The Greek Documentary without Secrets and Lies By Demosthenes Xifilinos

in 9th Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival

by Demosthenes Xifilinos

The Greek participation in this year’s Thessaloniki Documentary Festival was really satisfying. A total number of 12 films were included in the Official Programme and the general impression is that most of them were at least interesting pieces of work. It’s easy to see that Greek directors decided to take a closer look at different areas of the world instead of focusing only on national problems.

In fact, exactly half of the docs were shot outside Greece; Muses (Exandas) (by George Avgeropoulos) traveled to the city of Juchitan in Mexico in order to see the special sexual liberation happening over there. The film awarded by the FIPRESCI Jury, Secrets and Lies (by Stavros Stagos) reminded us of the fact that even before Chernobyl – when we were all alarmed because such a disaster took place in Europe – there had also been the tragedy of Bhopal in India, which was forgotten immediately just because it happened in a so called “Third World country”. Congo and its goldmines were the subject for Dimitris Gerardis in War Zone: Red World, while the CIA and its modern practices that include some serious violations of human rights are examined in The Spider’s Web – Guantanamo Express (by Nikos Vezyrgiannis). In order to explain the forthcoming climate changes Nikos Koutsikas and Stephan Poulle presented the Gulf Stream: a River Under the Ocean (meaning a stream under the Atlantic …). Finally, the Coupapiti – White Man in Deep Hole (by Anna Kessissoglou) wanted to present a small Greek community living in the middle of Australia ‘s desert, but the film had serious production problems in every aspect. In the majority of these documentaries, a common objection was that there was no clear line to separate some of these works from a well-done TV reportage. To be honest, the question is very difficult to answer…

Regarding the docs that were shot in Greek territory, Birdland (by Elias Iosifidis) follows the possible consequences of Lake Kerkini ‘s ecological catastrophe; Sun Come Up! Sun Go Down! (by Angelos Kovotsos) is about a family living alone in a small island of the Dodecanese , called Levitha; What Time Is It? (by Eva Stefani) is one of the cleverest projects we’ve seen, being totally entertaining in the way it represents the every day life of two old friends; Que bona to vada your ecaf (by Ioanna Hrissanthopoulou) is the story of a drag queen, and two persons beloved by the Greeks are honored in two portraits: Christos Vakalopoulos, a distinguished film critic and writer who died several years ago, is the star of Play it again, Christos (by Stavros Kaplanidis) and the alive-and-kicking musician Thanassis Papakonstantinou is adored through On the Horns of the Bull (by Thanassis Papakostas).

So, there was a variety of themes, and at the same time the average level of the Greek documentaries was more than decent. What does annoy, and it isn’t only a local phenomenon, is the abandonment of the 35mm film. The lack of it, justified by our times, is something unfortunate. The digital cameras have conquered this area, they do the entire job, and that is not for the benefit of the screenings, as the digital image still needs a lot to achieve the quality of a film. But, as I already mentioned, how can you stop progress?

Let’s return now to the FIPRESCI award for the best Greek participation in the 9th Documentary Festival – Images of the 21 st century. Secrets and Lies by Stavros Stagos does not hesitate in talking directly about the existence and the role of the multi-national companies which often enjoy protection beyond the accepted limits by many governments and major trusts. The documentary stands for the rights of the simple people to dominate their own lives and criticizes the indifference showed towards them by those who have the power. The director chose to use largely archive footage from the events of 1984, when the city of Bhopal turned into a deadly gas chamber, but combines it effectively with images and interviews he shot recently at the “scene of the crime”. Let us hope that such honest efforts to present similar disasters will help the victims or will function as a shield to avoid similar future events…