Sotiris Dounoukos (BA ’96, LLB (Hons) ’96, GDLP ’96) isn’t your typical law graduate. After graduating from ANU he went on to a career in law. However, Sotiris left that world to pursue an equally-demanding and challenging career as a film-maker. He’s a graduate of the prestigious Victorian College of the Arts and has made a number of short films, including ‘Mona Lisa’, which won the Melbourne International Film Festival, and ‘A Single Body’, which won the Award for Best International Short Film at the Toronto International Film Festival. We caught up with him on his return to Canberra and chatted about his time at ANU, his career and about the making of his first feature film.
How did you first become interested in filmmaking?
My interest in film started as a student at Campbell High School. However, the hook for me came when I was studying at ANU, inspired and intrigued by German, Italian and European cinema in the classes of Roger Hillman and Gino Moliterno. At the time, the ANU film library included actual prints, so films were projected only a few feet away from us in the class. The discussion after these screenings was always robust and really developed my critical thinking skills.
After graduating I travelled to New York and worked for a company called Good Machine, learning the logistics of film development from the inside. From there, I worked as a lawyer for a while before attending the Victorian College of the Arts in 2003 to study filmmaking. I have spent the last few years writing features, making ads and working towards my first feature.
Tell us a little bit about your ANU experience.
One of the main things I remember about the University in the 90s was the vibrant cultural life on campus. I attended just about all the shows that were on in the campus theatres for the six years I studied at ANU. Geoffrey Borney was the Head of Drama at that time and I still talk about the things I saw in his plays. There were also a lot of concerts at the ANU Bar including Nirvana and You Am I.
I am still very much connected to the University and regularly visit the Law School where I have a number of friends. ANU is still my community.
You are about to make your first feature film, ‘Joe Cinque’s Consolation’. Can you tell us a bit more about the film?
I am currently working on my first feature film, which is the adaptation of Helen Garner's book ‘Joe Cinque's Consolation’. The book is a true story of the death of Joe Cinque in 1997 by his then-girlfriend, Anu Singh. This was my year of law school, so this story is very personal to me. Beyond the relationship, the narrative also explores the group of friends surrounding them, just as the book examined. The film is not cold, detached or black or white. I believe that films are about showing something and letting people make up their own mind.
We recently received Screen Australia support to make the film, shooting in 2015. I am looking forward to filming in Canberra, my home, with Canberrans. It’s my hope that the film will encapsulate what has and hasn’t changed about Canberra and how it relates to the drama. A big part of the crew will be from Canberra, so I’ve been spending a lot of time on campus and hope to also be able to involve recently graduated students in the making of the film.
Sotiris Dounoukos in conversation with Fi Preston, Alumni Officer.