Exclusive interview with Elena Zervopoulou an amazing film director & ethno-psychologist

The Greek and French film director, producer and ethno-psychologist Elena Zervopoulou in an incredible interview with FILPOETRY.ORG.

It seems with your film BeLeaf you investigate a form of philosophical video poetry. What you think about this ancient relation between poetry and philosophy especially in an era that both of them has lost their influence to the masses?

Poetry and philosophy have always been there side by side completing each other, poetry being an explosive, creative expression and interpretation of what philosophy analyses methodically. I would say that it is a similar relation to the one between art and spirituality, where art sprouts to honour spiritual visions that need to be shared and celebrated.

Elena Zervopoulou is the founder of One Vibe Films. She has written, directed and produced creative documentaries for international broadcasters and for NGOs, mainly shot in remote areas of Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa.

Transcendental truths that reveal themselves through poetic metaphors, images, have the ability to move souls, worlds.

Yet nowadays poetry and philosophy “sell less” in mass mainstream media and in social media, leaving more space to ephemeral, easy, distractions.

Still I believe humanity does share visions for a better world, and an increasing number of people, movements and organisations do contribute in accelerating the transformational process. Massive awakening is happening now, so let’s keep our attention focused there and to the potential it encloses, acting in synergies, until we reach a massive impact. One that our children would be proud of!

What made you come to the genre of videopoetry? How you started and what makes you continue?

About twenty years ago I fell in love with SLAM poetry and improvisation during my stay in Paris. It was a time of personal hardship and great connection with my own liberating, cathartic poetry, manifesting to me as words dancing in hammering rhythms with every step I took in my long walks across the French capital. That was also the time around my Masters in filmmaking, where I was experimenting with video as a poetic language and discovering Maya Deren.

All that silenced for a while, as I went more into creative documentaries and advocacy videos, until I was given the opportunity to come back into video poetry by the producers of MaTerre VR Experience, who selected me as one of the 5 filmmakers and invited me to collaborate with Nilson Muniz, one of the 5 selected poets, to create an episode of a VRpoetry film (BeLeaf) for Matera 2019 European Capital of Culture. Among things, this process allowed me to reconnect with my poems, some lines of which I used and voiced in English in BeLeaf, inspiring me to offer them a new light with future video poetry interdisciplinary projects!

What you think videopoetry can offer to poetry?

Videopoetry can offer to poetry the imagery that is contained in our subconscious, in our dreams, in our collective consciousness, in our ancestral wisdom carved in our DNAs. An imagery that interlaces with words and worlds through the path of the heart, of intuition and inner wisdom. It can offer the playfulness, the clarity, the shapes, lights and colours that may enrich the vision of the poet, offering new layers of emotional symbiosis and interpretations.

The poetic visuals may embrace a poem, accompany it, but also add a new paste to it, a new visual symbology (not necessarily evoking the same things the poem does). Emotional landscapes, interacting with its rhythm, senses and sensations. A new form of coexistence where poetry and film may complete each other harmoniously.

philosophy and poetry can elevate us to experience moments of eternity as they can touch sensitive emotional and consciousness chords

You are working with people from all around the world. What is that make you searching for collaborations in different countries and what helps you decide the proper persons for each work?

As a filmmaker and ethno-psychologist, or let me just say as simply myself, I feel very attracted and fascinated by the multiplicity and diversity that makes each one of us unique individually but also collectively, as communities, societies, cultures. At the same it is discovering in others, various manifestations of what unites us all as human beings. So for the past 20 years I was naturally drawn to encounter and film people from remote indigenous communities, mainly of Asia and Africa, creating character driven documentaries. This concept and passion led me to found One Vibe Films and Diversity United, to defend human and environmental rights through engaging stories in films, to empower vulnerable communities through participatory interdisciplinary artistic projects, to raise awareness and campaign through cultural
events, interactive cross-media and to enhance solidarity through social innovation digital platforms.

Similarly with my colleagues that come from different cultural backgrounds, often outside Europe, I seek to enrich perspectives, experiences, plurality that we bring in our work, films and projects that not only will have an impact when diffused and disseminated, but also that leave the community we work with empowered. I look for and create synergies with conscious, sensitive, filmmakers, artists, activists, IT developers, innovators, visionaries, and above all great human beings. We basically find each other out of the synchronicities life brings us, discovering that on a human level we are tuned and syntonised, ready to collaborate and co-create, giving our best with our professional backgrounds and engaging with our souls.

In this specific case of BeLeaf, I was selected by the artistic directors and producers of MaTerre VR Experience, among other international artists, together with Nilson Muniz (talented Brasilian poet, performer) to create a VR poetry film. Sharing the same values and visions, we immersed ourselves in the creative innovative challenge and brought to light BeLeaf.

“BeLeaf” VR 360, a virtual reality poetic film- can you elaborate your need to invite us looking vast open horizons through 3d glasses and re-examine through that process the meaning of instant and eternal? Is this a resistance of humanity against the mechanic or is it a way the mechanic to become natural?

