Konstantina Kotzamani about her film „Washingtonia“

The majority of palm trees in Athens were imported from other countries during the Olympic Games 2004 in order to make Athens more appealing and exotic to the olympic tourists. Among with the palm trees was imported also the Red Beetle, an insect that devours the most juicy and fleshy part of palm trees that is known as palm’s heart. Now days, in Athens the majority of palm trees are dead or keep dying because of the Red Beetle. The only kind of palm tree that survives is called Washingtonia.

The Washingonia Palm has a very small and dry heart and nobody likes small and dry hearts. Not even the Red Beetle.

These were the first thoughts when we started this project. My first intention was to create a strange exotic portrait of Athens abandoned from people in the summer heat with all these palm trees dying in the background. That’s why I gave this strange new name to Athens. I called Athens Washingtonia as a no-land tropical city where people are mixed with animals.

Once we started searching for the locations I had a very strong dream.

I dreamt of a giraffe trying to enter my house windows with her long neck. The next day I went to the zoo of Athens (where the giraffe’s shots have been shot). There I read that the giraffe is the animal with the biggest heart. Then I realized that my film is actually about that. About the big and the small hearts. It is actually about love. So I came up with the myth of the giraffe at the beginning and I started thinking about my washingtonian characters who suffer from their non-love-heart syndrome like the palm trees who are dying from their half eaten hearts…

I guess that the very interesting process of making this movie somehow is depicted in the structure of the film. I started with no script at all. And maybe this is the reason that I felt much more close to my vision- I had only subtle images and fragile moments to capture and not a story. Somehow image was merged with instinct in this film. I just had my eyes and my senses open in order to select and combine all the elements that come across my way. And this is how the characters came up. While I was searching for the locations I was observing also people and I was trying to think what kind of character would fit in each space. None of the characters are actors and I also did no rehearsals during shooting. All the characters are playing “themselves“ in a way.

This film was a constant improvisation from many aspects. I really had no idea how it would end. I just trusted myself and in a way I let myself free in front of the image wealth of the hidden everyday life. There is a lot of fear in that, and it is really painful sometimes not knowing what are you doing -where it is heading at all. But I understood later that this is a much more stimulative process that fits my personal way of interpreting reality.

Konstantina Kotzamani

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