Lefteris Xanthopoulos


The poet and director Lefteris Xanthopoulos was born in Athens on February 18, 1945. He studied law at the University of Athens (1963 – 1969) but never took his degree exams.  From 1965 – 1969 and 1971 – 1972 he worked for the Hellenic Industrial Development Bank (ETBA). In England, he completed a degree in cinematography (1972 – 1976) at the London Film School (Course 69).
In January 1967 his poems receive an award at the 3rd Pan-Hellenic Poetry Competition held by the democratic forces’ student magazine ‘Panspoudastiki’. Members of the official jury include the poets Nikos Gatsos, Giannis Ritsos and Nikiforos Vrettakos.
In 1972, on completion of his army obligations (1969 – 1971), Lefteris resigns from ETBA, abandons his law studies for good, and leaves Greece. For an extensive period of time, he travels throughout central and northern Europe living in different cities and working at various occupations.
He works mainly as a factory worker in Western Germany, a house painter, gardener, and theatre set hand in London, architectural firm employee in Hamburg, photographer, and model maker among others.  
In May, 1972, just before his departure from Greece, his first poetry collection ‘Antipsycha’ is published in Athens. The literary critic Tasos Lignadis notes in the prologue of Chronicle 1972. “The following poets are making their first appearance […] including Lefteris Xanthopoulos. This last poet has certainly made a highly significant first appearance and I feel a deep sense of satisfaction that I am introducing him.”
In the critical note that follows, Lignadis comments: “I do not believe that there is any need for the reader of the poetry collection Antipsycha to have any special ability or make any special effort to understand or to admit that they find themselves face-to-face with very substantial and direct poetry. The poet’s masterly use of imagery within a minimalist structuring creates an instant impression and startles, a phenomenon which we rarely encounter in contemporary poetry. Concise phrasing, spare expression, lucid imagery, ideas radiating light into filtered-down speech, wiped clean of excess adornment. The poet’s stylistic conception exudes art - with Hellenic elements, big strokes of the brush dipped in white-wash, words molded from clay, it gives you the immediate sense not only of sight but of touch.”
After finishing his degree in the Art and Technique of Film-making in London, Xanthopoulos, makes a first appearance at the 17th Film Festival of Thessaloniki with his documentary The Greek Community in Heidelberg ( 1976 ), filmed in areas where Greek immigrant workers live (‘gaestarbeiter’) in Western Germany. This documentary constitutes the first part of an award-winning trilogy of documentary films featuring Greek immigrants abroad. This film will be followed by: Giorgos from Sotirianika (1978) and In Athens Today (On Tourkovounia) (1982).
In October 1977, the film The Greek Community in Heidelberg is shown on the German Channel SWF3, on the “Zu Gast” program. The following year the show is re-broadcast on the ARD network and is awarded first prize for the best regional program on German Television.
From the beginning of 1981, Xanthopoulos directs films for Greek State Television ERT and YENED (ERT 2) as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Culture, having decided to return to Greece permanently. In the following years a great number of documentary films are produced for the programs: Paraskinio (Backstage), Open Issues, Periscope, ERT in Northern Greece, Art and Culture, Greece is not just Athens, Musical dedications, Colours, etc.
In 1981, his second poetry collection The Adventures of a Vagrant Dream Guard is published. The poet of Third Avenue Nikos Spanias, who is based in New York City remarks in the Greek community newspaper, Ethnikos Kirix, 21/3/1982: “The poet Lefteris Xanthopoulos captivates his readers with remarkably lean language. His composition is noteworthy, without pomposity, without rhetoric, without excessive language. Moving and dignified, he unfolds the threads of his experience while his poetic voice has the warmth of a friendly conversation.”
In 1983, Xanthopoulos directs the documentary At Colonus for the Ministry of Culture, script by Thanasis Skroubelos, which participates unofficially in the Film Festival of Thessaloniki that same year. The following year, the film is an Official Entry in the Uppsala Film Festival, Sweden.
In 1984, he directs the tv play The Wedding for ERT, starring Dimitris Kataleifos and Pemi Zouni, based on the novel “The Wedding” written by Dimitris Nollas.
His 1988 his documentary entitled Routes – Pavlos Zannas, conveys the vivid and very direct language of this contemporary intellectual, Pavlos Zannas, author, translator of Marcel Proust and pioneer in the film clubs movement in Greece.
In 1988, his third poetry collection is published The Red Room, for which the literary critic Vaggelis Xatzivasileiou in his article in Avgi, 28-05-1989 writes: “The Red Room proves that the prolonged silence of a creator (who from the viewpoint of publications alone, moves somewhat on the fringe of poetry happenings) can have a fertile and stimulating result. Lefteris Xanthopoulos, apart from his other cultural activities, has not only the makings of a fine poet but a vivid and contemporary poetic voice as well.”
The poet Ilias Kefalas writing in the magazine I Read (Diavazo), (v. 215/10-05-1989) concludes: “The Red Room is a record of the silent voices that arise within us when the suffering of the present seeks expression in a lyrical retreat facing the grief of the past. Xanthopoulos cultivates silence, lending it a mystic fertility to elicit the inexpressible and the remote.”
Lastly, the poet and essayist Kostas Tsiropoulos in the magazine Responsibility (Efthini) (v. 208/1989) states: “The poetic voice of Lefteris Xanthopoulos has not been effaced from our memory. The poet knows how to shape live verse, hewn out of the cellars of his existence, elevating it in a language of light with sparse wording, effectual, often bloodied in the writing style of his generation, a legitimate blending restrained to the limits of lyricism and surrealistic immediacy. The poems of The Red Room linger in one’s mind.
    In 1991, he directs the 45-minute documentary La Culture Populaire Dans Le Cinema Grec for the French television network LA SEPT (ARTE). Between 1993 and 1994 he directs a number of episodes for the TV series Anatomy of a Crime for ANT 1, Frenzy Films production.
    Among his documentary works, the film genre that Lefteris serves most faithfully, are the films: Who the Crazy Hare is (1993) for an ERT series Words of the City and Inheritor of birds (2004), two portraits of the poet Miltos Sahtouris, as well as the Dark Conspirator (1998), portrait of the poet Mihalis Katsaros, the Garden with the Innumerable Windows (2005), portrait of the poet / painter Nikos Engonopoulos, the last three produced for the Cinetic program Paraskinio (Backstage, ET-1).

    His first full-length, feature documentary Happy Homecoming, Comrade (Beloiannisz), 1986, (French title Bon retour au pays, camarade), was filmed in the political refugees village Beloiannisz in Hungary. The film received a Special Mention at the 39th Locarno Film Festival (1986) “… for its integrity and generosity of purpose and its purity of presentation.”
    The film won the Directors award for first director’s appearance and the music award (Music by Eleni Karaindrou) at the 27th Film Festival in Thessaloniki, 1986. The extended version of the film (3 episodes X 45min each) has been broadcast by the state Greek television (ERT).
    His next full-length feature film entitled Master of the Shadows (1991) officially participated in the Directors’ Fortnight program (La Quinzaine des Realisateurs) at the 44th Cannes Film Festival in 1991. At the 32nd Film Festival Thessaloniki 1991 it won awards in Photography (Andreas Sinanos), Music (Nikos Kipourgos) and 2nd Male Role (Giorgos Ninios).
    In April 1986, his film Master of the Shadows is distributed in France under the French title Le Montreur d’Ombres where it enjoys a very positive reception from the French press and public, running for fifteen weeks in Paris alone.
    During the same period, the 3½ hour full version of the film (5 episodes X 45min each) was broadcast by Mega channel and later on state television. In April 2001, the film was re-broadcast by the French cable channel TPS.
    In 1992, his poetry collection Antipsycha is republished by Andromeda Publications. Vassilis Kalamaras in the literary magazine I Read (Diavazo – July 1982) notes: “I would assign the title ‘atonement’ to Xanthopoulos’ second poetry collection because that which the poet deplores and fears most is death. He persists in atoning in thousands of ways for the agony that the sense of escape from an existent-determinant world into pure silence and stillness brings. He uses nature as a symbol of eternity transposing the void of existence into its geography. […] If we bring to mind the thoughts of Andre Breton on mineral salts, I think there we can pinpoint the conceptions of this poet.”
    Lefteris Xanthopoulos’ films have been presented at major international film festivals (Cannes, Locarno, Montreal, Munich, Tokyo, Montpellier, Taipei, Brussels, Mannheim, Istanbul, Vienna, Novi Sad, Haifa, Nicosia, etc.) and have been widely acclaimed by film critics all over the world, winning numerous awards and distinctions. Lefteris’ films, especially those screened at the Thessaloniki and Drama Film Festivals (from 1976 when he won his first award for the Greek Community in Heidelberg, until today) have gathered more than 20 awards and distinctions in all areas of directing and production as well as state awards for quality and from the official juries as well as the Greek Association of Film Critics (P.E.K.K.) and the Greek Guild of Film Technicians (E.T.E.K.T.).
    Lefteris Xanthopoulos has been repeatedly honored for the entirety of his cinematic work as well as his participation in the movement of the Non Commercian film distribution (Parallel Network) and the arising of Greek Film Societies (Cine-clubs) by cultural institutions, public companies, educational establishments, the Drama Film Festival for short-length films, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, the Greek Association of Film Critics (P.E.K.K.) and the Federation of Film Clubs (O.K.L.E.).
    Events in his honor and special features on his films have been held by Greek and foreign cultural institutes (The French Institute Athens and Thessaloniki, Goethe Institut Athens and Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, French Institute Festival “Cinema and Reality”, Greek Film Forum Munich, Immigration Toronto, etc.)
