A breath of fresh air in the navel-gazing film industry. A strong and vocal advocate of the political left-of-left. And a damn good director.
You could call him a French film director, or a Greek film editor – you’re still talking about the same man. Stratos Gabrielidis defies labels, and even conventional spelling, preferring his name written “strAtos”. He seems to be a dichotomy in many ways but at the end it all comes together and makes perfect sense because of one unifying truth – this is a deeply passionate man of piercing intellect with a profound love of humanity who excels at anything he touches.
You may not quite know where to place his name but you are definitely familiar with his work: back in 1987, and freshly armed with a degree in mechanical engineering, this Parisian native with ancestal roots going back to the Caucasus, then Greece, quickly zoomed in on a career in television and cinema, and pretty soon ascended through the ranks. He is sought after and his resume is impressive: he is the genius editor of French TV staples such as Nestor Burma, L’Instit, The Protector, Braquo, XIII La Série, Jo, No Limit, and Taxi Brooklyn.
But we also often find his signature on movies, some of which are regarded as among the best that French cinema has to offer. In 1992, he works on Costa-Gavras’ Petite Apocalypse. Then there is Matthieu Kassovitz’ 1995 classic La Haine, which in the past 20 years since its creation has lost nothing of its instant cult status. Or Guillaume Canet’s fan favorite from 2002, Mon idole…. and of course Pierre Marcel’s Tabarly, the 2008 feature format documentary about the eponymous ocean sailor and explorer, produced by Jacques Perrin. “Tabarly was special. It was originally planned as a 26 minute documentary but we ended up having so much great material that it easily made a feature film, and one that I am very proud of,” he remembers fondly.
After so many years in post-production and editing, he eventually felt the itch to direct himself. “Those years were an excellent exercise but I come from a family of film lovers, and I wanted to try give filmmaking a hand myself,” strAtos tells us. So a couple of years ago, he had an idea, somewhat autobiographically rooted in his experience as a newly single father, and he turned to someone he knew well – gifted actress and writer Charlotte Brabant, his former companion and mother of their two beautiful daughters Clemence and Manon. Charlotte in turn produced a script that stirs emotions the world over for its timelessness, tenderness and universality, but also the unexpected, bittersweet ending: L’Atente, the touching father-daughter story perfectly captured from the perspective of a divorced dad who only gets to see his precious girl during the holidays and is determined to give her the time of her life, regardless of his financial distress. A powerful tale, told in a very low-key way. “Usually, people talk about the problems of single mothers. I really wanted to do something that sheds a little bit of light on a father’s situation,” strAtos explains his motivation behind his directing début.
Since its release in 2013, L’Atente has won award upon award and recognition upon recognition in film festivals worldwide, and wherever it goes, it immediately becomes the jury and audience favorite. The acting matches the poignant story to a tee. Marc Duret, widely recognized as one of the top ten French actors, delivers a deeply touching performance in the lead role, and he, a father of two himself, taps into his own personal experience. He quickly bonded with his “film daughter” Lula, played by the delightful, ever so sweet Amira Brigardis who everyone has nothing but praise for. “She is a naturally talented, great little lady with fantastic potential if she wants to remain in this industry”, is what her film dad Marc Duret thinks of her, and strAtos the director adds, “she wasn’t even acting, she was her natural self, and so easy to work with.” L’Atente still travels the globe to rave reviews from festival juries and viewers, so do be sure to catch it at a location near you if you haven’t already!
So is directing now in strAtos’ future? “I do have another project that is dear to me….I would like to revisit my Caucasian and Greek heritage and do a documentary about my grandfather Kostas Gavrielidis, the founder and former president of the Agrarian Party, and later Minister of Agriculture in the opposition government. With the current spotlight on Greece, it would be exciting to tell his story.” He never met his grandfather who passed away in 1952, well before strAtos was born in 1966, but the Parisian native is still very attached to his family background.
He may well have inherited the political gene from his Greek grandfather, or maybe it’s just his keen awareness to what is going on in the world – in any case, the current political scenario upsets him. “It disgusts me what is happening to Greece right now. I believe that we are here to nurture the system, rather than that the system nurtures us,” he proclaims with conviction. “But at the end of the day, life is stronger than us, and despite my current frustration, I do remain optimistic at heart.” As an artist as well as a politically minded man, a documentary about his grandfather’s life might just be the ticket to go looking for sense and beauty in the midst of chaos.
Talking to strAtos, you quickly get the sense that the man across from you is fearless, opinionated, and an out-of-the-box thinker…. and at the same time deeply attached to the core values of humanity and the collective good. It does show in the balance of strength and sensitivity in his work, and maybe that is what makes its intangible quality. The Gabrielidis/Brabant/Duret/Brigardis constellation has set the bar high….. it was representative of what strAtos is capable of, it was a trendsetter and a glimpse of what we may expect from this talented French-Caucasian-Greek engineer turned editor turned director. And soon, we hope.
Natja Igney is a senior global communications strategist with 1021 Global Communications Consulting. She has a particular interest in theatre and filmmaking.
All images courtesy strAtos Gabrielidis