For those if you who followed our Mana progress religiously, you will probably remember we had a Mana shop when the website first got started. For a while there we had to do without, while the DVDs where in production and the film was being processed for a Vimeo on Demand slot, but we’re back with a vengeance! The one and only Mana retail spot offers different formats of the film, a large print of our beloved poster to make your walls and better place and the beautiful T-shirts visual artist Mark Hadjipateras designed especially for for our Kickstarter campaign. You can have your choice of three colours, the universally liked grey, a bubblegum pink for all the girls out there and a sky-blue that’s perfect for both boys and girls who subscribe to vibrant colours.

In case you’re not a long-time follower, let us refresh your memory: the T-shirts were screen-printed by hand by some very special gentlemen who like to go by the name This Heart is a Pipe Bomb. Our former interns Eftychia, from Greece, and Elisabet, from Spain, made a day out of it and came back with many hilarious stories to tell! Check out the photos and visit the Mana Shop on the corresponding tab.


Oh my, it’s been a while, huh? Well, here we are again and boy, do we have good news for you! If you’re in Athens, you can come meet us at the Athens Technopolis on Friday, April 22, as Mana will be screening at 7:45pm sharp! Valerie will be on hand for a Q&A session, so go ahead and ask her whatever you want! The film screens as part of a tribute to Greek cinema, called “Eyes Wide Open” running April 21-24. You can find the full line-up HERE The event is co-organised by our very own Exile Room and it includes a short tribute to Syrian documentary, as well as a very handy workshop on short-form docs, exclusively focused on immigrant documentaries. Filmmakers Tala Derki (Return to Homs) and Amer Matar (co-founder of the Syrian Mobile Phone Festival) will lead the discussion on how to create an online platform that will communicate the immigrant experience in Greece, right here and right now, and you simply can’t afford to miss it. You can sign up for the workshop HERE

Last but not least, Mana will be available on Vimeo on Demand soon, so check back here for more good news. See you at Technopolis!



bow-tie-cinemasWatch out New Yorkers! Mana is going to be hitting the Big Apple very very soon! We’re very proud to announce that our film will be part of the New York City Greek Film Festival that takes place all around the city and beyond, starting October 2 and stretching all the way to November 8. Mana will open during the Manhattan leg of the festival, screening on Wednesday, October 21st at 9pm at the Bowtie Chelsea Cinema on 260 West 23 St. And the best part is, Valerie Kontakos will be there for a Q&A! The festival will move on to Cambridge and Atlanta, so make sure to check back with us for additional dates! If you care to take a gander around the festival website, you’ll find the first stretch of NYC screenings at the Museum of the Moving Image are already online and can be found right here. We’re tickled pink to be screening at Bow Tie, a family owned chain that got its start back in the 1900s through Vaudeville and currently owns 55 locations and close to 400 screens! Not to mention there’s a Doughnut Plant outpost right near the theater, so better show up early enough to grab a Tres Leches. See you there!




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Guess what? After, uuum, almost 4 years of hard work, “Mana” is finally hitting Greek theaters for everyone to enjoy on the big screen. Yup, we feel very lucky Valerie’s documentary is receiving a limited domestic release at the Greek Film Archive‘s boutique movie theater on Iera Odos (also known as “Lais”), despite the fact that local box office has been at an all-time low ever since last year. Nevertheless, we remain optimistic, as “Mana” isn’t the sort of thing you’d normally see at your neighborhood movie theater and it might just be what the doctor ordered. Four strong women bending the world to their will – is there anything more empowering than that? The Lyrio Children’s Village is a refuge that was born out of adversity and continues to function against all odds. So tell all your friends and family about it and don’t forget to bring your kids along! “Mana” will be screening twice daily starting October 8 at “Lais” – Greek Film Archive (48, Iera Odos & 134-136 Megalou Alexandrou Str. Metro Stop Keramikos) for a full week. We will be sharing all the preparations leading up to our official premiere, like plastering the entire city with posters, pestering our graphic designers Roleplay for some last minute additions to the artwork and more. We’ll also post pictures of the opening gala on October 7 (by invitation only), as well as ad-hoc Q&As throughout the week, whenever Valerie feels like dropping by the theater and getting to know her audience. Stick around, it’ll be fun!


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Hey there Mana fans,

we just got back from DokuFest in Kosovo and it was quite a ride! It looks like Prizren, the city where the festival took place, is a popular summer destination for teenagers looking to party until the wee hours of the morning! The good news is that, although we didn’t exactly fit this demographic, the festival was quite fun and we got to screen “Mana” at some very interesting venues. Our first night was at Kino ne Lum, a temporary open-air cinema balancing on stilts that’s built right inside the river bed! Incredible but true!

Freeloaders watching “Mana” on the bridge!

