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Trojan Women re-imagined: An Interview with Vicky Karaiskou

Please tell us about the projects you worked on before making ‘Trojan Women re-imagined’. How did you start, and how did you learn to make films?

All my work focuses on topics involving memory; our individuals and collective memories. How we make sense; how we imagine. How the images around us make us think, feel and act the way we do, and how we shape the images of our memories. What triggers them? How we correlate and associate different things or events and make whole narratives out of a sole trigger?


Before my short film, I wrote this novel. The title is “The other face”. It evolves around two personal stories and how the emotional states of the two main characters dictated their reality. It is about the consequences of our perceptions, assumptions, anticipations and illusions of reality.


We have a selective and biased memory because what we believe is biased. What we know is based on what we perceive. What we perceive depends on our experiences and how we interpret them. At the same time, our feelings dictate the boundaries of our understanding. They are the fertilizer of our memories convincing us on the essence of things. 

Humans exist in a constant tension between rationality, cognition and emotion. Without being aware of, we justify our stances, we explain our choices, actions, and behaviors under the shade of our past emotional reactions. They guide us to remember or forget, or to interpret in certain ways.


So….here comes the question: what is reality? Where is the truth?

This question is central in my Trojan women re-imagined short film. It is my first filmic attempt. In this case, it is the consequences of the collective memories, illusions, perceptions, assumptions and anticipations that I explore.


I came up with the idea when I visited Turkey in 2018. I had a road trip of three weeks around the whole middle-western part of the country. Amazing landscapes, beautiful people. I visited the ruined and abandoned village of Kayakoy, at the south-west of the country, just across the Greek island of Rhodes and I was mesmerized by its wild charm.


The village was inhabited by Greeks who were forced to leave their homes in 1923 after the Greco-Turkish War and as a consequence of the Treaty of Lausanne in that year which contained a protocol, the population exchange between Greece and Turkey.

The ‘sin’ of these people, both Turks and Greeks, was that they spoke the ‘wrong’ language and followed the ‘wrong’ religion in the ‘wrong’ country.


I spent hours climbing the once upon a time stone alleys of the village now suffocating under all kinds of wild flora. It was a beautiful summer afternoon and the light was spectacular. I was exploring the ruins thinking how the lives of these people changed violently and radically because of certain collective interpretations of truth and reality, of right and wrong.  


I was immerged in a kaleidoscope of images of their lives. Fandoms of ordinary people and ordinary events of ordinary lives. So much private and so much commonly shared at the same time: We are all made of the same fabric. We share expectations, dreams, loves, worries, joys, intentions, unfulfilled intentions, fears, pains, traumas.


As a matter of fact I use quite a few photographs from Kayakoy and other ruined sites around Turkey in my film.


I could not help the association with the Trojan War, centuries back. Another war between the two sides of Aegean Sea to defend a different restoration of justice. So much conflict and so much suffering in our history. Who is the victim and who the perpetrator at the end of the day? Are there clear cuts? Can two – or more – wrongs make one right? Can the past justify the present actions?


The need to do something with this kaleidoscope of images came at that moment. What a perfect stage this village for a performance co-created and co-acted by Turks and Greeks, by ordinary people as the ones who lived in these places.

A piece to challenge the grass root dominant and so much destructive narrative on the mutual animosity between the two people. A comment on conflict, oppression, war, blood, death. A question on whose truth is more valid. Based on whose truth do we allow or – even worse – partake in inflicting pain and trauma?


The idea of a live performance had far too many logistic complications to resolve. In the meantime, covid erupted. A filmic option was my second instant thought.


I had no technical skills on how to edit a film, or how to work with the voices and the music. I still have none. To be honest, I had no clue where to start from. Nevertheless, I had a very precise idea in my mind of what I wanted the purpose of the project and the visual outcome, the atmosphere of the filmic image, to be.

So I started step by step. Resolving one issue at a time. And following my instinct. Of course, I need to say that I was lucky to find a great supportive team.


Tell us about ‘Trojan Women re-imagined’. How do you describe it

I would describe it as a collective memory flash-back that deliberately applies the sense of dreaming. As a flash back it recalls memories and the language of emotions, while the dreaming state allows the fluid associations among symbolic images, thoughts, silences, voids, echoes and repetitions of lines, or overlaps of voices.   

The script stems from Euripides’ anti-war homonymous tragedy but is based on excerpts from poets, writers, play writers, historians, philosophers, sophists, rhetoricians and composers throughout the centuries, that explored the illusive nature of truth and the fallacy of our assumptions.

I chose to focus on the biases that nourish our actions. I used the Trojan War as a loose frame of a universal condition: power abuse.

The legendary, beautiful Helen / Eleni, in the film becomes the symbol of illusory beliefs and pursuits because power always needs firm and persuasive reasons to secure collective alignments.


