Harry Vatiliotis is arguably Australia’s best regarded and most prolific luthier (someone who makes instruments with strings, a neck and sound box). He has singlehandedly made 800 violins, many of which are now played by leading musicians in Australia and internationally.
It should come as no surprise then that a new ‘observational documentary,’ titled The Last Violin, is currently in the works by Director, Carla Thackrah, and Producer / Composer, Romano Crivici.
The documentary will focus on Harry as he creates his 800th and final violin, and will feature his loving wife, Maria, as well as Mr Crivici, who has known Harry for years.
Speaking to The Greek Herald, Mr Crivici says he always wanted to capture the creative genius of Harry so his knowledge ‘would not be lost,’ but he just needed to convince Ms Thackrah to take the project on.
“I’ve made a few documentaries but I thought, ‘oh that story doesn’t sound very interesting. I don’t think we could make a good documentary about that…'” Ms Thackrah tells The Greek Herald with a laugh.
“So I reluctantly went along and it was when I heard the way the three of them related and saw the relationship between Harry and Maria that I realised ‘no this is actually a touching story that a lot of people would be able to relate to’.”
Documenting Harry in his element:
From that moment onwards, the original plot for the documentary changed from simply focusing on Mr Crivici and Harry discussing the violin-making process, to showcasing the strong relationships between friends and spouses as old age takes over, as well as highlighting Harry’s amazing career.
“Part of the structure of the film is Harry actually making the violin. It’s like the parallel of making a body. A violin has a back, a belly, a neck, shoulders and each of those steps is like creating a life. So that’s one of the threads that we draw through the documentary,” Mr Crivici explains.
“Interspersed with that is Harry reflecting [on his life].”
Of course, it must be noted here that despite this creative idea taking form in the background, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works for the documentary.
Mr Crivici says ‘hundreds of hours’ of work is still needed to complete the project, including colour grading and the filming of the final scene.
“The final scene of the film, which we’re imagining, is going to be a string quartet performing on a quartet of instruments that Harry has made for Maria. But we’re going to slip a few other instruments in there – Harry’s last violin, his last cello, his last viola and his very first violin [made in 1953]… so it’s like this strange closing of the circle,” Mr Crivici says.
“That performance will happen in Harry and Maria’s lounge room, they’ll be the only audience there so we expect it’ll be a fairly moving scene,” Ms Thackrah adds.
To complete this scene, however, extra funding is needed and that’s why Mr Crivici and Ms Thackrah are kindly asking for the support of the Greek community in Australia.
“You have a genius in your midst who has really done amazing stuff. I mean there’s instruments of his in the Berlin Philharmonic, in the Julliard String Quartet. This is like real big time stuff,” Mr Crivici says.
“The worry is that his life story won’t be told and that his experience will be lost if this film isn’t completed.
“So if there’s anybody in the Greek community who would like to help us, that would be so appreciated.”
If you would like donate to The Last Violin, please visit this Documentary Australia website.