Nicolas Vamvouklis in conversation with Konstantina Kotzamani


Moving image

Nicolas Vamvouklis (NV): While preparing for our discussion, I came across your “Electric Swan” on ERT2. Although we may not be personally acquainted, it filled me with pride to acknowledge the numerous awards you’ve received for this particular film. How does it feel when you rewatch older works?
Konstantina Kotzamani (KK): Well, I rarely go through older films, meaning I don’t actually watch them that often. For me, these works are more like geographical maps of memories that I can empathize with rather than films to criticize. They carry with them many things and emotions: which song made me cry when the idea was born, with whom I was in love, what was my address at that time, what was terrifying on the news at that moment, and whether my mother used to call me more often.

Konstantina Kotzamani, Limbo (still), 2016

NV: Could you condense the essence of your cinematic style into five words?

KK: Music from afar. Wakes the animals up. Connecting channels. In life and dreams. Multi-lasting endings like persistent fireworks.

NV: That is quite a poetic snapshot of your approach. What, in your opinion, are the most essential qualities for a film director to have?

KK: Always surprise yourself. Always discovering. Trail-blaze with images while listening to your inner voice. Fight for it wholeheartedly as you still believe in magic.

NV: Animals are also magical, as well as a recurring theme throughout your filmography. How come?

KK: All these animals open the box of my enigmas. At the very beginning of the writing process, I call on an animal for inspiration. The animal shares with me its qualities and gradually becomes part of the storytelling, like a spiritual coach or a totem.

Konstantina Kotzamani, Washingtonia (still), 2014

NV: Last time we talked over the phone, you shared some exciting details about your upcoming feature film, “Titanic Ocean,” which centers on a school in Japan that trains teenage girls into professional mermaids. Could you delve a bit deeper into the creative process and inspiration behind this intriguing project?

KK: Some years ago, I stumbled across a photo in an article - three young girls in the middle of a pool in mermaid costumes. My first impression was that this image was fake. But as it turned out, a mermaid training class was actually taking place. I soon discovered that not only do professional mermaid schools exist, but that they are an ever-growing trend in many Asian countries.
And this is how “Titanic Ocean” was born: transforming real-life events into pure fantasy, merging my love for water and filmmaking. The film is set in a special boarding school in Japan, where troubled teenage girls follow their dreams and train to become professional mermaids. Choose a nickname, stick glitter and diamonds on your face, dye your hair to match your mermaid tail. But everyday life in the school is very hard with a full-day program, expanding your lungs and holding your breath for five whole minutes, gliding with real sharks, and dancing with fish. Akame, a 17-year-old trainee, seems a bit different from the other girls. She is reserved, and you barely hear her speak. But inside the school, under her fake silicone mermaid tail, she discovers her Siren Voice and its devastating sequences to the ones she loves.

Konstantina Kotzamani, Electric Swan (still), 2019


NV: Over the last decade, we’ve witnessed a noticeable increase in eco-art, particularly hydro-art, at prominent cultural events. It seems there’s a growing fascination with exploring and learning from water. How do you contribute to this evolving discussion?

KK: My plan is to mold an unexpected postmodern coming-of-age story with fragments from myths and dark, watery fairy tales, from the Little Mermaid to Homer’s Sirens. But in “Titanic Ocean,” the girls learn to love the depths of the ocean in the interior pools of the school without touching the real water. Even in the aquarium, where they dream of working, they look like captivated animals next to the polar bear section.

The film invites you to more sensorial cinema that questions the invisible world beyond the five senses, where the limit between the known and the unknown is fluid. It is a story of female empowerment that calls you to dive deeper and listen to your breath. The protagonist’s journey into the ocean is a return to our origins, where everything once began. At the same time, it is about reaching the end of the world. Destruction and Rebirth.

NV: I recall you mentioned you just returned from France, and it’s evident that your work takes you to various destinations for shooting and development. I’m curious; could you share some of your favorite places you’ve had the opportunity to visit during your creative journeys?

Konstantina Kotzamani, Electric Swan (still), 2019


KK: Shooting in Buenos Aires with friends was an unforgettable experience. France again was really crazy as we shot on a boat in the middle of the Corsica Sea. This time, the Far East is quite challenging. Maybe shooting a film about shooting my first feature film in Japan will be Lost in Translation No2…

NV: As we near the end of our conversation, I’d love to hear your insights on what the future of cinema holds.
KK: I think the same future as music and poetry. They are places that exist somewhere above us, and they will stay longer than us.


Konstantina Kotzamani was born and raised in Greece, where she graduated from the Film Department of Thessaloniki University. Her short movies have premiered in major festivals such as Cannes, Venice, Berlinale, and Locarno and have received numerous international awards. They have been broadcast in Europe, Asia and the USA and distributed on platforms like Criterion and Mubi. She has been thrice awarded by the Hellenic Film Academy with the best short film award and twice nominated by the European Film Academy for the best short of the year (EFA award). Her latest film, Electric Swan, was declared Best Short of the Year by the French Critics’ Association. Her films have been the theme of retrospectives in festivals like BAFICI, Istanbul, and Festival du Nouveau Cinema Montreal, while she was a jury member in multiple short film festivals. Her films explore primordial themes such as love and dreams, mystery, and the surreal in life while creating alternative realities. In 2018, she was awarded the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Artist Fellowship by ARTWORKS.

Nicolas Vamvouklis is an art curator and writer. He is the artistic director of K-Gold Temporary Gallery and has curated exhibitions at Mediterranea 19 Biennale, 7th Thessaloniki Biennale, and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. Since 2016, he has served as senior curator at the Benetton cultural panorama. He has also collaborated with Béjart Ballet Lausanne, Marina Abramovic Institute, Prague Quadrennial, and Triennale Milano. Vamvouklis contributes to art magazines and publications, including The Art Newspaper and MIT Press. In 2021, he was awarded the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Artist Fellowship by ARTWORKS.