We had a lovely, well-attended screening and since the movie theater has open access from all sides, we got a bunch of passers-by who stopped to check out the film and ended up watching the whole thing from the bridge! We were told that this venue is temporary and gets dismantled every year after the festival is over. Another interesting fact is that Kino ne Lum gets pushed further down the river, as the party crowds have started getting a little two rowdy for uninterrupted movie-watching.

Kino Kalaja at the castle

Our second screening was two days later at a very obscure venue called        Kino    Klubi that somewhat cave-like but has super comfy sofas and was a  real haven  away from the summer heat. Perhaps a little too comfortable,  as we discovered  someone sleeping soundly at the back – he didn’t even  wake up during the lively  Q&A session with Valerie! Another venue we  won’t be forgetting in a hurry was  Kino Kalaja, which was attached to the  side of the castle. A really killer to reach  but once you got up there, the  viewing experience was truly magnificent – not to  mention the view! We  managed to catch 2 films there, “Into The Wild” by Ron  Lamothe and  Democrats by Camilla Nielsson, both worth the steep hike uphill!


All in all, DokuFest was a positive experience, we got some interest from the Ukraine and The Netherlands (stay tuned for more news) and got a glimpse into a culture we knew very little about. The festival staff was super helpful and the festival T-shirts rocked! We can’t wait to see where the “Mana” festival adventure will take us next…

For more DokuFest pics, please visit our Facebook page!


DSC_1012DokuFest Kosovo welcomes “Mana” fresh off its international premiere at Pärnu International Film Festival in July. DokuFest’s 14th edition is a reflection on Migration, one of the most controversial issues in the modern world. With a curated film strand, photo exhibition, various talks and panel discussions, Migration is central to this year’s nuanced festival program. Check out the full schedule here.

Our trip turned out to be quite adventurous as the plane landed in Tirana and we had to drive 2hrs to Prizren, where DokuFest takes place. And let me tell you, the Kosovo border police is no joke. Apparently,  producer Despina Pavlaki is very good at taking care of all aspects of the film but still managed to leave her passport behind, which made it nearly impossible to enter the country on a Greek I.D. Ambassadors, festival staff and random acquaintances were deployed and we finally made it to Prizren safe and sound (see Valerie at festival HQ above). Word to the wise: under no circumstance let your passport expire! Many thanks to the Greek liaison office in Kosovo that saved the day!!!

Mana screens as part of DokuFest’s Balkan Doχ Competition on Tuesday, August 11 @ Kino ne Lum at 22.00 and on Thursday August 13 @ Kino Klubi at 14:00. See you there!


156942-sullogos_ellenon_arkhaiologon“MANA” by Valerie Kontakos will screen at the Greek Archaeologists Association garden in collaboration with the Greek Documentary Association on Thursday 30/07 at 9pm. This is the first time our beloved documentary will screen in our hometown and we cherish the opportunity to meet some of you, if you care to drop by. Director Valerie Kontakos will also be on hand for a Q&A session and we hope some of the film’s protagonists will also put in an appearance. The Greek Archaeologists Association is located on 134 Ermou St (the pedestrian section) and in case you’re never heard of them before, you can visit their website here. They have a lovely garden that’s perfect for summer nights and the event will be free of charge.

“Mana” screens as part of on on-going Greek Documentary Association showcase.



Next stop: Pärnu, Estonia! The seaside city that combines history, tradition and some exceptional sightseeing will host the International Premiere of “Mana” by Valerie Kontakos and we couldn’t be happier.

In case you’ve never heard of Pärnu – truth be told Tallinn and its colourful Old Town usually steals all the glory! – we’d be more than happy to introduce you. Did you know that this popular summer destination is actually the birthplace of the infamous mud bath? Yup, health resort crowds actually flock to this coastal wonderland with the beautiful architecture, woodlands and lush parks. Medieval festivals abound and so do theme parks and cultural events, with Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival holding a prominent position.

As for the festival itself, it’s one of the oldest in the Baltic States, initiated by former President of the Republic of Estonia Lennart Meri. At first, the festival focused on the survival of indigenous people and their culture, but nowadays the topics are varied with a clear predilection for humanitarian and social issues. Which essentially makes the Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival the perfect springboard for our documentary.

Mana is scheduled to screen on Thursday, July 9. Here’s the details:

Thursday, July 9 @ Old Town School

13.00 Docs for Youth Mana by Valerie Kontakos, Greece, 2015, 71′


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Well, hello there!

