A four-and-a-half-minute fashion film, Gymnast, starring ethereal three-time Olympian Vasiliki Millousi journeyed across the world from Greece to Australia for a special screening at Federation Square on Thursday 2 March, as part of the Melbourne Fashion Festival.

The film, which pays homage to the Olympic gymnast who competed at the 2000, 2012,and 2016 Olympic Games is the brainchild of Australian sports journalist and producer Glen MacKay, who made the film in four acts to represent a viewer’s journey to discovering gymnastics.

“I wanted to pay homage to the beauty of gymnastics and I intended to do that in a beautiful way; showcasing and honouring the values of hard work, incredible strength, courage, dedication, commitment, and focus that an Olympic gymnast displays, while also paying tribute to fashion design for having similar attributes”, says MacKay who was inspired to create this short film three years ago.

“In 2014, I worked on a gymnastics event for the first time and was completely bowled over. These athletes were beyond any other athlete I had ever encountered and I felt that the combination of a gymnast’s graceful poses with beautiful feminine dresses could be visually stunning. I wanted to create something beautiful in appearance and intention, therefore, I decided to combine artistry with sportsmanship. The angles of gymnastics and their use of space was also exciting and the mix of poetic movement with intense competition in gymnastics is enthralling.”

As Millousi is Greek, Mackay wanted to involve mostly Greek designers in the film.

“Together with Vasiliki and stylists Tierra Armstrong and Despina Katsifi, we searched through hundreds of outfits and fabrics before deciding on the final outfits produced by talented Greek designers. Each one of them was kind, supportive, and showed faith in us and our project.”

MacKay was keen to have an elite athlete for his project instead of a fashion model, mainly because he felt that the fashion industry’s preference for tall, slim models was restrictive.

“I liked the idea of making a fashion film that honoured a healthy, determined, athletic, and inspiring woman.”

According to MacKay, Vasiliki being an elite athlete whose life is dedicated to gymnastics, made life much easier on the set and her enthusiasm and energy made the film experience more special.

“She was a natural! Vasiliki wasn’t a model that had to be directed to act as a gymnast; she was a gymnast, so her performance turned into an effortless, organic and natural presentation. I was also thrilled to see her enjoy her new role as a model.
“Gymnastics is like fashion,” said Millousi.

“You have a gorgeous result, but a lot of hard work goes into it. We know about the hard part of gymnastics. This shows the outcome.”

Filming took place at the Agios Kosmas Olympic Sailing Centre in Athens and Vasiliki’s voice was recorded in Thessaloniki. Gymnast was first screened at the Cyprus International Film Festival in 2016 and since then has screened in the UK, New York, Brussels, Berlin and Singapore.

During the shooting of the film, Millousi was assisted by two Greek Olympic champions: 1996 Men’s gold medallist Ioannis Melissanidis, who helped with the choreography and 2016 Men’s gold medallist Eleftherios Petrounias, who worked with McKay on the concept.

So far, the reactions to the film have been overwhelmingly positive, especially from the gymnastics community and fashion film organisers around the world.

“Most people are amazed by Vasiliki, praise the unique concept of the film and are bedazzled by the beauty of the outfits. When we screened in Melbourne, people praised the fact that there was a strong positive message from the film, rather than a blunt promotion of a product. Of course, there were Greek people there cheering for Vasiliki and feeling proud of her being a Greek athlete.
“I wanted to make a film worthy of Greek pride and I feel that we were able to achieve its ambitions,” concludes MacKay.

Watch Gymnast in full here: