The sites and voices of resistance and the urban fabric shown in the film bring Athens to life, without giving a clichéd portrayal of a major tourism hub. Athens is the site of daily demonstrations, where people use the cameras to speak truth to power in the only way they have left. At these demonstrations, I witnessed a kind of freedom of speech that reminded me of Quebec during the Quiet Revolution, or more recently the Printemps érable.
As a Mediterranean city, Athens has a multitude of connections to the sea. Its port is one of the busiest in the entire Mediterranean, loading and unloading thousands of containers every day. One of the great paradoxes of this city – which has always been open to the sea and to trade – is that it has become a place where refugees find themselves stuck, forced to wait indefinitely. Maritime traffic lets them glimpse a possibility of movement that they are ultimately denied. In the film, the sea and the port are reminders of ongoing tensions among Greece, Europe and the lands beyond their borders.
The Mediterranean. The sea that the damned of the Earth, as Frantz Fanon called them, sail north to cross, only to find Greek, Portuguese and Spanish indignados on the other side. How can anyone fail to see that the plight of these western nations in crisis is increasingly similar to that of African countries? How can we not see that while the bringers of austerity are tightening their grip on governments in the north and south alike, a shared world is emerging from Tunis to Madrid to Marseille to Athens? This is the world now sprouting off the beaten path, taking root in people’s consciousness despite wars and racist attacks. The film seeks to reveal this new world. The Mediterranean Sea, which Athens faces, is also inside the people. It is the core of their being that resists all shackles. Deep and indomitable, calm yet unpredictable, it is a meeting place but also a place scarred by shocks, accidents and storms. The film is driven by complementary and discordant energies, reflecting the rebellious power burning inside the Greek people.
The different voices heard in the city of Athens, the voices of the unemployed and the impoverished, of migrants and immigrants, give the film a polyphonic character. Likewise, the stories of several individuals from Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere invite us to explore this kind of poetic structure. It reveals how Athens is a city of sharp contrasts, with spaces of resistance scattered throughout; spaces that now encompass large swaths of social life, attempting to save the social bonds undercut by the state, which is now abandoning its most vulnerable citizens. While the film goes to the heart of collective experiences, it also focuses on individuals like Abdallah and Spyros, surviving alone in the streets. The men and women we meet give us access to their lives, their moments of political awakening, their thoughts about the world. In all their diversity, these interwoven moments do not come together in a linear narrative so much as a whole in which fragments collide. Through shifts in tone and climate, through movement and motion, we see and hear what is going on beneath the surface. Driven by a thirst for freedom, marked by struggles against violence and confinement, the protagonists’ stories complement each other and weave unexpected bonds, telling the story of how these people are part of the world’s new direction.
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