Approaching the theme:
What led me primarily to this film was the outbreak of the financial crisis in Greece and the desire to explore the rural areas, those places outside, on the margins, overlooked by foreigners and left aside by earlier Greek governments.
This is the North of the country with the beauty of mountains, lakes and forests with bears and wolves but not the Greek islands or beaches loved by tourists.
Its remoteness has made the population in these small mountain villages fairly independent from outside influence and fairly self-sufficient but the financial crisis in Greece hit many parts of the population and construction, being one of the most vulnerable industries in a recession, was one of the first to be affected.
Therefore Lechovo, a whole village dependant on this one profession, was hit quickly and hard. and now 7 years later, it still suffers the consequences as there ist no recovery of the building trade in sight.
However communities in rural areas deal with crises differently to people in cities. They pull together and organise new ways and businesses for they are used to dealing with problems collectively. And in the remoteness of this village with its cold winters and its wild nature I fell in love with a spirit of resilience that has defined this place for centuries.
Both my great-grandfathers were working in construction in this village and my mother carried it further by becoming an architect. So, I wanted to make this film here, in this place.
Context to previous work:
I always feel closer to people affected by politics whose lives become worse than the average population.
They are often powerless and more easily marginalised and forgotten. Their lives need to be told.
Past - present - possible future:
During the research I became aware how present and close to each other these different terms are.
Everyone in Lechovo seemed to live between these times, everything was there: the problems now, the war then, the possibilities away from home and the fear about the future.
No aspect could be left out and this multi-layering of time became a major challenge within the film. Exile was part of the past as well as the present and the future. Eventually all the themes connected and what interested me most was how the people living through present day events were coping with it.
The traditional trade, building with stone, is more or less gone; the financial crisis killed the last of it and what remains is the need to find new ways and new professions.
The filming process:
I went back and forth, researched and pre-filmed interviews, and finally filmed most of the footage with the cameraman Joerg Burger in mainly two shooting blocks, one in winter and the other at the end of May/ beginning of June.
Finally I went back a few more times for additional shots.
What I tried to capture was the spirit of the inhabitants and the atmosphere of the place. I had become close to these people whose lives were so entwined with my own family in a way I had not known and wanted to show them as they are, with their strange, often funny traditions, capturing their discussions, and finally their memories.
I realise now after the film has been finished how much I have always been part of this community and how being part of it, being inside it was the only approach I could have had in order to tell its story.