A must-see movie: Diorthosi/ Correction

August 20, 2008 at 5:26 pm (Acting, Culture, Movies) (, , , , , , )

Harsh Elegy
To Athens, with love – that howls

There are some films that offer their point of view with all the delicacy of a steamroller.
Diorthosi is not one of these films.
With the utmost subtlety, it strikes a blow at the collective Greek gut, addressing the practically taboo theme of xenophobia. The camera is a detached observer, never wagging a finger at us, and filmed so naturally as to seem almost documentary-like.
However, the poetry emanating from the shots of a cheering soccer stadium framed to seem like a holy temple, a passing Good Friday procession of the bier, or illegal immigrants fleeing the police with their wares on their backs belie their simplicity.
Nothing here is what is seems. The hero, Giorgos Simeoforidis – a clever wordplay on the actor’s actual name of Symeonidis, and the Greek word “simeoforos” (flag-bearer) – utters no more than 30 words throughout the film. His impassive Buster Keaton mask, and matter-of-fact movements manage to portray more despair and determination than any wordy monologue, yet we are at a loss to understand exactly who he is, and what he is trying to correct. That information is fed to us with all the speed of an IV drip, yet the suspense is nerve-wracking.
We walk the streets of Athens with him, streets that many of us rarely stroll down, and perhaps never have: the alleys behind the Panathinaikos Stadium, Menandrou Street, Sophocleous Street; roads that have become the mainstay of Chinese, Nigerian, Albanian, and Pakistani immigrants. He lurks, stalker-like, around a single mother and her young daughter and is himself stalked by dangerous former associates. The final scenes are harrowing, more so because in the end we do not feel catharsis. Is it being withheld purposely, or are we being told that some things can never be cleansed from our soul?
An hour to midnight, Monday night. Five people and myself watch perhaps the most important Greek movie released in the past few years, inspired by true events that occurred after a Greece-Albania soccer match. Albania emerged as the victor; a few hours later, an Albanian ended up murdered. Will Diorthosi continue to be shown so sparsely, one movie theater at a time, doomed to be as ignored as its subject?

Diorthosi [Correction]
DRAMA, 2007, 87’

Directed by Thanos Anastopoulos, starring Giorgos Symeonidis, Ornela Kapetani, Savina, Alimani, Nikos Georgakis and Buyar Alimani. (In Greek)

Won Best Screenplay, Best Actor awards at 2007 Thessaloniki Film Festival.

(I copy/ paste my review, because i am pretty sure if it makes it into the paper, it won’ t be in this form….)

Let me just add, that I put this flick in the same category as Theo Angelopoulos’s Traveling Players (O Thiasos), and that I have never, ever felt so proud at having been taught by someone than when I witnessed Giorgos Symeonidis’s indescribable performance. He is an incredible teacher, a fabulously versatile actor, and a wonderful, humble person. (I’m not pandering, here, I mean it.)

Thanos Anastopoulos is a gifted director, even the extas are amazing, every actor, every scene, just overwhelmed me with the obvious love that went into making this movie.

Also, the subject of this movie is one that really gets to me, interests me, I want to help, vre paidaki mu, and change the racism Greeks feel which breaks my heart; I have been derided for my obstinate defense of any and all immigrants, and my happiness at belonging to a multi-cultural society. To me, Athens is like London in the 1950s, or New York in the 1880s, where there was this flood of new people and cultures that took a while to assimilate, a painful while. That is the stage Athens is at.

A few years ago, an Albanian kid that went to Greek public school (i.e. his parents came here, and he was born and bred in Greece) and got the best grades among his fellow pupils. The best student in a class is the one that has the (dubious) honor of holding the (heavy) Greek flag at the Independence Day parade. You can imagine the outcry that occurred, for Greeks are not ashamed about their racism; it was a nationalist thing, how dare a foreigner (filthy or not) hold the sacred symbol of Kolokotronis? Did the heroes of the revolution die for the Albanians? And so on. And many “normal” people agreed that he should not be allowed to carry the flag.

Ah, they cleverness of the Americans! To make one love both America and their country of origin, be proud of both…I think there’s even a holiday called Heritage Day – or maybe my third grade teacher made it up.

But I am confident that in twenty years things will be so much better; That it will be normal to have mixed-race couples, and not to just see them at the yearly counter-culture Anti-Racism Festivals. This year, I worked a little bit with kindergarden kids, and they all played together happily, all the while their teachers were griping about the flux of foreign, non-Greek-speaking kids that had been unceremoniously dumped in their care by this oh-so-efficient government.

Change is blowing in the wind. Fluttering. A butterfly just flapped its wings in Tokyo. It’ll take a while, but change will come.

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