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Witness

Demetri and Bruno

A stray dog in Athens explores the ongoing Greek crisis from a very different perspective.

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2013 11:27
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Bruno is one of many strays crowding the streets of Athens after their owners abandoned them during the economic crisis. He roams around, visiting the restaurants he once frequented with his owner - but most of them have gone out of business. 

On the streets at night he has a hard time finding a peaceful place to sleep because every square inch has been occupied by homeless people. And during the day it is even worse: Bruno is sorrounded by demonstrations, tear gas, and street fighting.

Bruno 'comments' on social security, urban planning, transportation, racism, the Greek bureaucracy and most of all the financial crisis which took away his home.

Naturally, people also speak in the film - all of those who meet Bruno during his wanderings in the marketplace, at a football match, at demonstrations and others. Greek filmmaker Demetri Sofianopoulos also takes us through the city of Athens, describing today's life and what motivates and inspires his work. 

Filmmaker's view

By Tomislav Zaja

I first met Greek filmmaker Demetri Sofianopoulos in Athens in December 2011.

The Greek economic crisis was at its peak during this time but it was not just the economic crisis that interested me, it was the deep roots of the crisis. This is what Demetri was making his documentary about. He wanted to make a film about the crisis, which was not just about economics or politics any more, it was psychological - almost existential - for the Greeks of today.

Demetri had been shooting his film for months but did not have money to finish, so he edited a short trailer in order to find interested partners. I was amazed after watching the trailer because Demetri had found a witty, original and clever way to depict the current situation in Greece; the main character in his film was a stray dog named Bruno, one of many animals whose owners abandoned them after they had lost their jobs or went bankrupt.

Demetri's fictitious autobiography of the dog is actually a parable of Greece, whose people were once poor, but then became wealthy and thought they could spend without limit, only to become poor again.

When I travelled back to to my native Croatia I had the idea to make a documentary about Demetri making his documentary. But I was not interested in producing a "making of" kind of documentary, but to let Demetri lead us through his own labyrinth of thoughts, people and events, and also serve as guide through his city and the wider environment in which he lives.

I returned to Athens with my crew in August of 2012. Demetri was our guide through the milieu in which he lives, our insider who revealed details invisible to the eyes of foreigners, unvisited places, unknown people, unseen events.

Everything that is a part of his life and which he incorporates into his project now became a part of my film, but from a different standpoint and in another context.

The trailer and excerpts from his film footage, as well as Demetri's own presentation of them, added yet another dimension, since we knew the filmmaker and his associates in real life, outside of the artistic project which unites them.

Details about Demetri and his associates, their thoughts and emotions, made this story personal and brought warmth and emotion. We were able to experience the Greek crisis and, at the same time, were provoked into thinking about some deeper aspects of the situation.

Demetri's personal stance and guidance helped us to see the cause of things and to understand the situation better. If you only watch news about something that is far away and happening to someone else, you can not understand or empathise too much.

However, if you get to know more about these people, then your minds and hearts are engaged in a different manner. I wanted to tell my story by giving viewers a powerful taste of a critical moment in another country, in another city, in somebody else's life.

The main effect that I was hoping to produce is to open a window to the situation in Athens and to allow viewers to take a look and "be there" for half an hour.

In Pictures:

This episode of Witness can be seen from Monday, September 16, at the following times GMT: 2230; Tuesday: 0930; Wednesday: 0330; Thursday: 1630.

Watch more Witness films

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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