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World Youth Festival in Bucharest


Dan and The Greeks
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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When Tony Richardson very generously gave me that one half of one percent in, at the end of Tom Jones, we went out and bought equipment to be able to make television films and many other- 16mm. We bought an Éclair NPR, we bought a Nagra and we equipped a cutting room, and then Kate and I made these two documentaries, almost back to back. The first one was called "Dan" and it was about a gypsy who had recently been housed in a proper house, but whose- most of his life was spent in gypsy caravans. And, he had a stall in the Portobello Road, and Kate is in the movie saying- hello Dan, or- and we could- and then talking to him and he comes out with all these wonderful anecdotes about how his eighth child was born. They kept getting girls and they were trying for a boy and the eighth was also a girl, so he said- oh, well, when Babs was born we said, yes, okay that's the lot, we can stop there. And that film- what inspired me, at least in part, to make that film was that we were uniquely film- we were uniquely placed to make that film, Kate and I, because Kate was an old friend of theirs, and Kate and I could perfectly well cope without having any other people involved. She'd do the sound, I'd do the picture. We'd have- the camera would be partly hand-held and, at that time, we still needed a cable connection between the camera and the sound, which caused a certain amount of friction with me and Kate. I was pulling on the cable and she'd be dying to say stop it, and she couldn't talk because the camera was running. But anyway, that proved to be a very successful venture, in those terms. Because it had occurred to me that, if the BBC, say, were to want to make this film, first of all they'd have to get to know Dan and his wife, who was extremely shy. Although they lived in Aldershot, which is only, what, 10 miles from London, she'd only been to the West End three times in her whole life and she was some 30-odd years old. So that's how shy she was. So a team from the BBC would've had to spend hours and days and weeks getting ready to do that. And then, even then, they wouldn't have had the same result, because they would've arrived with their tripods and their lights and their assistants and there paraphernalia, and they wouldn't have the easy-going relationship that we can just sit down, get the camera out and start filming. So that I always- that was the point in making both that film and the subsequent film was called "The Greeks", which is about the subject of immigration, emigration from Greece, partly temporary emigration in the form of guest workers. So that film is made half in Chania and the area of Chania, around here, and half in Germany, in the area of Oberhausen, which I knew a little bit from the festivals. And again, it's made by Kate and me, two people, and George helped us on one sequence in Pireas, which forms the end of the film, very dramatic climax, where a boat leaves for Australia and families are separated, probably forever. So that, again, was very successful to make. And as I speak German and Greek, I could make it in Germany and in Greece without too many difficulties. And the first one was shown on British television in the Granada region only though. And the second one- I mistimed the second one because it was ready just at the point when BBC 2, who were- the obvious customer would be BBC 2, and they'd just switched to colour, and they wouldn't buy anymore black and white films. So I mistimed that one. In my view, they were both successful. And "The Greeks", the second film, "The Greeks", has enjoyed a new lease of life where it's caused considerable interest here, because it's become an historical document. It was made 30 years ago, so it's become an historical document. Nearly 40 years ago. It might be shown one day on Greek television. I'm still hoping. But it was shown during my exhibition of pictures. I had an exhibition of my photographs here recently, twice in fact. It was shown during that and it attracted quite a bit of attention and interest.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Duration: 4 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008