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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 24 January 2015
NEWS 10 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 24 JANUARY 2015 OPINION PETER MOUSAFERIADIS The Water Diviner and the Greeks I don't profess to be a scholar like Diamantis, however, I thought I'd take a moment to express my views in the film The Water Diviner. My interest in this area is spearheaded by the fact that both my grandparents were tied up with Asia Minor and also as someone who has founded a global organisation dedicated to building global harmony through intercultural action. My father's father was from a region between Adana and Syria. He never spoke Greek (even after living in Greece for 50 years) and ended up in northern Greece during the population exchanges immediately following the erasing of Smyrna. He was half Armenian and survived the 1905 pogrom in the region of Adana against the Armenians. He then grew up in an orphanage along with his brother. My mother's father, from Laconia, landed in Smyrna (Izmir) whilst still a teenager around 1919. He was one of the few Greek Army horsemen to have survived the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Actually, the only one from his horse brigade to survive. He managed to survive the crossing of the Salt Desert in Turkey. When he returned to Greece he became a heavy drinker. He lived a mere 25 years more and died from a broken heart during the Civil War. (That's another story.) What my mother's father never talked about were the atrocities that the Greeks were forced to carry out. It was only in recent times I was made aware of this. Greeks rarely talk about our expansionist 'megali idea' and the Greek scorched earth policy which resulted in the razing of entire Ottoman cities and villages to the ground, the burning of hundreds of Muslims in mosques, the decapitation of all men over the age of 12 … the list goes on. I think you get the point. As for The Water Diviner, I loved it as a movie and totally get that it was a fictitious account of post-Gallipoli loosely based on historical facts. My son and I saw the movie and had tears running down our faces for most of it. I get the point that Diamantis makes and agree it would've been better if the movie somehow further brought into the narrative other indigenous populations of the OPINION SOCRATES PAPADOPOULOS The defence ‘it’s only a film’ does not wash I enjoyed this movie, its camera work, its colour, its warmth as a story. I enjoyed the essential values of love in the narrative. Some badly disjointed moments did not destroy an overall excellent effort by the film’s team. As an Australian I welcomed the damning portrayal of the British ‘lead- ership’ which had led a generation of young Australians to its senseless slaughter. I also welcomed the humanity of allowing the Turkish soldiers to show their perspective and the depiction of a frustrated Turkish people yearning to throw off Ottoman decay. Where the film totally lost me was its cowardly avoid- ance of one of the twentieth centuries most brutal genocides. The portrayal of the Greek Army was a caricature worthy of the worst of Hollywood ‘cowboy and Indian’ films, surprising given the welcome humanisation of the Turkish enemy. It’s as if we can only cope with one moment of generosity per movie, and need at least one simplistic bogeyman in the plot. What hurt me deeply was the filming of a Greek bandit attack on the ‘Turkish’ village. The location is, perversely, one of the many Greek villages deserted after the 1922 genocide and transmigration. Over 1,500,000 Greeks, including members of my fam- ily, were brutally slaughtered in the genocide. Their ghosts ponder why, a century later, Australians forget them and rewrite history. Imagine a Japanese film set in one of the WW2 Japaneserun prisoner of war camps where Australian prisoners were systematically tortured and murdered. Imagine again if the plot had Australians torturing and killing Japanese prisoners in a distortion of history. Now multiply that 1,500,000 times. Filmmakers have a duty of care, especially if their movie purports to have some sort of historically accurate resonance. The makers of this movie have failed that duty. DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Scenes from The Water Diviner - a fictitious account of the post-Gallipoli period loosely based on historical facts. Ottoman Empire, however, the movie needs to be seen for what it is. The Ottoman Empire was struggling to justify its existence when most of Europe had been nationalised. Nation states were now wanting a part of the Ottoman Empire, especially the jewel, Smyrna (Izmir), where more Greeks lived than in Athens in the early 1900s. Smryna was the envy of cities across the world. It was cosmopolitan; Levantine dynasties had been there for several hundred years, the latest operas and symphonies could be heard in the finest and most elaborate venues and newspapers could be purchased in more than 15 languages. The early part of the 20th century gave way to the The Young Turks. The Young Turks was a political reform group which aimed to eventually do away with the absolute monarch of the Ottoman Empire. Following Gallipoli, the fear of what was left of the diminishing empire and everyone wanting a piece of it eventually saw Ataturk transition the Ottoman Empire into a nation statehood which we now know as Turkey. Whilst we can be critical of the Ottomans we need to see them for their warts and all. Istanbul was the New York of the 1800s and even for the early part of the 1900s -one of my favourite cities. Prior to the nationalistic simmerings, the Ottoman Empire was a safe haven for Jews, Christians and many other cul- tural and religious minority groups for hundreds of years. In places like Rhodes, we see remnants of a world where people coexisted in extremely close proximity. A synagogue, churches of various denominations and a mosque are all built not within walking distance but literally side by side. This is a far cry from Athens today, which has over 300,000 Muslims and is the only European capital without an official mosque. I am pleased to see the movie is engendering debate, however don't take a stance against it purely because you've heard reviews that it may be biased. Movies form part of the arts. They embody ideas and are meant to evoke a series of emotional re- sponses. The Water Diviner is a movie that needs to be seen as a work of art first and foremost and then seen in its historical, social and most importantly geopolitical context and maybe, just maybe, allow us to reflect on our own heritage today and what it means to be a global citizen living in a diverse society such as Australia and how we might be able to assist present-day Greece and other nations in dealing with its minority groups. Enjoy! *Peter Mousaferiadis is founder and CEO at Cultural Infusion. He studied a Major in Religious Studies and Koine Greek at Latrobe University Bundoora.
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