Zaphiris Epaminondas: 'On the ethical responsibility of not filming'
The following text links with a previous post written by Bill Megalos. Zaphiris Epaminondas was also a filmaker in the documentary 'Stuck in the Doorway'. In a reflective tone, Epaminondas links memories from his family history with his experiences while filming the lives of the refugees in Greece, in order to question: Who has the right to film another person?
During the filming of Stuck In The Doorway, our documentary telling the stories of refugees in Greece, I was constantly questioning whether we were doing the right thing. Both we and the refugees wanted to tell their stories, believing that the world needed to know. But by doing that, we were putting their future in jeopardy. We had a better idea of the legalities of their situation than they did.
The refugees’ goal was to make it to northern Europe and Greece was their entryway to Europe. No one wanted to begin their new life in Greece, with its long-running economic crisis. After the northern borders were closed the refugees were trapped in Greece, leaving them two choices: leave legally or leave illegally. The legal route was confusing and nearly impossible. After trying legally for over a year, some were turning towards the illegal route. Participating in our movie might jeopardize their ultimate case for asylum, as it could get them permanently returned to Greece. Perhaps the most dramatic dilemma we faced was when I came across the story of a man whose actions were heroic. The consequences of his principled actions back in his home country endangered his life and the lives of his entire family. He was threatened to be shot and he finally managed to escape, but by doing so he altered the lives of his immediate and larger family.
This man’s story hit me personally as my grandfather had a similar story when he switched sides, leaving the Turkish army and joining the Greeks during the Greek invasion of Turkey back in 1922. The Turks executed his wife and his two children in response. As much as I wanted to tell the dramatic story of this refugee, feeling it showed the sacrifice many refugees have made, he didn’t want to take any credit for his actions. He had already presented himself as dead in order to save the lives of his relatives who were still back in his country and who had been chased by the regime in order to corner him. We respected his wishes and his story will never be told. By extension, we recognized that anyone we filmed might be in a similar situation and determined that we should not film anyone without their permission, not even in wide group shots.
Zaphiris Epaminondas is one of the premier cinematographers in Greece and a founding member of the Greek Society of Cinematographers. Originally from Thessaloniki, he graduated from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. After working in Hollywood for several years, he returned to Greece, where he has become the top director of photography for commercials, having filmed over 500 spots in 20 countries for international brands.