Interview with Coerte Voorhees, director of ‘Promakhos’

Behind the Scenes: Filming on the Acropolis on January 5th, 2014. [Photograph by Gregory Thanopoulos]

Behind the Scenes: Filming on the Acropolis on 5 January 2014.
[Photograph by Gregory Thanopoulos]

Hi Coerte, in the last two years Promakhos has been in the making. It seems that the film production is now approaching completion. It would be great if you could say more about the
 Promakhos film project and how it relates with the issue of the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures in Athens.

How did the Promakhos idea start? What triggered its 

At first, I was very interested in doing a movie about the Parthenon’s
 history. I was a History and Classics major at Georgetown University. I
 wrote my senior thesis on the history of the Marbles and the debate
 surrounding repatriation. In terms of the screenplay for the movie, my 
original thought was to do an historical drama about Lord Elgin’s
 expedition, which I pitched to my older brother who was completely
 uninterested. I then thought about modernising the idea and doing a
 story that dramatised a fictional Greek litigation against the British 
Museum that would also have all of Greece’s current political and 
social issues as the backdrop.

– Why did you choose to name the film “Promakhos“?

The name Promakhos perfectly captures the most fundamental idea about our film, which is defending what you love.

– When did you actually start to put it together as a project?

My brother and I began co-writing the script in the fall of 2011. The
 project started getting traction in the spring of 2012.

- Like you, your brother, John, is the other critical player in this
 project. What roles have you had in the production? How did you 
find the experience working with your brother on a creative
 project like this?

My brother and I have always wanted to co-direct movies together. On 
this project we have had to do everything together including
 producing, writing, and directing. We both have our own strengths
 which get utilised on set in different ways every day of the production.
 For example, I tend to focus on shot composition, lighting, and
 production design and my brother has tended toward coaching the
 actors with dialogue and running the business end of things.

– Who is starring in the film?

The film stars newcomer Pantelis Kodogiannis. The film also co-stars 
Kassandra Voyagis, Giancarlo Giannini, Paul Freeman, Michael Byrne, 
Georges Corraface, Yorgo Voyagis, and Spyros Foukas.

- The production has involved different countries, companies, and
 people. In your experience, what have been 1) the easiest and 2) 
the most challenging parts in the realisation of this project?

There hasn’t been any part of this process that I would call “easy.” This 
is our first feature film and we are dealing with an incredibly complex 
topic that is very controversial with entrenched positions on both sides
 of the argument.
 Filming in Greece was very challenging due to bureaucratic constraints
 and lengthly permitting processes for almost every location, especially
 the archaeological sites shown in the movie. We felt very fortunate to 
finally obtain permits to film in the Acropolis Museum and on the
 Acropolis. In fact we ended up going back to Athens after the holidays
 in order to film on the Acropolis and on the steps of the Parthenon, a
 real privilege. 
London was relatively easy as we worked with a great production
 company and obtained some fantastic and well-managed locations,
 which included a court room setting, a law office conference room,
 and an elaborate set which doubled as the British Museum.

- Which countries are you planning to release your film in?

We are targeting the movie for major film festivals and are also
 planning on releasing the movie in Greece and the UK in 2014.

– What do you envisage that Promakhos will achieve in relation to
 the issue?

We believe that Promakhos will help entertain and educate the world 
on the Parthenon repatriation issue. It also provides an authentic
 insight into modern Greek culture, which is rarely portrayed in films 
set in Greece.

- What are you thoughts on how the audience in different
 countries/continents might receive your film?

I think that many people who are not familiar with the issue are going 
to be able to make an educated opinion regarding where the marbles
 belong after seeing the movie. The movie provides well-researched 
perspectives on both sides of the debate.

– Do you believe the Parthenon sculptures should be returned to 
Athens?  : )


– Do you have any plans for future film productions that discuss 
the repatriation of antiquities and/or Greek culture?

Yes, we are developing other scripts that deal with the repatriation of
 antiquities as well as historical dramas set in other parts of the world.

– When is the premiere of Promakhos?

Summer of 2014.

Interview date: 14 January 2014

Giancarlo Giannini as the Director of the Acropolis Museum, a man who is burdened by a responsibility to return the Parthenon sculptures. [Photograph by Gregory Thanopoulos]

Giancarlo Giannini as the Director of the Acropolis Museum, a man who is burdened by a responsibility to bring back the Parthenon sculptures.