Greek Competition: Remoteness and Confinement as Symbols and States of Mind

in 18th Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival

by Georgios Papadimitriou

The overwhelming sense of remoteness that engulfs and envelops everything that is to be seen and felt. The sea’s irrebuttable boundaries and the innermost sense of loneliness they generate. People old as stones, rocks and mountains, attached to their faraway fatherland in bonds of perpetuity. Their fate is bound up with that of their island; their soul has blended in with the hard, brackish and breathtaking landscape. Their carved hands and their button-sized eyes are classified among the other characteristics of the island’s nature. They bear the signs of isolation and time. These people live and die in the borderline between subcutaneous feelings of existential angst and a grandiose sense of freedom. In this land of sun and sea, the truth is out there, or to be more specific, it is up there. The signs of the sky dictate the weather’s course. The weather’s course dictates the islanders’ destiny. The amateur meteorologists announce their prophecies with a tone of humble piety. In the end, it all comes down to the circle of seasons, to the circle of life and death. Whispers of the Sky by Maro Anastopoulou, Greek winner of the FIPRESCI prize, is at the same time firmly stuck to the ground and floating gently in the sky. It follows its own pace; it sets its proper inner rhythm. Attractively sluggish, seemingly moonstruck yet robust in its narrative unfolding, it ends up enchanting and deeply touching. In reality, it is totally consistent with its title. It is a whisper in the sky.

The gate opens and a neglected and derelict yard reveals itself. A building stands sorrowful and sad. A wreckage of memories that are seeking to be forgotten is revealed. Remains of memories that are pushed into oblivion by force are awakened. A bunch of deserted objects reluctantly declare their presence. Moth-eaten notebooks, naked beds, dust and plaster dominate the vacant halls. The walls are decorated with drawings, lyrics, verses, clippings from newspapers and photos of naked women. This is not garbage to be thrown away. Some people have spent many years of their life here locked away, cut off, steeped in a whirlpool of gloom. These are their silent voices; these are their heavy whispers. Their existence is confirmed through the tokens of their absence. After 110 years of imposing presence in the center of a small Greek city, a prison closes its gates. It becomes imperative that obscure memories are lost in favor of a picture more friendly to the eye. As a result, the marks of time slowly fade away and are left to dry out. Seven witnesses ponder, throw bitter glances and explore the corridors of their memory. Their words reveal the true witness of the story, which stands enigmatic, menacing and above all, silent. And after having roamed in the cells of trauma, regret and Lethe, the prison introduces us to its origins. Silent Witness by Dimitris Koutsiabasakos sets out as a factual recording of past events, evolves into a tale of intangible feelings and details and concludes as an allegory on the artificial construction of collective memory.

Edited by Carmen Gray