Prosefhi: Greek School Prayer

Neofotistos Thanasis

Greece, 2014



adolescence, “exposure”, school violence, sexual awakening


The Director Remembers:

Use the extract to complete Activity No. 1

What does the Best Short Feature Film Award in Drama mean to you?

I feel very happy… It’s a vindication for all the work of the contributors, who trusted me and believed in what I wanted to do – a difficult mission altogether. I’m also very happy because the film found its audience. The best thing I’ve heard so far was something like: “You made me travel me back in those days… Back to school, to my high school years…” For me, Prosefhi: Greek School Prayer is a teen flick, but every viewer has a place in the world I have built.

It is a personal story. Is it your story or someone else’s story?

Anyone who saw the film can tell who I am in it. I was definitely part of this phenomenon. The film has many personal elements. I had to dig deep inside myself to remember good and bad moments in order and give away the feeling of that age in the best possible way. It is a feeling that eventually hides a certain kind of romanticism in it.

Do you feel angry?

Not at all. In general, I don’t easily lose my temper. On the contrary, since I have taken in the development of these characters, I have been forgiving and I have overcome many things; this particular experience has shaped me. I would never change what I am today, in terms of my character. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, people say.

What was the most difficult part: shooting a film with a crowd of people (and even kids) or dealing with bullying as a subject matter?

I am conscious that the film will be promoted like “a film about bullying.” Bullying is part of the film, but for me it’s a mostly a film about adolescence. Working with these kids was easy because they were studying at Gerakas art school – which means that they were acquainted with art since the first grade of Junior High. However, this doesn’t mean that it wasn’t difficult to shoot a scene with 120 kids. You also need to take care of the catering, a teenager eats like a horse! I had five assistants to help me organize the shooting, because we could only shoot over the weekend and we had to populate the school. I was terribly anxious that noone would show up, but in the end everything happened according to the plan. I wouldn’t change a single thing in the film. But as for the subject matter, that was the most difficult part for me. I wrote the script together with a friend of mine who is a psychiatrist, because we wanted to work heavily on the character development, to see how these people react: We didn’t want to portray them as victims and victimizers, but we wanted to highlight their human side. During adolescence many things are happening, and obviously there is emotional abuse and (especially) verbal abuse against the protagonist, but from where I’m standing, the film talks about sexual awakening, the quest for identity, and the relationships that flourish within a circumstance of bullying.

Why do you make films?

I make films to let off steam. I make films because I feel redeemed and complete. In each film I want to convey something and I definitely shoot films in order to communicate.

Excerpt from the director’s interview with Manolis Kranakis



Use the extract to complete Activity 1 (from the second group of questions)

“I didn’t want to express my opinion on this and sound didactic. My intention was to talk about people who suffer, act and react – and especially during adolescence when the mental processes are abundant and perplexed. These people tend to build bridges with others while they have already chosen their place. The process of sexual awakenings, identity quest, and psychological violence melt together and acquire gigantic dimentions – just like everything else when you are a teenager. Besides, there’s always a hotshot in each school. This is the guy that every girl falls in love with; at the same time this guy is admired by all the boys, who in their turn can confuse this admiration with other subconscious feelings.(…) I don’t think this is an extreme situation, whenever an environment is violent, the threat is the outcome of brutality – especially when we deal with teenagers, who already fight their own battles anyway.”

Excerpt from the director’s interview with Alexandros Diakosavvas



(…) Violence is inherent in adolescence. What happens in each teenager is violent by default. The child is called to formulate a personal identity, destroy certain prototypes, fulfil expectations, survive within social groups, build relationships, while at the same time his/her body changes and invites him/her to explore it. Everything becomes enlarged and difficult. Imagine what happens when all the above are subjected to exogenous violence. This can be crucial…



Use the extract to complete Activity 1 (from the second group of questions)

The really important thing in Prosefhi is that the protaginist himself hasn’t experienced violence per se, but he is constantly afraid of it. Why did you choose to talk about the extreme feeling of fear, rather than the violence itself?

“I don’t consider at all that fear is an extreme feeling because every environment endorsing violence also endorses the threat that this violence generates, especially when we talk about teenagers who already fight their own battles.”

Excerpt from the director’s interview with Nestoras Poulakos


No one is secure when they are around. Among this crowd, we see Dimitris, a frail 14-year-old boy who lives under the constant fear of an attack, of violent behavior, no matter if for the time being he is just invisible, a plain observer. Incidents of psychological and school violence happen on an everyday basis. Evidently, the victims are usually kids that “look” different and are defenseless and incapable of giving an effective response. The attacks are harsh. Under these circumstances, Dimitris is scared to say the morning prayer standing before a crowd of students. He’s scared of exposure. However, this is one of his duties as a student.

“The reason my film doesn’t include scenes of explicit violence is because the story itsels provides us with many strong images. We wouldn’t want any scenes to conceal the violence that derives from the internal struggle of the hero. (…) However, the film also talks about the relationship between the strong and the weak, about power relationships. It is no coincidence that in the background we can hear the sound of a history lesson about patricians and plebeians. All of us, girls and boys, used to admire the strong and the pretty when we were kids. Young people are cruel and they easily (yet often unconsciously) target as victim anyone who is different. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to be didactic, I just recorded the picture I had in mind from my own school environment.”


How are all these years of silence explained? “When a person becomes a victim of mental abuse and everyday terrorism, especially at a young age, telling this story also presupposes accepting it. However, the fear of exposure is immense. You can’t stand it, therefore you stay silent. In my case, it took me ten years! You keep wondering what could have happened if you opened your mouth. Thus, when the protagonist stands before his fellow students and says the morning prayer, he already experiences violence – but it is still in his head. He feels the fear of ‘what will happen if…’.”

Excerpt from the director’s interview with Nora Ralli


  • Prayer

Use the extract to complete Activity 1 (from the 4th and 5th group of questions)

The director doesn’t specify the time and space where his story is set. The story may as well take place in the 90s, somewhere in the Greek countryside, but this is not certain or binding. “There is a deliberate ambiguity. However, when I was at school, somewhere in the peninsula of Attica in the 90s, there was a standing list for the students that had to say the prayer every morning – so don’t be surprised, this is not fiction. Whenever it was my turn, I didn’t want to be there at all. This process is extremely difficult for many kids and it can make their already troubled psyche even harder to bear. There are kids with extra weight, different looks, speech impediments. As this age, the exposure of difference is not at all helpful. I wish to believe that today the situation has significantly improved. I don’t want to judge this ritual on a religious level, however I did include the Greek word in the film’s international title because I couldn’t find a word that could accurately describe this Greek custom. As we found out, the school prayer is only performed in five countries worldwide.”

Excerpt from the director’s interview with Alexandros Diakosavvas


“As I was doing research for my film, I read that there are only a few countries in the world where the morning prayer is still part of the tradition. I looked up for its translation in order to conclude to an international title, but I realized there is no exact translation that could help foreigners to understand what I’m talking about. This is why I wrote Prosefhi in the latin alphabet and I added the explanatory phrase Greek School Prayer, as this wording includes the religious, nationalistic and cultural aspect of this practice.


The prayer was the triggering event because it is a kind of exposure. Exposure is difficult for the kids who are different. This is how my story begins. My protagonist didn’t want to be exposed and I put obstacles in his way. These obstacles definitely shape characters and people. The way in which someone will make use of his/her own experiences is a totally personal matter.




Use the extract to complete Activity 1 (from the fourth group of questions)

-The director used handheld camera throughout the shooting. This choice was made to capture the turbulent, volatile state of adolescence, in addition to convey the feeling of constant threat that is strongly present among kids that suffer from school violence. Aiming at framing the tension in the relationship between the two main characters, the camera is almost constantly placed in point-of-view (PoV) shots.

-The colors are mat, the objects are well-lit, and the color saturation is low (i.e. the intensity of color / the purity of color of a specific hue, which presents a color under different light conditions [day, night, etc.]). The director made use of natural lighting, in order to achieve the desired realistic touch. For all the above, the camera Alexa ARRI was the ideal option.

-Setting: The Art School of Gerakas. This is the main film location that reproduces this peculiar feeling of this period in the highest possible accuracy.

-Actors: Amateurs and, more specifically, students of the Art School of Gerakas (teenagers aged 14-16).

-Point-of-View (POV) Shots: These shots were chosen in order to show the tension in the relationship between the main characters.

“The kids were wonderful. I love them and thank them with all my heart. They are all students at the Art School of Gerakas, where we slowly and discreetly sneaked in. The protagonists were just like I figured them. So I adjusted the roles according to their standards. I never gave them the script. I wanted them to be free and natural. I wanted them to be themselves… On the first day at school, I bumped into two kids. Their physical appearance instantly matched the image I had in mind for main characters. After 2-3 months of casting, I eventually decided to proceed with the two of them. The first is indeed a romantic guy who watches Béla Tarr in the age of 14. The other is the school toughie, the leader. I never gave them a script or lines to read, I never defined the film’s topic. The dialogue is pretty basic, but I did set some concrete objectives regarding their acting and the goals I meant to achieve. The kids made the film feel their own. I was afraid that they would get cold feet if I didn’t get more specific, but in the end, they are flexible, malleable filmmakers and not professionals. I am 100% satisfied with the final result, I wouldn’t change a single thing. When I showed the final cut to the young fella and his family, we cried together.”




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