Maria Douza is a Greek writer and director with a passion for sharing the Greek narrative and continuing the Hellenic legacy. Her current work is Thission Cinema of Athens, which is part of the series “Mythical Cinemas” on French television channel Canal+Cinema. The docu-drama features the famed open air cinema that sits at the base of the Acropolis. Thission Cinema is one of the oldest open air cinemas in Athens and has been operating since 1935. Douza said the film has made many Greek viewers nostalgic by referencing various other elements of Greek history.
“It not only presents the Thission Cinema, which is a beloved cinema among Greeks, but also is a walk around the ancient sites, the archives and their history,” Douza said. “It’s a film that somehow encompasses Greek culture and history in just 52 minutes.”
Thission Cinema of Athens has been featured in various festivals and television programs, including the recent Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, the 2018 International Peloponnesian Documentary Festival and the Cosmote TV. Douza’s work has often focused on the themes of displacement and searching for identity.
“I keep coming back to the subject of the need to belong, the search for home, displacement and how people search for an identity,” she said.
Douza said she believes the future of Greek cinema and the arts is in danger due to the lack of resources and overemphasis on social issues.
“Greek cinema is semi-dead because there is no industry, there is no economy to support it,” Douza said. “What are we going to show 100 years later?”
Because the Greek language is spoken by only 13 million people worldwide, Douza said it is difficult to garner support for their art. Douza said that by producing Greek cinema that highlights different crises and social issues facing the country, it limits media that expresses Greek art and the modern Greek lifestyle.
“We should stop dealing with the crisis,” Douza said. “We have to make films that will be watchable 10 years later, 20 years, 100 years. Will it make sense to us now and to us in the future and to people who aren’t Greek?”
The topic of the crisis in Greece is one that is overdone and does not fully encompass the Greek experience, Douza said. The cornerstone of a classic film is one that resonates with viewers both today and in the future.
“Unless a film about the war transcends the war topic and talks about something that is relevant to me today, then I won’t watch it,” she said. “This is what classic films are about. They are based on a specific thing but they make it so much bigger that it’s relevant to me 100 years later, thousands of miles away, in whichever culture I belong to.”
She referenced The Godfather as a film with continued relevance among people of all backgrounds.
“I can watch The Godfather and it tells me so much. It’s not a film about the Italian mafia of the 70’s. It’s a film about human greed and desires and I can relate to it,” Douza said. “We must help Greek cinema take such a direction.”
Douza believes Greek cinema must transcend these topics and delve into the art, culture and way of life of modern day Greek people. She has the hope that Greeks abroad can do their part to support Greek filmmaking and in this way keep the culture and heritage alive.
“In Greek festivals all over the world, we should also try to convey the message, know these people, meet them and see what you can do for them and what they can do for you,” Douza said.
Douza is currently working on her next feature film that is inspired by a children’s book. She wrote the script and plans to direct the film that features a young deaf girl thrust into an unfamiliar environment.
Her advice to young filmmakers is to learn the language of cinema and stay true to themselves.
“Whatever you try to write must be something that comes from your heart,” Douza said. “It’s only through compassion we can overcome whatever crisis and whatever problems and it’s through compassion that we can all find hope.”
Email the author: Elizabeth Tzagournis