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Vassilis Vafeas

(b. 1944)

Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1944, he studied chemistry at the Universities of Athens and Paris, and cinema in Athens. He directed his first short film Absorption at 257 in 1973. From 1975 to 1977 he made four documentaries: From Friday to Monday, A Jockey, Akis Panou and The Usherettes. In 1979 he produced and directed his first full length feature film Eastern Periphery. It was followed by Day Off (1982), The Love of Ulysses (1984) and a few others. Vassilis Vafeas has also directed for the stage.

In 120 Decibels, (1987) Vafeas reaffirms that he is “one of Greek Cinema’s few essential moralists”, according to general consensus. He has a gift for capturing minute details, the petit bourgeois mundane day to day existence and the rhythms of the city, like no other: a sensibility totally unique to Vafeas. In Kathimerini, he dissects and examines the superficial in human relations and the vanity of mankind in a way that would pass completely unnoticed by many others. In his words, “we live in a world which raises the wall of egoism in such a way as to shut off access to all our fellowmen”.

Along with other Alexandrian-born Greeks, Vafeas shares a typically Alexandrian vision of the human condition and man’s urge for commiseration and empathy in a world exposed to storms from without and tempests from within. This is a world with a constant flux of changing fortunes, as in the proverbial Arabic idiom of the rotating wheel with its twists of fate that elicits a worldly wise almost comic approach.

In his very interesting survey of Egyptian-born Greek Cinema Who’s Who, Yannis Melakhrinodis mentions an instance during one Cairo Film Festival when the audience’s reception of a Greek film directed by Costa Viris was so overwhelming that it was a moment of epiphany for the delighted director: “I always felt there was something in my films that set them apart from other Greek films; today, I realize how much affinity I have with Egyptian culture and that must be due to my nativity in this country. We speak a common cinematic language that cinematographers in Greece do not always share with me. I still remember watching Egyptian films as a child, and they must have left that mark I am often teased about by my fellow directors in Greece. At any rate, I am honoured by the comparison.”

“Such,” comments Melakhrinodis, “is the impact of that part of a second motherland that lives inside of every Egyptian and Alexandrian Greek and which he carries with him wherever he may be”.

Selected Filmography:

1990: The Red Daisy
1993: The Cosmic Dissecting Room Show