Yannis Kouros is an ultramarathon runner. He first gained attention in 1983, when he won the SPARTATHLON,
a race tracing the distance Pheidippides had ran in ancient times. Since then, and for over 20 years, he had been
the constant record holder in ultra-distance racing, some times running for ten days continuously, with only few stops for sleep.
Much as he enjoyed international acclaim, in Greece Kouros was almost a reject.
When he lost his job as a watchman at the National Stadium of his home town, Tripolis,
he relocated to Australia, where he went on to break one world record after another.
He has been spending time between his two countries, ever since.
Elias Giannakakis - Giorgos Argyroiliopoulos
Giorgos Argyroiliopoulos - Claudio Bolivar (France footage)
Marios Aristopoulos (aditional compositions by Yannis Kouros)
Screenplay / Directed by
I had heard of Yannis Kouros a long time before, in 1984, when the newspapers had started writing about him.
I met him in 2002, when he was invited to the radio-documentary series “Mythomania”, which Sotiris Kakisis and I hosted.
He had a unique aura and the way he spoke was extraordinary. It felt as if we were talking to an elf. He was a noble savage.
I proposed we made a documentary, for which we would follow him with the camera for one or two years.
He accepted without hesitation I talked about the project to my dear friend, the cinematographer Giorgos Argyroiliopoulos, and he was enthusiastic about the idea.
We got underway on zero budget and continued like that until the end, since we never found any sponsor, producer or distributor.
It was the first time I had attempted a documentary, for which filming time extended so much.
Filming Kouros was an unparalleled experience. In his humble lodging in Athens, a decrepit house somewhere in Patissia, that he repaired with his own fair hands, he talked about his life, his records, his hard childhood and so on.
We followed him to Menalon, where he practiced. There, he talked about heroism in long-distance running, for which physical endurance alone is not enough and one needs to draw on their mental and spiritual resources. He also talked about the heroes from antiquity and the Greek Revolution that inspired him. We followed him to Tripolis, where he talked about death and time, which he considered his ally, since the older and more mature he got, the better he performed and could outrun much younger and excellently-trained opponents. He also talked about his parents, his children and his life as an emigrant. He expressed his regret that ultramarathon was not included in the Olympic Games, because if it had been, he would have had at least six gold medals. He referred to Kazantzakis, whom he adored, and to the music he wrote.
The most overwhelming part was filming the races. The climax was a three-day draining race in France. Cameraman Claudio Bolivar was behind him all the time. Fatigue, exhaustion, victory and the subsequent fall made some unforgettable film sequences.
A unique figure, a sui generis athlete, in a picture that was filmed over a period of two years.
The film has an altogether revealing character, as it unveils little by little a man, who lived by continuously surpassing his own limitations; physical, spiritual, mental, even emotional, because he had given up everything, so that he could rank number one in the world for so many years.
The film walked off with a second prize for best documentary in Thessaloniki, something that boosted my morale during a very difficult time. It was the period I was editing “Alemaya” and heavy debts had started piling up.
The film was very well received everywhere it screened, at festivals, special screenings and on ERT. To this day, many people request to see it, because Yannis is a singular case.
I will always remember the documentary on Yannis Kouros as a film that meant a lot to me.
2nd Prize for Best Documentary at the Thessaloniki Festival, in March 2004.