Vampires and Red Sweaters: A Preview of Athens International Film Festival


Lifestyle Staff Writer | Alexis McCurdy |

Filmmakers from 41 countries are coming together next week to convene, share and explore their artworks at the 44th annual Athens International Film Festival.

The weeklong, academy-qualifying festival will feature 235 films from countries including the U.S., England, Germany, Iran and many more.

The Athens International Film Festival features indie films from around the globe. Photo via Sydney Dawes.

David Colagiovanni, director of the festival, said that with the vast number of films to see, there’s something for everyone. Each film, while not in a definitive genre, still has a central theme surrounding it. Some movies presented will contain subjects like love, music, war and peace.

“They’re just all over the place in terms of genre, style, topic, technique. It’s as broad as it can be really,” Colagiovanni said.

The festival kicks off April 3. Screenings each day will be from 1 p.m. to midnight, available free to students and $6.50 per screening to regular paying customers.

“People always ask me what the ‘must see’ film is, but so much of it is ‘must see’,” Colagiovanni said. “Go through [the program], and find the things that you ‘must see,’ and it will be great.”

The festival will also host after parties throughout the week as some 40 artists from the festival come to town to celebrate.

However, with such a wide variety of films, each has its own unique backstory behind the inspiration and creative process.

Accepted into the Cannes Film festival last year, director Michael O’Shea’s film “Transfiguration” will be making its way to the brick city.

Putting his film into the beginning works in 2008, O’Shea found inspiration for “Transfiguration” through a friend of a friend who said that their child was being bullied at school for being obsessed with vampires.

So, O’Shea created his film “Transfiguration” with the basic premise that a young teenager believes he is a vampire. Colagiovanni would describe it as a “hail-mary” film.

The film was shot in real locations of New York City, where O’Shea is based.

“I wanted it to be a portrait-horror movie with real locations,” O’Shea said. “I was set on developing that authenticity and making our world feel as real as possible.”

Photo via Sydney Dawes.

O’Shea admits that the process of getting to where he is now hasn’t been easy. He first had trouble raising money to start filming. But, as soon as he did the ball started rolling. A graduate of Purchase College nearly 20 years ago, “Transfiguration” is O’Shea’s first film.

With his success at Cannes, O’Shea developed contact with a lot of distributors and hasn’t had to individually submit a film since.

His passion for film could be seen at a young age.

“When I was 12 or 13, I was a pretty depressed kid,” O’Shea said. “Film was something to bring me out of where I was. It was my escape. It pretty much saved my life.”

Now, O’Shea is working on a film about a cross-country serial killing spree. He said he had the inspiration to make it with the weakened political climate since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. O’Shea said he wanted a film that matched the craziness and weirdness everyone is feeling right now.

On the other hand, Martha Gregory, director of the documentary “Three Red Sweaters,” has found inspiration for her film not grounded in imagination, but in real life.

“Three Red Sweaters” is a film about how people’s memories may be changing with the ability to record every moment of their lives. Gregory said the idea began as a question for how memories and images, such as photos or film, influence each other.

Gregory said for this film, she interviewed a lot of people, friends – the cobbler in her neighborhood, other filmmakers – but found her most compelling story though her grandfather.

“He kept yearly family albums stuffed with his own photographs from every holiday, birthday, family event and non-event, every trip or vacation etc. and he had a trove of 16mm film he shot in the 50s, 60s and 70s,” Gregory said.

Gregory interviewed her grandfather many times over the course of a few months, but noticed deterioration in his health that pushed her to change her methodology.

“It became apparent to me that he likely wouldn’t live to see the finished film,” Gregory said. “I decided somewhere along the way to use only his 16mm footage as a way to deepen our collaboration and examine my questions through his footage and his experience as a man devoted to preserving memories through images.”

Like O’Shea, Gregory said that her love for film can be found in her formative years, as she started shooting in elementary school. But, Gregory enjoys film for the twists it brings into her life.

“As I’ve worked on other projects and formed a personal community of friends and mentors who are artists and filmmakers, the more social aspects of filmmaking and the fact that a film can be an opportunity for community building have reinforced my commitment to the art form as a way to explore our worlds, build connections and relationships and tackle relevant issues, ideas and problems,” Gregory said.

Going forward, Gregory has plans to finish a film on how feminism in Nicaragua is an effective tool against the dictatorship, as well as continue her role as film studio manager.

The full Athens International Film Festival schedule can be found here.