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One-on-one with Filmmaker Elia Kalogianni - “Loneliness and miscommunication"

Elia Kalogianni (1995, Greece) studied at the School of Fine Arts in Thessaloniki for a year before enrolling at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy (Audiovisual department) in Amsterdam. In 2017, she had the opportunity to study at Cooper Union in New York for six months. She graduated in 2019. Her short Soldier 365 (2019) was given a special mention by the Eye on Art Research Lab and on January 2020, her latest short film 'Phélia', had its world premiere at Int.Film Festival Rotterdam.

Elia Kalogianni phélia filmmaker film festival
Phélia (2020)

iFilmFestival: Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.

Kalogianni : “I am very attached with Phélia, my latest short film. It was my graduation film therefore the end of an era. This film is partly inspired by my own observations and experiences as a guard at the EYE Film Museum. The constant silent interaction with people gave me a peculiar feeling of isolation. It felt like being an invisible existence in the dark. I wanted to investigate this feeling in the character of Phélia who also experiences forms of social isolation. During the last year of my studies and after living abroad (in Amsterdam) for 5 years, I felt the need to go back to Athens, my hometown, and create a very personal film by combining experiences from my reality in both places. I wanted to underline the alienation of people in big cities. I was primarily interested in the inner world of the leading character.”

iFilmFestival: What were the key challenges making it?

Kalogianni : “Phélia, is an intimate portrait and character study of a woman plagued by loneliness and miscommunication. Because of her work as a night guard, she only sees pieces of daylight. We follow her daily routine: traveling from and to her job. We experience boredom with her as we listen to the radio together.

The creation of the character wouldn’t be complete without the elements M. Filini brought to the role. We feel the protagonist’s misery, until a visit to Danae briefly glows a glimmer of hope.

Due to a talented crew consisting of good friends, the production was made possible with a very limited budget (actually with no budget) but with a lot of love and dedication.”

iFilmFestival: What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?

Kalogianni : “The story follows a documentary style in many shots. I believe that we managed to keep a realistic vibe in the film. Some examples are the train ride to Phélia’s work in which the camera seems to swallow time in the passing landscape and the alienating top shots of the urban architecture of Athens.

I would like to warmly thank Yorgos Kyvernitis, Maria Filini, Dimitra Vlagopoulou, Thanos Tsantas and everybody who helped in the making of the film.”

Trailer: Phélia (2020)

iFilmFestival: How did you get involved in filmmaking?

Kalogianni : “I was watching a lot of movies since I was a child. When I was in high school I started recording small videos of my everyday life, soon I realized that my main focus was visual arts and cinema. I started developing my passion for film when I joined the audiovisual department of Gerrit Rietveld Academy.”

iFilmFestival: What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?

Kalogianni : “I am working on two films at the moment. For the past year, I've been co-directing a documentary called 'O Νοικοκύρης'. It is a portrait of a 60 year old multitalented Rom musician in a balkan village. I am also starting the production of my new short film 'Mammalia’ with AKRAN agency. I am also busy with some other projects but these are not yet to be announced. I am very enthusiastic about all of them.”

iFilmFestival: What role do film festivals play?

Kalogianni : “Film Festivals are very important initiatives for the promotion of films. Such efforts create supportive conditions for people who love cinema to be heard and get to know each other.”

iFilmFestival: What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?

Kalogianni : “I advise filmmakers not to be disappointed if their film is not selected by a festival. It doesn’t mean that their film is not good enough. We make movies because we love cinema and we like to express ourselves in this way.”

Elia Kalogianni phélia filmmaker film festival
Elia Kalogianni

iFilmFestival: How do you see the future of film?

Kalogianni : “I believe that the series came to stay. Platforms like Netflix will continue affecting the length and aesthetics of films. Possibly VR technology and interactive TV formats will be a more widespread and easily accessible choice too. I hope that small budget (short) films will still exist.”

iFilmFestival: Which filmmaker do you admire and why?

Kalogianni : “I admire many filmmakers for different reasons. I will name three of them as an example. Roy Andersson for his amazing ‘like paintings’ images, Andrei Tarkovsky for his poetic films and Yorgos Lanthimos for introducing us to the Greek Weird Wave cinema.”

iFilmFestival: What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?

Kalogianni : “'Animus Animalis' (a story about people, animals and things) by Aistė Žegulytė, a visually and acoustically minimal documentary. I particularly enjoyed its symmetrical compositions, surreal iconography and the macabre climate between humans and animals”

Thank you Elia for answering our questions!


Interview by iFilmFestival on 26 Febrary 2021.


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