and so on. The National Library, lifted on its impressive marble staircases, work of a German architect, following his neoclassical dream in Athens of the 1900’s, was uncertain about herself. Her administrators had forgotten her and so did we. Things changed recently and I was fond of getting back in using it. Thanks to the Future Library programme I offered a workshop there. I particularly enjoyed two things: first, to turn the library rules upside down: unaccompanied children allowed, taking photographs, sitting on the floor, using crayons and scissors…Second, to experiment with the contrasts between old, stiff but wise space and young, flexible but ignorant age.

Groups of children making their photostories on the floor of the National Library.

For the final synthesis we found it best to work on the floor, while parents and readers were using the desks!

Maria Leonida guiding a group on their shooting.

Choosing the right picture.

4 children Shooting their story among the oldest books!

A new story among old books.

A 3-day workshop

Educational Radiotelevision (EduTV) organised the MEDEAnet workshop “Developing documentaries in schools” on 5-7 April 2013 in Athens, Greece and invited me to be the lead speaker. The workshop was dedicated at Primary and Secondary level teachers who already have a prior experience in video production, basic knowledge in ICT, and Web 2.0 tools.


Preparing draft ideas


Frame and meanings

Frame and meanings


Hands on and fun

As a film director and media educator, my aim was to focus on methodologies related to documentary, exploring how various tools and resources can be used to enhance creativity in schools and finally understanding how documentary can be a multi-modal, effective, informative and expressive medium. During the 3-day workshop the 24 participants learned how to refine their shooting and editing techniques, to enhance their creative techniques, and focus on methodologies and educational content that could make teaching exciting and attractive to young people.

Documentary training

On edutv_logo5-7 April 2013, I shall be running an intense training, aimed at primary and secondary level teachers who already have a prior experience in video production, invited by the Educational Radiotelevision , EduTV (Ministry of Education) and the MEDEAnet Programme. This 4th workshop of the programme is focussing on developing documentaries in schools. The workshop will take place in Athens, Greece, will involve a lot of hands on experience, a teleconference with teachers form other countries and its outcomes will be presented via EduTV.

Students making documentaries about themselves

This is an article included in The Videomuseum Publication, a book gathering all presentations given at a media seminar for teachers at the Goethe Institute, Athens, 5 May 2012.I rewrote my presentation which deals especially with the outcomes of a 2 year project, helping youth groups make short documentary movies at school. Our project, “The videomuseums” involves teacher training and support from filmmakers also trained in media education.


Looking back at our own work

Mess needs rearrangement, but it creates new forms too.

Mess needs rearrangement, but it creates new forms too.

Setting up a site feels like rearranging your workspace. You bring yourself to remember and re-discover all sorts of little and big projects that were realised and many others that never did. Notes, photographs and ideas pop up either through your drawers or your digital folders.