The whole narrative evokes or touches upon aspirations, anger, fear, pain, despair, wonder, remorse… 

The film starts with an ominous overcast sky that suggests the agonizing flashback that follows.

The statement “The age demanded an image” states in a very affirmative manner the pivotal role of images and of visuals in the shaping of our thinking and feeling. I took this line from a poem by Ezra Pound.  

I used very few references on the Trojan War, just the necessary to build the narrative frame.

Contradictions and repetitions serve a very concrete purpose: to highlight the ‘holes’ behind “truths”.

For example, I deliberately used diverse explanations on the reasons of the Trojan War…..Was it meant for Aeneas to build Rome? For the restoration of honor after Helen’s kidnapping? To lighten mother earth from the masses of mortals? Was it a dark will of Gods? All these explanations exist in the writings of the ancients.

The same for the conflicting explanations of where Helen was: in Troy, or in Egypt? Since antiquity there are different versions of her whereabouts.

The question “Who is Helen” sets, form the beginning, the tone on what she stands for: She is “our fights”; “our dreams”; “our illusions”.

I chose male voices to speak on issues of power – “men rule whenever they can”, “the stronger impose on the weaker”, when women’s voices and lines underline the consequences of our fallacies and illusions, and are impregnated with painful emotions and despair.

The repetitive “where is the truth” echoes this anguish. Their despair escalates in every question: why all this pain and death? For the sake of a fandom? For a cloud? For an empty tunic?

The empty tunic is an analogy of the emptiness firm pursuits often hold.

The same with the cloud: it is something very real but, at the same time, of no concreate substance; in addition it hides parts of our horizons and our vision.


We hear the female voices wonder on what is “important”, on the sense of “meaning”. They are alarmed in the thought that “senseless tales” ruined their lives.

We hear them wondering, commenting and questioning in an exacerbating mode on the power of impressions – “we see the impressions we want” says a woman; on the power of words – “they are medicines for the soul” – states another; on the power of visual impressions that combined with faith become “advisors of our souls” because they “affect our mental states”, as a third strongly supports.

Gradually, we observe men shift from their initial firm stances….. and wonder on the purpose of their acts. They wonder on the meaning of their visions: “I see nothing” a voice says. They discover “deep holes” behind the words. Do words exist in “a pretense of accuracy”?

They start wondering, as well, on their motivations and drives: is it arrogance? Is it boldness? Is it false judgements?


And a painful conclusion: “Troy always loses”...

Troy as power abuse or as the dogmatic pursuit of goals, if we associate it with the Helene cause.


A parallel focus shift occurs at the same time from the past into the Future. “Focus on the Future” commands a vigorous voice. This is what we usually miss: we are far too much attached to our pasts. Individually and collectively. Perhaps a shift of perspective would open the space to better and more fulfilling lives.


The film ends with one more symbolic scene: The sealed house and the abandoned statues in the garden. They suggest the limitations the past imposes on the present and, perhaps, the bankruptcy of what we know as “reality”.

The reassuring nudge “search for how and why” is the purpose behind of this film. In our days, perhaps it is more urgent than ever this search.These how and why are always disruptive – hence the perplexed closing line “Where to go now?” – but disruptions are vital for our lives…Vital for growth….We cannot let shrink in our pasts; we need to endorse the possibilities all of us innately have.


All dialogues, all images and music in the film are associative and insinuative as our emotional mind is, in contrast to our rational mind that makes logical connections between cause and effect. In contrast to what we believe, we are not driven by our rational mind or by logical evidences, but by our emotional convictions. Hence, the impact of images.

Here, they serve to suggest by guiding the meaning of the concepts.

This is, as well, the reason why the actors are present only through their voices while they navigate through their memories, struggles and thoughts.

It was a deliberate choice to create space for the viewers to step into the shoes of these invisible characters….or to delve into their own reflections. Viewers can give the forms they choose to the voices.

Or, more than that, even wonder if there are different characters in the film.

Perhaps we listen to the multiple voices that reside in our own thoughts fighting to create our reality…

For the very same reason, all ‘actors’ are ordinary people from around the world (USA, Australia, Germany, UK, Egypt and Greece), a trait apparent in their utterance of speech. This choice underscores, as well, the universality of the topic under discussion in the film: the painful consequences of rigid ‘truths’ and ‘realities’ when they prevail and when they serve power abuse.


Please tell us about your favorite filmmakers.

Some of my favorite filmmakers are Peter Greenaway – I watched three times The Pillow Book. I still remember the film shots, the shapes of the close ups, the light…

Akira Kurosawa – I was stunned with his images in the Dreams;

Federico Fellini – how can you capture in words Satyricon?

Wong Kar-wai – I was mesmerized by the texture of the colors and the music In the mood of Love. I had the feeling his camera almost caressed the surfaces at some points in the film.

Fritz Lang, Metropolis: an artistic masterpiece, impregnated with symbolisms and prophetic images.

