New York Greek director makes impressive film debut
Interview by George Savvides

A  New York Greek , Angela Ismailos interviews ten terrific filmmakers around the globe in her ambitious first feature documentary “Great Directors”: Bernardo Bertolucci, Stephen Frears, Catherine Breillat, Ken Loach, David Lynch, Agnes Varda, Todd Haynes, Richard Linklater, Liliana Cavani and John Sayles.
I had the opportunity to chat to this passionate film director on the phone from New York. When I asked her about her background she told me: “My mother’s family moved to the States in the fifties and then repatriated to Athens. I graduated from the Athens Law School but when I went to the States I always had a big dream to have a career in the Arts. I wanted to be someone like Maria Callas but my parents didn’t want me to become an actor or a singer so I did my master’s degree on political science at Columbia University in New York City and then changed and studied at the New York Film Academy – so I got involved with acting, musical theatre & opera for many years.
“Great Directors” is an homage to the cinema that I love right now. My father used to take me to the summer theatres of Athens -the beautiful outdoor open air cinemas with the lovely smell of jasmine- this experience stayed in my conscience all my life. I love cinema and I have great respect and knowledge for art house directors – the first film that had an impact on me was “Persona” by Ingmar Bergman when I was 14. I was always imagining having my own theatre and my own repertoire and wanted to perform in front of my family from a young age.
When I announced my plans for “Great Directors” everyone was telling me it is impossible to get these directors, so I when I premiered in Venice all these people came back to me and said – “for you nothing is impossible”. I first wrote a very long letter to Bernardo Bertolucci why I love cinema and the impact that Italian cinema had on me as a child. They called me from his office after 48 hours and agreed to be in my film. After that it was easier to get people like David Lynch and Agnes Varda and then even more directors wanted to be part of my project but I had to stop because it would have been too long and difficult to edit – it would have become a film series which was not my intention.
When I asked why she didn’t include a Greek director like Theo Angelopoulos or Michael Cacoyannis in her film she said: “I did ask Mr Angelopoulos twice but he couldn’t do it because he was filming in Armenia but I couldn’t hold the whole project so I started without him. Of course I wanted to include his cinema, politics and his post war impact on Greek society. As for Mr Cacoyannis, I am afraid I did not think of him even though I love his movies. I am very proud of the renaissance in the new Greek cinema with films like “Dogtooth” where they are trying to tell a story in a different way.
When I reminded her about John Sayles’ wonderful statement in her film that “every movie is political” she continued: “Bertolucci said even they way you tell a story is political. David Lynch said even if I wasn’t born in the States I would have been fascinated with America.

It has taken me four and half years to complete “Great Directors” so now I am working on my second feature. I live in both New York and Greece from where I have to prepare for my next film which will be filmed on the island of Patmos. I have written the script – it is the life of an opera singer who abandons the fame and the stage to find refuge in Patmos in the middle of a harsh winter. There is a lot of blending with religion, human fear and life after death”.
It was a real pleasure talking to this eloquent filmmaker and I look forward to meeting her in person when she will soon be holding a Q & A session following a screening of her film at the ICA.

GREAT DIRECTORS is showing at the ICA until the 13th of April

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