Playing during the Toronto International Film Festival is a heck of a film, which captures the often-violent side of how the financial crisis is affecting young adults, especially women, in today’s Greece. Through recent visits and conversations with Greek friends, and working alongside those who have felt they had to leave Greece to survive, it is impossible to ignore if one lives in Europe, how so many lives are forever being changed by these events. And this film gives us not only a realistic yet bleak look into what happens to those left behind, but also asserts a defiance which many young Greeks are feeling.
In director Yorgos Servetas’ poignant film, a young woman goes back to a village she knows, and encounters both friends who are suffering direct hits of the crisis, but also a mafia-like system in place, which destroys bodies and souls.
Antigone, the main character’s name is well-chosen, as it is believed to mean both “against motherhood” and “against men,” in that Clint Eastwood versus the rest of the world kind of way. Her flashing eyes full of anger reminded me of a mix between Dirty Harry and many a femme fatale. In this film, it would be difficult to imagine bringing a newborn child into the world that is rural Greek poverty, one in which men betray themselves to be abusive and part of a system in which women have no place to thrive. The men are not better off as they sell their souls for a day’s pay and lose their pride, lashing out at the women around them.
It is so important to not only make films such as these to document what is happening in the lives of many Greeks, but also because so many young people around the world feel the same way. Antigone’s anger and frustration and attempts to do something, to help the downtrodden are met with near failure. She both inspires trust and is sought put by others seeking comfort and safety, but she loses something along the way.
The rural coastline is breathtakingly beautiful and empty. This is not the Greece of your vacations past, but rather what those who cannot afford to leave are faced with everyday. Many young Greeks who moved to larger cities are finding themselves forced to return to extremely rural areas and islands in order to find work, or be supported by family. There is a kind of loss of both dreams for the future, being able to provide for a family, but also a bittersweet loss of nostalgia for the past as the return “home” proves to be almost deadly.
I feel everyone should see this film, not only because it is a well-made and well acted film, demonstrating the strength and hinting at perhaps the beginning of a renaissance of Greek cinema, where there is so much talent (though many have also been forced to leave to find work abroad) but also because we cannot turn a blind eye to what is going on because of this crisis. This is the reality. We cannot stand aside, watching, but must choose sides and fight back to build a better tomorrow.
But before we can do so, we must accept the reality in order to know how to move through it to the other side. It will get better, and we need to get angry, as Antigone does, and fight back, in order to get to that better place. This woman is a new kind of warrior. Women such as her will rebuild Greece. And watch out when they do, as it will be a sight to see.