I would add Lars von Trier’s Dogville: an outstanding example of how unlimited and dense in meanings a very limited space can be.


If you were given a good budget, what would be your ideal project?

If I had a good budget I would definitely attempt a short film on the memory of the future. On the different futures our memories and the ensuing perceptions, assumptions, behaviors, choices and emotions lead us to.

I would create a full sensorial experience …A full sensorial experience for and with the audience in the role of the actors. They will actually choose among the different scenario options according to their aspirations and fears that fuel their anticipations.

We all enact our memories in the present projecting them in the future. We feed and elaborate them without being aware neither how we do this, nor that they tend to trap us preventing our lives to expand and alter.

Imagine the audience feeling in their senses the imprint of their choices in a fast forward condition. They will live their future in the tactility and textures, in the shapes and colors, in the smells and tastes, sounds, hues of the light, in the sense of temperatures of their choices. And while in real life we do not have the chance to go back in time, alter our choices and have a different life path, in this case they will have this choice: a different choice – a different outcome.

Precisely this experience will showcase them the power of their mind to determine, to materialize any life path they choose. They will literary feel on their skin the power of their words and thoughts and how much, what we think and say matters because it builds reality. I am thrilled in the idea.


Describe how you would ensure that production is on schedule. What steps would you take?

I would collect the material. There is already plenty of it.

I would make a detailed mind map so I have always a very clear view on what tasks have to evolve or finish when, and how all parts on the map interrelate.

In the meantime, I would find the correct team of people, working on immersive technologies and I would share with them the whole idea and purpose of the project. Understanding what my intention is, visualizing the final outcome in all details, and feeling each of them the audience experience as it would be their own – is a crucial step for all of us to be on the same page.

I would certainly invite them to give me feedback and contribute with their ideas and points of view regarding the content. I am a firm believer of team work. It is always enriching taking into account other points of view. There are so many blind spots in our views.

We would enrich the mind map with every possible detail – deadlines and costs –, so the whole team would know how the cash flow evolves and where we have hard or soft deadlines.

During the process, goes without saying, I would work very close with them in every step of the project.

I am sure we will try, retry, change or cancel many things during the process but this is the creative part of every project.

Projects end up leading you and you have to be open to what comes up and appreciate it for what it is.  


What was the hardest part of making ‘Trojan Women re-imagined’.

What was the hardest thing… the process of building the script, I guess.

My intention was to invite viewers to reflect on the power of storytelling and dominant narratives. Prompt them to engage critically with the perceptions and biases that build their realities and generate their lives.I wanted to create a rough equivalent of a quasi-abstract artwork.

Some parts – the lines – keep the threads of meaning that nudge you towards certain concepts. Other parts – such as the images and the music – create the symbolic, abstract spaces to submerge and re-emerge, and connect with your own emotions and stream of thoughts.

I had the feeling I was composing a 3D puzzle where each piece is made of recited lines, images and music. They all had their own specific gravity, density, volume…Every single element had to be 100% in harmony with everything else; otherwise the whole would collapse. Creating the correct elements and then adjusting them in the correct place, in the best possible manner I could do that, was challenging. 

A second challenge was the production. I had close to no budget but I was determined to make this project happen. I am deeply, immensely grateful to all friends who lent their voices without been paid; to the whole team for devoting their time; for following my instructions on how to recite; for taking the effort to understand and feel what the emotion behind their lines should be and how they would relate to others.

Imagine that each of them recorded their voices remotely, at their homes. We never worked in one place all together. So no one ever listened to the other lines, especially those before their own, in order to adjust. They had only my detailed instructions. I had to be very accurate in what I was seeking. Every single detail had to be tuned in the best possible way.

They are all not only volunteers, but amateurs, as well. One of them perhaps acts part time, a couple more have had acting courses sometime in their lives. But most of all: I had never done anything like that. I was THE amateur in this project.

I do hope I will provoke thought and spark dialogue on how we all understand past and on how we carry it in our present. Otherwise how can we foster the sense of empathy and understanding while advocating for social consciousness, justice and sustainable change.


If possible, tell us about your next work. What plans do you have for your future work?

The memory of the future project I just mentioned is my next work. I already work on it.

There is much visual material at the BABELproject facebook page. The idea started some years ago as an activity assigned to my students. During the first covid lockdown I uploaded the material I had already collected on a Facebook page and I invited the broader community to participate.

I asked them to contribute with visuals to the indicated concepts. A few of them are: future, time, stranger etc. Many did and I am grateful.

Since then and during the last two years I gather much material and much knowledge through the visual literacy workshops I run, as the main activity of the UNESCO Chair I hold of Visual Anticipation and Futures Literacy towards Visual Literacy.

As with the Trojan women reimagined, I have a precise idea in my mind of the final outcome.

Hopefully somehow I will fulfil this project as well.



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