    His films on the Greek Diaspora constitute a rich source for studies, articles, commentary, essays, and graduate theses. His film Master of the Shadows taught at screenwriters’ seminars in Film schools in Munich and the National Film School in London.
    In 1988, on a fellowship granted by “The Academy for Educational Development”, Washington D.C. (International Visitor Program, The American Film) he became acquainted with the latest trends and techniques of contemporary filmmaking at the major United States’ studios (Los Angeles, San Francisco, North Carolina, New York, etc.)
    In 1995, his fourth poetry collection is published under the title Keep Your Chin Up Father, for which Vaggelis Xatzivasileiou writes in the literary magazine Enteuktirio, (v. 31, Summer 1995): “Adjectives are almost completely absent, nouns constitute a powerful verbal energy, the forms of the unexpected are multiplied and the function of an internal monologue takes shape in a de-dramatized and intentional raving that lends a bare, stripped down disposition to the faltering (at an ideological, and if you will, moral and existential level) poetic “I”. Each poem identifies with a condensed totality of meanings, stirring the mental and emotional sensations of the receiver, in an unending game of reflections that is played out in a mirror of multiple iridescences.”
    From 1995 and on Xanthopoulos teaches the lesson “Cinematography and the Actor in Cinema.” at schools of Dramatic Arts and workshops on theatrical studies. He occasionally attends seminars and gives lectures to groups, associations, cinema clubs on the history of the short film, the history of the development and future prospects of the cine-clubs in Greece as well as the role the animateur plays in the non-commercial film distribution network.
    In 1996, he attended theatrical seminars as a fellow at the educational institute Salzburg Seminar in Austria, under the direction of Arthur Miller. The subject of the seminar was: The Power of Theatre: Artistry, Entertainment and Social Commentary.
    In 1999, his novel Angel of the First Days is published by Livanis Publications. The following commentary was made among others: “Xanthopoulos chose not to make a film, preferring to write a very good book because the town of Kavala he describes is so intense with elements such as scents that it cannot be captured on film. If you ask me, he quite correctly opted for the written word.” (Vassilis Vassilakos, Four Wheels, February 2000.) “A tight and solid narrative framework, rich and lightly intoned senses and the most important, correctly estimated doses of emotion that put the reader immediately into a climate of….” (Vaggelis Xatzivasileiou, Eleftherotypia, 19/3/2000). “Xanthopoulos sets up vast mural of memory, an altar of forgiveness, and a font of uplift.  His childhood world becomes a shared homeland.” (Nikos Vatopoulos, Kathimerini, 20/9/ 2000.)
    His poetry collection entitled “Why Women Don’t Love the Rain” is published in 2001 and is  a runner-up for the Poetry Prize 2003 of the literary magazine I Read (Diavazo).
    In February 2002, a day-long conference is held by the Ministry of the Exterior (Diplomatic Service and Historical Archives Departments) with the theme: Reality and Myth in the cultural work of Lefteris Xanthopoulos. Members of the academic community participate in the proceedings as well as people of arts and letters. The minutes from the Conference have been published under the title “Witnessing a Cinematic Image”
    Lefteris Xanthopoulos has published articles and texts in the newspapers The News (Ta Nea) and The Free Press (Eleftherotypia) and the magazines Against (Anti), Contemporary Cinema (Sinchronos Kinimatographos), The Word (I lexi), Enteuktirio, Responsibility (Efthini), New Estia, Skapti Uli, Tram, Hypostego, Anti-Kinimatographos, Nea Syntelia, etc.
    He was a member of the juries and preliminary judging committee at the Thessaloniki, Drama, Oberhausen West Germany, Chalkida Documentary Film Festival, the Ιnternational documentary festival in Kalamata, Eco Festival, Altkin Koza international film festival Adana, Turkey etc.
    Since 1989, he has provided his services as a programming top executive for private and state television networks.
    More commentary on Xanthopoulos and his cinematic work can be found in the publications: Lights, Sound, Let’s Go by Konstantinos Blathras, Maistros Publications and the collection, Immigration in the Cinema, Papazisis Publications, Athens 2004.
    Lefteris Xanthopoulos’ literary publications include six collections of poetry and one novel.
Antipsycha, Athens 1972 and 2nd edition, Andromeda, 1982
The Adventures of a Vagrant Dream Guard, Nefeli, 1981
The Red Room, Paraskinio, 1988
Keep your Chin up Father, Delphini, 1995
The Rush of the Stormy Waters, Stigmi, 1998
Angel of the First Days (novel),  Livanis, 1999
Why Women Don’t Love the Rain, Kedros, 2002
The Seventh Rain, Gavriilides, 2010
Cats elsewhere (short stories) Gavriilides, 2011.