One-on-one with Filmmaker Anna Prokou - “Cinema is an art form that is boundless"
Anna Prokou is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and film/video editor from Greece who is currently based in Qatar. She studied film directing at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University from which she earned her Bachelor’s degree with distinction. Anna has also obtained diplomas in film/video editing, sound engineering and music technology in Greece.
iFilmFestival: Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.
Prokou : “My most important film to date is also my most recent one: 'Emily ilaw ng tahanan', a short documentary about a 25-year-old woman from the Philippines. Stories of young women being abused by their fathers have certainly been told before, as there are countless such cases. However, every story is unique.”
iFilmFestival: What were the key challenges making it?
Prokou : “They were many and varied. The main challenge had to do with the amount of time I had to spend with Emily before starting shooting to establish a relationship of trust between us. We were in daily contact for more than five months, something that was often exhausting due to the fact that she could only meet at night, when she worked as a singer at a bar in Doha.”
iFilmFestival: What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?
Prokou : “It is very important for a creator to be able to communicate their work, but it is even more important to be able to remain true to their ideals and principles as a human being. Thus, the most important aspect of this work for me has been seeing how the whole filming process helped Emily to leave her dark past behind, freeing her from the shackles that held her captive and becoming the starting point for a new life.”
iFilmFestival: How did you get involved in filmmaking?
Prokou : “It all started with my music studies from an early age, which later led me to also study sound recording and engineering. I then started working as a sound engineer and soon developed an interest in cameras and filming. This understanding of how sound and images work in conjunction with the rhythm of music prompted me to study video editing - I have been a professional video editor for the past 20 years now. Always looking to grow, I went on to study film directing and for the past six years I have been focusing on completing my personal projects.”
Trailer Emily, ilaw ng tahanan
iFilmFestival: What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?
Prokou : “I am currently researching and developing ideas for my first feature documentary. It is a personal story about the roots of my family that has been separated between two countries. The documentary will be largely based on my grandfather’s diary, in which he documents his life from 1927 until his death in 1993 while also describing the socio-political context of that time.”
iFilmFestival: What role do film festivals play?
Prokou : “Film festivals are deeply influential. At a time when so many works are being created, festivals act, in a way, as a clearing mechanism, although this does not mean they always succeed. However, for a filmmaker, they can be an important source of support for their work, helping them to reach a bigger audience and expand their network through their interaction with industry insiders.”
iFilmFestival: What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?
Prokou : “Filmmakers should remain true to their vision and not lose faith in their work, even when bad reviews or festival rejections create doubts in their mind. They should be able to consider any criticism or advice to help them see what they might have done wrong in order to evolve as creators, but at the same time it is important to have an opinion and be able to back it when faced with criticism or suggestions that risk distorting their view. They should be patient, not get disappointed and try to improve while remaining faithful to their ideal and values. Recognition will come at some point but it is not an end in and of itself. The objective should be to grow while doing what we love, but above all to be good human beings.”
iFilmFestival: How do you see the future of film?
Prokou : “Cinema is an art form that is boundless since it stems from our daily life, as well as the representation of memory, thought and emotions. At the same time, it can be a creative tour de force that uses imagination to lead it in other directions. These characteristics mean that the future of film as a means of expression is guaranteed.”
iFilmFestival: Which filmmaker do you admire and why?
Prokou : “There are countless filmmakers who have contributed immensely to cinema and made an impact on me; I can’t say I prefer someone over another. I was captivated by the greats but I also have deep respect for many from the modern era. These are just some of the people whose work I admire: D,W.Griffith, S.Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky, Abbas Kiarostami, David Lynch, Agnes Varda, Rithy Panh, Errol Morris, Joshua Oppenheimer, Ken Burns.”
iFilmFestival: What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?
Prokou : “Les Miserables, by Ladj Ly. The film revisits life in the banlieues of Paris but it could be anywhere where there is injustice, inequality and racism. Watching it made me think once again that humanity needs to urgently change its course. We must understand and reflect on each other’s needs - regardless of our origin, religious beliefs, sexual preferences and skin color - and begin to see diversity as a growth factor and not a source of conflict and confrontation.”
Thank you Anna for answering our questions!
Interview by iFilmFestival on 13 March 2021.