Director′s Statement | Documentaries | DW | 04.04.2017
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Director's Statement

I've known Athens since the 1980s. I lived in the city for two years, and have been fascinated by Greece and its metropolis ever since.

In 1981, I experienced the great euphoria about the socialist Pasok party’s election victory, as I later did the corruption of the parties on the left – in fact, of all the parties – and the deep disappointment of Greece’s citizens. Then came the excitement and the construction boom in the run up to the 2004 Olympics, when money seemed to be no problem. Just a few of my Greek friends were skeptical at the time, wondering where all the money was coming from. Yes, and then came the financial crisis, as massive debt threatened to bankrupt the state and left a quarter of the Greeks without work – half of them young adults. This has been going on for years now and it is still getting worse rather than better.

And now right in the heart of the chaos and misery – documenta? That idea moved me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how to make a film about it. I knew early on that I wanted to make a documentary about the preparations for the world exhibition.

The search for the “right documenta protagonists,” ones who were willing to let us look over their shoulders, was not easy. Many contemporary artists have their own ideas and were unwilling to reveal what they were doing on television before the opening.

DW Dokumentation Von Athen lernen - Die Documenta 14 (DW)

Filmmakers Ulrike Somme and Regina Roland

Then, last September, my colleague Ulrike Sommer came onboard as a coauthor. Without her, our film would have looked completely different because, as a video journalist, she shot some parts of it herself. That meant we could get closer to the underground of Athens, the independent scene and the refugees. We often managed to find our way into this crazy, broken but also energetic Athens and tried to look beyond the tourist trails.

And we came across the most diverse people: taxi drivers and bartenders, policemen and demonstrators - and the mayor of the city.

When we carried out a survey two months before the opening, a lot of Athenians looked at me blankly when I asked them for their opinion on the documenta: "documenta, ti ine avto?" - "documenta? What is that?” they said. Well, that is also a statement in its own right.

One thing was always clear, we did not want to make a film about documenta 14 as an event but rather to observe the tension between Athens and contemporary art and ask: "What is Athens doing with the documenta - or what not - and what is the documenta doing with Athens?” That is why our film ends on April 8, the day when the world exhibition opens in Athens.

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