Remember our famous Kickstarter campaign? Of course you do and, chances are, you probably backed us on that amazing journey. It’s been 2 years and 3 days (!!) and we still can’t help but feel thankful. One thing that hasn’t change in that interim is the importance of social media in promoting your cause, be it a crowdfunding campaign or the film itself. Since March, Mana has been on the festival trail and we’ve been doing our best to get the film shown in as many places as possible. Here’s a few tips we picked up along the way (and on the web – thanks Indiewire!) that will help you campaign find its audience:

  1. Engage your audience before you even start your campaign. Frequent interaction with your audience is the key to a successful campaign. Create a constant dialogue between you and your audience and never neglect it. Try to built a friendly relationship with them and reply to their questions.
  2. Make them believe that you’re worth following. Social media’s sole purpose is not to advertise your project on and on and on, but to show your audience your human side and your other interests.
  3. Too many social media are bad for your health! Try to keep a maximum of five active accounts and no more. You need to have everything under control and be constantly aware of posting your updates simultaneously on all social media.
  4. Always include your campaign link under your posts. A direct link to your campaign video will easily engage the new followers in the project.
  5. Relevant hashtags are the key. Be sure to use the proper hashtags in your posts, so random people can track your project easily.
  6. On twitter, go minimal. Do not use all 140 words. People like short lines, otherwise they get quickly bored. Write short, use hashtags and links to keep a witty profile.
  7. Images speak louder than words. Let’s face it. Nowadays people prefer watching, than reading. Be sure to frequently post pictures, videos and links to keep the eye of your audience happy.
  8. A stitch in time saves nine. Spontaneous posts are great, but it’s better to schedule your posts ahead of time. As in every job, crowdfunding is difficult to handle without proper organization.
  9. Keep the communication pumping! Just because your campaign is on the run, you should not neglect the interaction between you and your followers. Keep them updated, without bothering them too much about the details of your campaign. You must accomplish a proper balance.
  10. And after the end of the campaign, what? Keep the interaction going! Even if you don’t need their contribution anymore, you will need an audience when your film is finished. They will demand the results of your work and you’ll need to compensate them for their devoted attention.

Let us know if you have any other questions regarding out Kickstarter techniques, we’d be happy to share what we’ve learned!


Here’s a little treat for those of you waiting patiently for “Mana” to be screened at a movie theater near you: our first review! Premier film website attended the opening at the recent Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and envoy Manolis Kranakis delivered an insightful review that gave us goosebumps. Here it is, translated into English, gor your eyes only!


Mother knows best!

Valerie Kontakos documents a handful of nuns with a difference, in a non-fiction manifesto about alternative families.

In 1962, a group of young women made headlines in Greece by running away to join a convent. Each time they were captured and sent back to their families, but they kept trying until they finally succeeded. Uninterested in praying all day, they started a shelter, providing a family for abandoned and abused children. Half a century later, the surviving founders are still running the Lyrio Children’s Village without help from church or state, raising infants without a wedding band. This film tells the story of their vision and how they’ve changed the lives of more than 500 hundred children’s so far – simply by taking their fate into their own hands.

The story of these rebellious girls, who managed to make their not-so-obvious dream come true, is by nature cinematic, especially if you take into consideration that most runaways who ended up in convents back in the 60s were forced to take refuge in religion and didn’t exactly do it by choice. But what’s really interesting about infiltrating the Lyrio Children’s Village in Mati, on the eastern coast of Attica, is that the leading ladies of this slice-of-life documentary are by definition what movie dreams are made of. Valerie Kontakos documents their every move without hiding her admiration, not just for staying true to their vision for more than 50 years but, most importantly, for their conviction that their god-given mission derives less from religious dogma and more from their own dedication to children, intricately entwined with their rebellious act of independence that essentially cut them off from Church and State.

The fragments of their everyday lives are disarming, unexpected, affectionate and funny and, as they penetrate the true essence of their work, you realise you’ve stopped watching an informative documentary about convent life or any sort of institution. Instead, you’ve opened your mind to an alternative family, the kind society tends to shun, unsuccessfully testing the limits of its so-called tolerance. Positive that documenting their days at the Lyrio Children’s Village is much more powerful than any talking head ever would be, Kontakos maintains a discreet approach towards their affectionate relationship, watching kids of every conceivable age call the nuns “Mana” (Greek for mum), in direct contrast to the assumption that there’s only one woman who can play this role in a child’s life. In a truly delightful wedding dress rehearsal scene, we come face-to-face with the inevitable turning point in every mother’s life, when her offspring – much like the nuns themselves – eventually decides to venture out into the real world.

It’s impossible not to feel goosebumps when one of the nuns gazes upon the children with the certainty that she’s much more of a mother than many other women ever could be. It’s equally impossible not to get carried way by the touching light-heartedness of their everyday lives at the Children’s Village, when in fact every single person there – even the nuns themselves – are nothing but lost children, who will one day discover the true meaning of the word family. And director Valerie Kontakos vindicates their vision with the same melancholy smile.

“Mana” by Valerie Kontakos screened as part of the official selection of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, March 13-22 2015.