Since I moved to Greece many years ago, I started realizing how important history is, in order to understand and communicate with Greeks.
For many among us, history is not always the most exciting lesson in high school, although it very much depends on your history teacher. I was lucky enough to have enthusiastic and innovative teachers to teach me many things about very important historical events in certain countries, but unfortunately, “modern Greece”, never belonged to the countries that my teachers were interested in!
When I met my “extended Greek family” while living in Athens, it was clear that several family members from my husband’s father and mother’s side, had very different opinions on various political and cultural issues. Their opinions were usually based on the stories and true facts they heard from their ancestors, and depending on which regions and neighborhoods they grew up in.
I realized it is extremely important in Greece, (and actually also in any other country), to know and understand the history of the country, if you also want to understand some feelings, songs, opinions, etc…or even to understand some movies 🙂
Below is an introduction to an interesting Greek movie.
“1968” is a Greek movie written and directed by Tasos Boulmetis in 2018
Although this movie tells the story of the AEK’s basketball team, it is a movie where you will learn many things about very important Greek historical events and cultural aspects, as it is partly set up as a documentary.
The AEK-team was the underdog at the European Champions Cup in 1968, but surprisingly won the finals against Slavia Praha, and became champion that year.
Director T. Boulmetis uses the 1968 game as an opportunity to tell the story of Greek refugees from Constantinople and Asia Minor, the challenges that they were still facing forty years later, and their will to keep their identity and history alive.
The movie stands out because of its impeccable casting as well as the music, which was composed by Greek composer Evanthia Remboutsika.
On 4th April 1968, AEK’s basketball team is about to play against Slavia Praha in Athens. It’s the typical story of David against Goliath, as AEK has very little chance to win against the Czech team, which has been the front runner throughout the European Cup. 80.000 people gather at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens to watch the game, a Guinness record of attendance for a basketball game at the time in Greece, whereas thousands more are on stand-by next to their radios keen to not miss a beat.
AEK is the only sports association in Greece that maintain their archive regarding their history and culture. On the 50-year anniversary of this historic win, Boulmetis went through all the existing content and gathered information and footage from that time. He also traveled to interview players that are still alive from both teams, AEK and Slavia Praha.
Then, he worked to put together a very unique movie that falls under the genre of “docu-fiction”, because he has combined his findings which are related to real events with a handful of fictional stories that unravel around and during the night of the big game. The result is a very thoughtful, tender, nostalgic but also a humorous movie. Some are the stories of the actual team members, whereas others narrate the lives of simple, everyday Greek people who arrived from Constantinople (nowadays Istanbul) to Athens. Christian Ottoman Greeks started fleeing Asia Minor during World War I and its aftermath (1914–1922) because they were being systematically persecuted by the Turks. The ones who remained in the region arrived in Greece in 1923 as part of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey.
AEK, the sports club
AEK was established in Athens in 1924 by Greek refugees from Constantinople in the wake of the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) and has since become one of the three most popular and successful teams in Greek football.
As one of the main characters in the movie suggests, “teams, when they play, they tell stories”. Boulmetis believes in this too, which is why this movie is not about AEK itself. He uses the 1968 game as an opportunity to tell the story of Greek refugees from Constantinople and Asia Minor, the challenges that they were still facing forty years later and their will to keep their identity and history alive.
People from Constantinople – called “Constantinoupolites” («Κωνσταντινουπολίτες») – considered the team synonymous with their own history and culture. Having said that, the 1968 win bought massive joy not only to the team’s supporters but to all Greeks as it offered an emotional uplift at the time full of political turmoil. Greece was already one year into the military junta that lasted until 1974. The basketball game brought together a nation that had been feeling divided, afraid, and beaten at a time when the regime forbade all types of mass gatherings.
Tassos Boulmetis is a celebrated Greek director and cinematographer. 1968 is the third – and last – work in a movie trilogy dedicated to narrating the stories of the Greek refugees from Asia Minor.
The other two works include the movies “A Touch of Spice” («Πολίτικη Κουζίνα») and Notias («Νοτιάς»)
The movie: 1968, 93’
Directed by: Tasos Boulmetis
Cast: Antonis Kafetzopoulos, Stelios Mainas, Errikos Litsis, Themis Panou, Vasiliki Troufakou, Ieroklis Michailidis, Orfeas Augoustidis, Antonis Antoniou
Full movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_G8sYSThwI