A School Of One’s Own
As members of the FIPRESCI jury at the 25th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, we, three film critics, had to choose among 27 films produced in Greece to award our prize for the best Greek documentary. It’s hard to tell if it was a matter of chance or choice, but we quickly agreed on our favorite movies, and awarded the prize to Kristos, The Last Child (2022) by Giulia Amati.
The is a striking humanity to this documentary: It is filmed entirely from Kristo’s perspective, a 10-year-old boy, the only pupil on the island of Arki, lost in Greece’s Dodecanese. The thirty or so inhabitants live on fishing and the farming of goats and sheep. On this rocky island that is battered by nature’s elements, old people stay only for their offspring who come back home once in a while to spend a few days for family gatherings. And Kristos, barely a teenager, must make a major decision for his future: School is compulsory at his age, and the village teacher has been working with him from the third grade to the sixth. However, now it is up to him to decide whether he will go to the next island to continue his secondary studies in a boarding school or stay on Arki with his dogs and sheep. Supported by the whole village, him being the pride of its inhabitants is a heavy weight to carry on these fragile shoulders. But this solitary child stays free and wild, just like the strong grass in the gust of wind.
Franco-Italian director Giulia Amati manages to capture Kristo’s solitude with great affection and delicacy. As he faces adulthood, he confronts his doubts and fears; yet, at the same time, he is left to himself, despite the love and dedication of his teacher, Mrs. Maria, whom we all wish we had met once during our own school days.
Kristos, The Last Child makes us discover the depths of Greece, forgotten by the public and tourist infrastructures, where its inhabitants manage to survive on their own. This is a generous film that the director offers to the people of Arki who welcomed her with warmth and tenderness.
Edited by Pamela Jahn
© FIPRESCI 2023
See Dimitra Bouras’ text on the Jewish community of Salonika