Science Fiction in Athens

The shooting of David Cronenberg's new sci-fi film "Crimes of the Future," starring Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart, is the latest in a row of big productions to begin in the city.

A casual kiss on Patision Avenue. A manhunt on Panepistimiou Street. An explosion in Piraeus. The next time you witness such an event, don’t be alarmed as it is unlikely to be real. In the last two years or so, despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, more and more foreign film productions have been choosing Athens as a filming location. “More than 40 productions, short and long films, TV and commercials, have taken place in our city, Stathis Kalogeropoulos shared with newspaper Kathimerini.

Kalogeropoulos is the director of the Athens Film Office, which the Municipality of Athens formed through the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (ADDMA) in March 2020, and since then has been operating as a medium for receiving and managing every filming request from Greece and abroad. The upsurge of filming productions in Greece is mainly due to the change in legislation and the granting of financial incentives to production companies, namely the introduction of the Cash Rebate through Law 4487 of 2017 and the subsequent increase in the rate through Laws 4563/2018 and 4704/2020. “Our goal is not to promote the city or the country as a tourist destination”, he clarifies, “after all, the success of Athens is that it can serve as a scenic backdrop to affairs that are not related to Greece”.

In the last few days, the eyes of cinephiles everywhere have turned to Athens, as the shooting of David Cronenberg’s new sci-fi film “Crimes of the Future” has begun. “Athens was a joint choice between David Cronenberg and his producer Robert Lantos. On the one hand, they liked the locations, which suited the aesthetics of David’s narrative, and on the other hand, they were attracted by the generous Cash Rebate program”, says Panos Papachatzis, director of the production company “Argonauts” and co-producer of Cronenberg’s film, who had worked successfully in 2007 with Lantos – something that also played a role in the final decision of the Canadians.

“The end goal is not just to showcase Athens”, he says, “it is important, however, that a unique story of such magnitude will highlight the architecture and reflect the scenic diversity a city like Athens can offer, while at the same time preserving its cultural elements as it transforms into an international hub that embraces Cronenberg’s extraordinary universe”.

Will the “indigenous” Athenians recognize their city while watching the movie? “The film is shot near the center of Athens, so an Athenian might recognize some of the locations, although there are set alterations in every scene,” Papachatzis notes. “Our goal is always to draw the viewer into the world of the film. The locations must support the realistic depiction of that world.” For the producers of the movie, which wraps late September, the challenge is “for the viewers to not be able to recognize the shooting locations – proof that they are harmoniously integrated within the story.”

The Canadian director’s film may be neutral in terms of space and time, but other productions, such as Apple TV series “Tehran,” as its title suggests, aren’t. It takes place in the Iranian capital, which in this case is… the Greek capital. “The producers realized that the atmosphere of Athens, with some modifications, can remind us of Tehran,” says Fenia Kosovitsa, Greek producer of the series and director of the production company Blond. The first “season” of the spy series was a great success, so much so that the second installment is being filmed in our city, until the end of November. “Cash Rebate played a role, but it would not have been enough on its own,” she explains, “the producers had also explored the option of Sofia, which ultimately could not accommodate their needs.” The Israelis were already familiar with Athens, which they had all visited as tourists.

“By taking a closer look around the city, they realized that it could turn into the ideal backdrop.” Now, actors and directors know every corner of Athens – “they’ve ferreted out the best little taverns,” says Kosovitsa laughingly, who takes the role of mediator between Israeli and Greek artists and technicians, as well as the state. “We try to be flexible and adaptable,” she says, “If we have to pull a manhunt in Syntagma, for example, we’ll do it on a Sunday, not a weekday during rush hour.”

However, most city residents seem highly cooperative and don’t hide their enthusiasm when they “stumble upon” a shoot. An exception, perhaps, was some Greek travelers who felt… threatened last year by seeing signs in Arabic posted everywhere inside the airport “Eleftherios Venizelos.” “We were surprised to see comments on Twitter from angry users, claiming that the Arabs have even infiltrated our national airport,” says Kosovitsa, who, together with airport officials, rushed to dispel the (false) impressions.

Foreign productions are an excellent opportunity for Greek technicians from various disciplines to gain additional expertise and enrich their CVs. However, the more Athens gains momentum, of course, the more expensive it becomes. “While this sounds auspicious, it might threaten both Greek film productions and small, low-budget independent productions,” Kalogeropoulos points out. “It is important to give more financial support to Greek filmmakers through the Greek Film Centre.” As he says, “They can receive a grant of 70,000 euros, which is a meager amount; it is the cost of an expensive wedding- not enough for a film.”

Through reference, Giannis Antetokounpo’s biopic, which has just been concluded, had a total budget of 23 million, two of which were exclusively dedicated to the compliance of prevention protocols against the pandemic. “Greece is the birthplace of storytelling. It’s out-of-bounds not to have domestic film production,” he concludes, counterpointing the example of Spain, which attracts foreign productions but also produces their own.


This article was previously published in Greek at

Read More


Which Athenian Street Ranks Among the World’s Coolest?

Eccentric and eclectic, Troon Street in the heart of Athens...


Greek Tourism: The Ten “Tribes” of Visitors to Athens

With over a million visitors from the US in 2023,...


Always Grand: Athens’ Hotel Grande Bretagne Celebrates 150 Years

The iconic Hotel Grande Bretagne in the heart of Athens...


Archive of Greek Poet Constantine Cavafy Opens to the Public

A new center housing the archives and personal items of...