city of athens movie alexandros maragos
Statue of Athena captured during a full moon in Athens. Photograph: Alexandros Maragos

A portrait of a changing metropolis

Through the power of the image and time lapse photography, Athenian filmmaker and photographer, Alexandros Maragos pays homage to his home town of Athens

City of Athens - A Short Film by Alexandros MaragosIn a heart felt dedication to the city he loves, Alexandros Maragos has spent the last three months capturing Athens frame by frame, as part of his forthcoming non-narrative short film, ‘City of Athens’.

Alexandros is an accomplished Athenian filmmaker and an award winning photographer. His credits include the feature documentary Balkan Spirit directed by Hermann Vaske, featuring Angelina Jolie, Marina Abramovic, Goran Bregovic, Emir Kusturica, Isabelle Huppert, Anamaria Marinca, and Slavoj Zizek. He was among the cinematographers for 300: Rise of an Empire, an 11-part documentary series. As a director, he has completed and released five short documentaries including the 2014 short film, Phedon Papamichael: A Life Behind The Lens about the career of the Oscar-nominated cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael.

Alexandros is also known for his nature and landscape photography, astrophotography and time lapse imagery that has been featured by NASA and National Geographic. Having spent several hundred hours up close and observing the vibrant metropolis of Athens, we asked him to share his journey and thoughts on an ever changing city that is always on the move.

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Thunderstorm over the City. Photograph: Alexandros Maragos

What was your motivation to dedicate this short film to Athens?

‘City of Athens’ is a very personal project of mine. For years I wanted to make a film about my city and now it was the perfect time to do it. I was born and raised in the heart of Athens under the shadow of the Acropolis. I live in the centre of the city and I see the Parthenon every single day of my life. I feel very proud to be an Athenian and I love every aspect of the city.

Ideally, what would you like to achieve from the film?

The film is a portrait of a changing Athens and its timeline represents the various periods leading to the city’s growth and evolution. From the gorgeous neoclassical building of the Academy of Athens and the architectural “trilogy” of Panepistimiou Street, to the astonishing new building of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center and the new modern piazza around it, Athens, despite the financial crisis continues to grow and expand.

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A modern Athens, the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center. Photograph: Alexandros Maragos

Tell us about some of the locations you’ve chosen to shoot in Athens 

I wanted to capture Athens from some of its highest points so some of the main locations were the four mountains encircling the capital; Ymittos to the east, Parnitha to the north, Penteli to the northeast and Aigaleo to the west. Of course Lycabettus Hill, which is in the very centre of Athens, provided some really interesting shots. I also used the rooftops of countless buildings around the city.

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Drivelapse Still. Maragos utilises masterful techniques to showcase modern Athens in the film. Photograph: Alexandros Maragos

Can you explain a little about your journey in making the film and the time it has taken you and any challenges you faced along the way?

I shot it over a period of 90 days between August 2017 and November 2017 using hyper lapse, time lapse, drive lapse and other techniques from the highest rooftops, hills and mountains at night. There’s so much that goes into something like this aside from the actual shooting. Lots of scouting, planning, emails, calls, shooting requests, permits, etc. Thankfully 90 per cent of the project was done exactly as planned. For example, one of the shooting locations was the rooftop of the General Police Directorate of Attica (known in Greek as ΓΑΔΑ). This was the first time that a shooting permit was granted by the Greek Police to use the rooftop of its HQ building in Athens. The film was made out of 60,000 raw images in 5K resolution.

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Athens from the rooftop of Apollon Tower. Photograph: Alexandros Maragos

How would you describe Athens now that you have spent so much time close to her and does your perspective differ from when you started?

A modern metropolis that despite the difficult economic situation and financial crisis continues to grow and expand, charming its visitors from all over the world by its streets that thread their way through a maze of old and new buildings some as constructed in the middle of the crisis. Athens is a beautiful city, you just need the right pair of eyes to really see its true beauty.

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City of Athens is dedicated to the victims and families of those affected by the flash floods in November 2017, on the outskirts of Athens.The short film is set for online release in the coming weeks see it here.