Monday, 10 December 2007

Greek Images

Do you remember the television serial from 1977 'Who pays the ferryman'? It was a popular serial about an Englishman who served in Crete in World War II and returned later to this Greek island and its wayward inhabitants. It's set in the Sixties and looking back at the serial you will see that not that much has changed in Greek life. Especially not on Crete, where for the last few weeks the little village of Zoniana has been in the news, because after a shoot out with the police, in which a police officer was badly wounded, the whole village was turned upside down by a huge police raid. They found out that the village was full of criminals. Shepherds with millions in their bank accounts, discovery of weapons and drugs finally prompted the government to make a full investigation.

The criminals were first protected by the citizens, as is the Cretan tradition. So you could see old ladies trying to hit the police with their handbags. But with the evidence of bank raids and money laundering, even the villagers had to admit that it was time their village was cleaned up.

The large police actions caused a big stir, not only in the whole of Greece but also in the new media hype YouTube, where you can find not only home movies that parody the police force invading the village, but also the village itself, which were promoted with the slogan: "Live your myth in Greece". Well, this myth you can see for yourself on YouTube, where heavily armed police officers search the village or where apes dance the traditional dance 'sirtaki'.

By the way, the famous sirtaki dance, to the music of Mikís Theodorakis, was only created in 1964, during the making of 'Zorba, the Greek'. This film, based on the book of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis, was made on Crete by Michael Cacoyannis. The star, Anthony Quinn, made the movie as well as the dance a classic all over the world. The story goes that the chasapiko dance was too difficult for Quinn. So they invented an easier one, which became the 'sirtaki' or 'Zorba's Dance', which is nowadays known by, as well as all Greeks, by all tourists that visit Greece. Did you forget how to dance the sirtaki. Learn it with Anthony Quinn on YouTube!: Zorba the Greek!

YouTube is getting to be a fascinating archive of images. Not only can you find there the Muppets doing a Greek dance, all dance lovers can learn all kinds of different Greek dances. For example home movies on YouTube show how the Zeibebikos is danced on Lesvos, or the dance of the horses (Kiorogloe) in Agia Paraskevi, or the local dances (Aptalikos, Karsilamas) of the Sardines Festival at Skala Kaloni.

And if you really feel homesick for Lesvos, you can choose from a lot of more or less obscure movies about the island, where it is up to you to guess where the pictures were taken.

However, my favourite YouTube movies are by the Orthodoxos, a Greek-American husband and wife, who give Greek cooking lessons. Greek cooking mostly starts with peeling onions. And this is where the troubles start with the Orthodoxos: who will peel the onions? Well, don't worry, finally the onion will be chopped and the dishes made: rice with spinach, meatballs, stuffed vine leaves or fajin: The orthodoxos

'Politiki Kouzina' (A touch of spice) is a movie by Tassos Boulmetis (2003) that does not teach you how to cook Greek, but it teaches you all about the spices used by the Greeks. It's the story of a family that flees from Turkey back to Greece. But the grandfather, who has a spice shop in Istanbul, doesn't want to leave and stays in Turkey, while his grandson, who was taught the love of spices by this grandfather, waits for his arrival in Greece. Cooking is central to this movie and I guarantee you that after seeing 'Politiki Kouzina', certainly you will change your cooking.

Not that I cooked that much last week. I was hit so hard with the flu that I only surfed on YouTube, or watched again some serials like 'Who pays the ferryman', or some movies. The island was also exceptionally quiet. Undisturbed by the heavy rains and some really loud thunderstorms. Even the electricity seems to have become used to the bad weather. Only the Christmas market in Molyvos had to be cancelled, due to heavy rains, and was postponed until later this week.

And then I saw this beautiful movie 'Ulysses gaze' (1995) by the Greek-American director Theodoros Angelopoulos. This movie did not make me cheerful, although it's a movie that you have to watch more than once. It made me sad, which is very dangerous during this depressing unGreek weather we're having. That's why it's good that there is YouTube to do a little surfing: you will always find something there that will cheer you up: Never on Sunday

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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