I devoted six years of my life on a sprawling essay film titled Greece Year Zero. I grew up in Canada as a child of Greek immigrants. When the Greek crisis hit in 2008 and the onslaught of worldwide media began to create a very negative perception of Greece and its citizens, I was inspired to do something. It began as a cinematic love story to my parent’s homeland to address the often forgotten period of modern Greek history from 1821 to 2016. It was an all-consuming endeavour and the deeper I dug for material, the darker and more heartbreaking the journey became.
I embraced the task with feverish obsession to try and make sense of the last two centuries Hellas had endured. In the midst of securing film footage, the Greek public broadcaster ERT was shut down by the government and I found myself walking the back streets of Athens, through Monastiraki and Thissio, scooping up old books and photographs. In taxis, hotel lobbies and taverns, hundreds of Athenians, without payment or expectation, shared their personal stories, footage and photographs with me, which ultimately enriched the film with never before seen visual material.
After listening to the many stories and watching hours of World War Two footage, it felt to me that this period in Greece’s modern history had not been properly disseminated to the rest of the world. In the spring of 1941, Greece was facing four armies at once and was under Nazi occupation from 1941 – 1943. It was a time full of treachery and tragedy.
My film is dark and dense and after years of work I’ve come to the conclusion that Greece has arrived exactly where it began following the Greek War of Independence (1821 – 1832) where the young modern state was already drowning in debt with fleeting sovereignty afforded to them by the reigning protecting powers. Today, foreign Banks, the EU and IMF have been conducting policy making decisions for Greece that have kept the country in a vicious holding pattern resulting in economic devastation comparable to the 1929 U.S Great Depression.
Although millenniums separate Athens from its past glories, embedded in the Greek psyche and spirit is the essence of survival and a constant forging ahead to tomorrow. The Athenians of today are proud and aware of what their timeless city has given to civilization, but today they can only hope and press on. Many I spoke with said that this too shall pass.
I am indebted to the citizens of Athens who opened their hearts to me during harsh and austere circumstances. The material they shared allowed me to explore some previously unexplored truths and I hope the film will be seen as a time capsule exploring the dark and tragic vicious cycle of politics and history.
I will never be able to carve out the time to produce another Greece Year Zero. My oldest son Peter was 3 when I began, and he just turned 9. I was driven to complete the film by an aching need to return to a life that I had built in Canada. But there is a resounding truth embedded within me now, which is that my allegiance, empathy and passion for Greece will remain unshakeable for the rest of my life.
Greece Year Zero will be broadcast on ERT in Greece and is travelling to Cannes for the MIPTV worldwide film and television market in April 2017 before moving towards a worldwide release. Further information can be found at greeceyearzero.com.
Dannis Koromilas is a screenwriter and author who lives and works in Toronto with his wife and two sons. Greece Year Zero is his first film.
This post was not sponsored in any way.