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Mary Zournazi: “The love of the city and its people and a love of the animal”

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Award-winning Greek-Australian filmmaker Mary Zournazi talks to The Greek Herald and discusses her film Dogs of Democracy and her latest documentary film currently in production, Rembetika Blues.

Dogs of Democracy has won the Spirit of Activism award, Best Documentary Feature and Director’s Choice Award in the US.

What is your film about?

The film is a story about the stray dogs of Athens, but it is equally a story about peoples’ courage and dignity in times of crisis. The film is my love letter to Greece: to its people and to its stray animals. The film also took somewhat unexpected turns: I travelled to the island of Lesvos and documented not only the economic crisis but also aspects of the migrant crisis as it unfolded in Greece.

This subject is now part of my new documentary film, Rembetika Blues which looks at the experience of migration and music. It is a documentary film about the power of music and what makes us human. Rembetika music or the Greek blues is a music of the streets and a music of refugees. The film explores the heart and soul of Rembetika music through peoples’ stories of love, loss, and belonging.

What motivated you to do your project?

I made my film Dogs of Democracy almost by accident. I took my first ever trip to Athens in October, 2014. I had gone for a holiday and in search of my cultural roots. But I had arrived in the middle of the Greek economic crisis. I could feel the tension on the streets, but walking around the city, I also noticed something else, something unexpected and unique. All round the city there were stray dogs, they seemed to occupy the city like ‘citizens’ – they crossed the traffic lights, they socialised, they were part of the urban life and feel of the city. Immediately I fell in love with them, and I became curious about their ‘lives’. In a very short time, I realised that the dogs were looked after by volunteers in Athens, who cared for and fed the stray dogs. I became fascinated by how in the middle of Greece’s worst economic crisis people were willing to take care of the animals. I began to consider what this might say about our ideas of love, community and care. That’s how the story began: a love of the animals, and the love of the city and its people

Mary Zournazi is an Australian author, philosopher and filmmaker. She is the director of the multi-award winning documentary Dogs of Democracy (2017) and the author of several books including Foreign Dialogues, Keywords to War, Hope – New philosophies for change and Inventing Peace with the German filmmaker Wim Wenders. She teaches in the sociology program at the University of New South Wales, Australia. Currently she is working her new documentary film called Rembetika Blues.

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