New York.- By Vicky James Yiannias
Hopefully, Correction (Diorthosi), presented at the New Balkan Film Conference at Columbia University on March 7, will be shown at the much-anticipated Greek Film Festival to take place in New York in 2009. The film has won several awards at prestigious film festivals.
Dealing with acute contemporary issues such as nationalism, racism and poverty, Correction is totally engrossing as it follows a just-released Greek convict through the bleaker neighborhoods of Athens where he faces the consequences of his crime in a context of football violence and xenophobia.
In an interview with GreekNews, filmmaker Thanos Anastopoulos said, “I tried to follow Giorgos throughout his rehabilitation, adopting his point of view. His silences on the society and how it has been transformed can be more evocative than words. Then after the middle of the film the point of view is inverted and follows the characters Ornella and the little girl. I want the spectator to be able to put himself in the position of all characters and realize how easy it is to pass from the role of the persecutor to the one of the victim”.
Correction was inspired, said Anastopoulos, by the 2004 murder of a 20-year-old Albanian during fighting that broke out between Greek fans and Albanian immigrants hours after Albania upset European champion Greece 2-1 in Tirana. Following that, more than 2,000 immigrants and members of anti-racist groups marched in Athens chanting “No to racism — Yes to unity” and holding banners that said “Stop the racist attacks,” and “Stop racism and xenophobia”.
“I was angry, sad, and frustrated about the 2004 event in Greece, and I was feeling an increasing nationalism, racism, and xenophobia in Greece that led me to write the Correction script quickly, by the end of 2006.”
Because he was “in a state of urgency” to make the film Anastopoulos took a bank loan to produce and shoot the film (in March – April 2007) with very small crew of 12 persons including the actors (at one point only 6 individuals) while waiting for possible funding from the Greek Film Centre. With the film in the editing phase and funding rejected, Correction was continued as a totally independent production. (The GFC decided to support the film after its international premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2008.)
GN: Have there been any other films in which the protagonist is an immigrant to Greece?
TA: Although they have been many films since 1993 where the protagonist is an immigrant coming to Greece, this is the first film that inverts the scheme by introducing as a main character a Greek nationalist as a persecutor. In that sense the film speaks more about Greek nationalism than immigration.
Itʼs a story about a man, a woman, and a little girl (but not necessarily a family) and the city of Athens (not necessarily a homeland). The fear, the guilt, and the effort to be independent and dignified. Itʼs also a long road towards a correction — not necessarily a redemption. A story that adopts the point of view of the persecutor just to realize how easily it can become the point of view of the victim. But most of all is a love letter to the town where I was born and brought up and to all its inhabitants. A love letter without any idealization. Itʼs also an attempt to revisit the values that where so highly respected during the dictatorship in Greece (1967-1974) Homeland Religion Family (Patrida Thriskeia Oikogeneia) I wanted to ask myself what is their value in a transforming society thirty-five years later.
GN: You have referred to Correction as being “my story about guilt”.
TA: I think the reason that the film was well received in Greece is probably because the Greek viewers can identify to a certain point with the guilt that Giorgos is bearing; as for the Albanian viewers they might probably feel that some kind of justice was given. However, since Iʼm trying to avoid any stereotype I wouldnʼt like this film to bear any specific flag…and many screenings outside of Greece and Albania have persuaded me that the same conflicts exist in different places of the world.
GN: You have said, “I am a minimalist. I trust the viewer.”
TA: I donʼt feel that I have to impose my ideas. I leave space. The form of the film is given by the subject. I keep it flexible and open. I never make rehearsals with the actors I prefer to shoot in real locations… I donʼt want to waste the moment. There is, however a specific structure that actors and crew follow. Even during the editing phase I try with my editor to edit the material like it was a documentary but true to the structure. This procedure is not happening because I want to maintain the absolute control, quite the opposite; Iʼm open to the ideas of my collaborators, thus try to avoid my personal stereotypes.
GN: At the screening you mentioned the phrase: “It doesnʼt matter what country the person who raised the flag is from; the flag will always be there.”
TA: Itʼs a quotation that the President of the Greek Republic Mr. Kostis Stefanopoulos has made some years ago using an extract from a speech by Isocrates: “Greeks are the ones who take part in Greek Culture and education”. It was said on the occasion when an Albanian student in a Greek school was refused to bear the Greek flag for the national parade although he had the best marks in his class.
GN: The film student Diana Wade, who introduced you at the screening, spoke of Correction as “raising questions that invoke the larger tension between Albanians and Greeks in contemporary Greece”, saying “Is it possible for these two groups to merge into a communal society, or is there an unbridgeable rift that will continue to separate them, to make them violent?”
TA: Itʼs a huge question that applies not only to Greek-Albanian relations but also to all relations between different people in the world. I wish I had the answers. I made this movie to raise the questions — then itʼs the responsibility of any one of us to try to give an answer and act accordingly… needless to say, with absolute respect to the human rights of the other.
GN: It was not a Greek national who killed the Albanian; police arrested a 22-year-old Greek-American for the murder.
TA: For me itʼs the same. I just have to note that people of the Diaspora often have an idealized image about their homeland and this image clashes with everyday reality. This clash might prove the origin of anger and frustration.