I was commissioned to produce and direct four short historical for the first in-situ Chios Massacre historical exhibition. The exhibition is inside the premises of the old Saint Minas’ monastery in Chios island, GR featuring historical objects, paintings, testimonies and short video exhibits, addressing the wider public, often not familiar with Greek history. The monastery is visited both as a religious and as a key historical site of the Chios massacre. We were asked to make the films short, historically accurate and engaging for an audience of different ages.
The Chios massacre was an act of retribution that resulted in the death, enslavement, and flight of about four-fifths of the total population of Greeks on the island of Chios. In 1822, Ottoman troops and disorganised mob from Asia Minor violently crushed the local revolt that was inspired by the Greek War of Independence. In a period of five months 42,000 Chians were killed and an equal number of women and children were captured as slaves. Unfortunately, human life in the beginning of 19th century (especially in colonised regions of the world) had little or no value.
The challenge presented with creating these short video exhibits was double. On the one hand, there is the question of how you present disaster and collective trauma in a respectful way that engages the viewer for its intensity, without however perpetuating hatred towards the aggressor. I strongly believe we cannot get in the shoes of victims of major atrocities, their pain is not something we can claim to represent. The second challenge is that the Chios Massacre dates two centuries back and actual accounts of the era and the events are only in written form. All we have is testimonies and written descriptions. Besides very few paintings and engravings (not historically accurate) there is no other found visual material to use and any effort to recreate would require another scale of production.
is not like other feelings…it gives birth itself to the reasons
…One religion or another – whatever gets it ready, in position.
One fatherland or another – whatever helps it get a running start.
Maybe we cannot represent the pain and suffering of the victims, but we can give a glimpse of the agony that hatred creates and imposes upon people. Religion can create fanatism or solace, but hatred is relentless. As Polish poet Szymborska writes “hatred never tires”. The intensity of persecution lasted for months and used all devices from terrorism to deception, driving people to hide in caves and mountains and reach desperately the borders of the island, still unable to escape. We wanted to convey to the viewer the intensity and the contrast of hatred. We chose to film landscapes, villages, historical sites where actual events had taken place, using however the dramatizing power of light and cinematography. We tried to reveal sites that often are neglected as ordinary in the daily life of the island. It was important to create a connection between the exhibits and the reality of the sites today. We used symbolic elements of nature – like fire (candlelight, balls of fire, etc), the sea (the waves referring to the large number of Ottomans coming in waves from the coasts of Asia minor), the sky (the clouds as a threat over land) to create narratives in landscapes. We used a contrast between testimonies from survivors and the Ottoman commander’s memoir to create a voice over narrative. Finally, we chose to add a soundscape (not music) of natural sounds that would heighten the reality of what we observed on-screen.
-The first video is an intro to the exhibition and it presents the prosperity of the island before the massacre and the subsequent impact Chios massacre had on the European public opinion of the 19th century.
-The second video is a detailed chronicle of the massacre in Saint Minas’ monastery. Almost 3000 people from nearby villages hid, but where finally killed or captured during Orthodox Easter.
-The third video, presented on top of the post is a chronicle of the whole massacre.
-There is also a fourth video that presents the monastery’s history after the massacre, up to today.
Production – Direction: Eirini Steirou
Director of Photography – color correction: Anthony Katrakazis
Museοgraphy – exhibition design: Manolis Vournous
Research – Script: Vicky Chatziparadeisi
Aerial footage (drone shots): Konstantinos Anagnostou
Production stage collaborators: Konstantinos Anagnostou, Nelo Meci
Post-production – Editing: Stavros Symeonidis
Sound and soundscapes’ design: Minas Emmanouil
We especially thank for their contribution to the film production:
His Eminence the Metropolitan Bishop of Chios, Psara and Oinousses Mr. Markos
His Most Reverend Excellency the Archimandrite and Abbot of Nea Moni of Chios, Fr. Dionysios Papanikolaou
The Abbess Filothei of the Monastery of Agios Minas
The Archdeacon Fr. Apostolos Lardas for his participation.
Τhe church committee for the support of the Holy Monastery of Agios Minas, Victor and Vikentios.
At the stage of their research:
Dr Athina Zacharou-Loutraki
We also give our warmest thanks to
The director of the Korais Library, Anna Chaziri, and the board of directors.
Efstathios Kokkinidis, Michalis Kontos, Christina Birmpili, Tania Palaiologou, Chrysoula Pytianou and Dimitris Havres, for the speeches.
Maria Symeonidou for reviewing the texts.
Olga Selpesaki for the translation in English.
Gregory Spanos, Andreas Apessos, Nikos Vattes, Christos Voulgaris, Kostas Karatzas, Nikos Kladias, George Kotsakas, Nikolaos Melekos, Iakovos Mprilis, Kostas Papapanagiotou, Ioannis Plakas, Nikolaos Pyrikis, Nikolaos Melekos, Grigoris Spanos, Nikolaos Steiros, Giorgos Zannikos, Freddy Jekai and Marigo Vasilikou for set dressing.
Chios’ Ephorate of Antiquitie
The Chios Fire Department
Chios’ Central Public Library “Koraes”