To me, contemplating vast open horizons in nature has always been a source of inspiration, inner catharsis, regeneration, elevation and deep connection with everything that surrounds us. Emotionally experiencing that we are part of something greater where we are all interconnected – human beings, animals, plants, natural elements – with infinite potentials, immerses us in the eternal, cosmic, dimension.

My intention was to shape such an intimate meditative state of awareness into a Virtual Reality film, seen through 3D glasses, allowing me to share not only a vision, but a whole immersive experience of standing in nature in stillness and contemplation. The intention was to give the audience the opportunity to discover a perspective, sensations, emotions and a state of mind that maybe has never occurred to them in real life, even when being in vast open horizons themselves. Standing on the edge of a cliff, flying over a canyon when wearing 3D glasses is quite unique! It can push us to our limits, to challenges we might avoid, to the elevation felt when letting go, when taking the journey all the way through and flying high and light as a leaf, lifted by belief, BeLeaf!

So the innovative, immersive aspect of a VR film may stimulate areas of our brain that deal with emotions in a way, according to neurosciences, that later become memories of experiences as in real life, rather than just memories of emotions as for 2D films. As experiences can be transformational and make us become better people, I feel it is our responsibility, as artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, human beings, to put mechanics and technology at the service of humanity and greater causes, as tools that respect higher values and contribute to positive environmental and social impact. So here with BeLeaf, we may say that immersive reality technology was serving the purpose of reconnecting us to nature, our nature, and the natural flow of things as long as we are tuned in with the everyday miracle of life!

Videopoetry can offer to poetry the imagery that is contained in our subconscious, in our dreams, in our collective consciousness, in our ancestral wisdom carved in our DNAs.

In your videopoem the natural eternal time illuminates in front of the eyes of the ephemeral human being. “The film follows the poet in his journey of awakening”. Can philosophy and poetry help the short living human to experience moments of eternity? For us in the Institute for Experimental Arts your video manifests this ability of the art to open our eyes into new understandings.

First of all, thank you for your kind words and for having perceived the natural eternal in BeLeaf. I take the opportunity to thank again Nilson Muniz, who incarnated the “poet in his journey of awakening”, for his brilliant poem and performance.

Inspired by Plato’s cave _ similar to part of our current global dark reality _ BeLeaf invites us to leave the world of repression, illusions and power hungry manipulative shadows, to come out to light, truth, collective consciousness and action. The idea I intended to strengthen in the film flows from nature to human nature, from I to WE, to the awareness that the observer influences reality (as in quantum physics), thus empowering the potential to act responsibly as humans collectivity. The viewer, in the immersive environment of VR, is invited to actively experience a rebirth and, as a result, to consciously generate the reality that he dreams of.

I would say that philosophy and poetry can elevate us to experience moments of eternity as they can touch sensitive emotional and consciousness chords. But this journey can also take a much more direct dimension in our everyday lives. Observation and contemplation are our vehicles to stillness in a movement of situations and worlds that surround us. Bringing us closer to our eternal essence that unifies with all that is, was and will be, in ever changing forms and flows.

BeLeaf is an attempt to use an innovative tool to communicate inner meditative states, to sparkle, simulate and shred light on the awareness that we are all interconnected as particles of something greater.

Elena Zervopoulou is the founder of One Vibe Filmsan independent production that aspires to promote intercultural dialogue. As an ethno-psychologist, she worked with immigrant families in Paris and as a UNESCO consultant with street children in Madagascar. She holds a Masters in ‘Direction of documentary films and visual anthropology’ . For the past 10 years, with One Vibe Films she has produced, directed and filmed creative documentaries for international broadcasters and for international NGOs. Shot in Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa, her films bring the audience closer to everyday reality of ethnic minorities, women and children. Through emotional local stories, which have a universal appeal, she aims raising awareness on sustainable development, environmental, social and human rights. She founded Diversity United to empower vulnerable communities for a better inclusive world, using participatory artistic processes, such as Participatory Video workshops, interdisciplinary performances, media productions / campaigns and cultural events. Aspiring to accelerate social change, she creates interactive cross-media, as well as develops innovative digital platforms. Her latest works include: “Sea Gypsies”, the last endangered nomadic seafaring people of SE Asia challenged by a globalizing world, joined the “Why Poverty?” series, leaded by BBC. It was covered by 69 broadcasters reaching over 200 countries worldwide. “Greece: Days of Change” nominated by the Millennium International Documentary Festival, for the “Workers of the World” award, and by Docs Barcelona for the “New Talent” award. Screened in 60 cinemas around Spain, as “Documental del mez”. “Anti-bullism campaign”, cross-media interactive educational tool for the EU. Officially used by the Greek Ministry of Education as well as in other European countries. “Walking in light”, a poetic video-dance performance to discover a journey of resilience of young immigrants in search of a better future in Europe. Inspired by Participatory Video workshops with young immigrants hosted in shelters in South Italy. “BeLeaf” VR 360, a virtual reality poetic film, part of MaTerre VR Experience, officially included in the cultural program of European Capital of Culture 2019, Matera, Italy. “Voice Up”, participatory video on human rights made with youth, supported by the Greek Ministry of Culture.


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