Greek Screen

Film production in Greece began nearly a century ago and collapsed during the chaotic early 20s. It started to reemerge a decade later and made significant gains in the mid 40s despite the tragic Greek Civil War.

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Movies were initially condemned as immoral by conservatives and censored by the numerous dictators that ruled the country during much of the 20th Century. Yet they survived and even blossomed over time.

A History Of Greek Cinema by Vrasidas Karalis, published by Continuum in 2012, tries to make sense of the rise and fall of the industry and its role in the creation of a national culture. It covers the significant films and personalities within each decade.

It’s illustrated throughout with black and white stills unfortunately too small to capture an adequate sense of the works from which they’re taken. However, the book is an indispensable resource for anyone seriously interested in the subject.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Amazigh Identity

Tamazga, the ancient homeland of the indigenous Amazigh (Berber) peoples stretched from the Canary Islands to the western edge of Egypt and includes Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania.

 amazighidentity

The conquest of this large territory during Byzantine times by Arab armies already converted to Islam unified the area in terms of a single language and religion, obscuring Amazigh origins and ignoring their mother tongue and customs.

After the Ottoman Era many Amazighen were caught between the demands of French colonialism and Arab nationalism. Marginalized by rulers determined to establish a homogenous narrative by ignoring differences, the Amazighen risk cultural extinction.

The Berber Identity Movement And The Challenge To North African States by Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, University of Texas Press 2011 provides a brief history of the Amazighen before detailing the contemporary struggle for cultural and linguistic expression.

While the Amazigh language is now being taught in Morocco, the number of native speakers continues to decline. Leaders within the Amazigh identity movement are striving for a modern, secular approach that includes women, hoping this will improve chances for a better life in the future.

This book brings into perspective the complex and difficult, ongoing fight of the Amazighen for recognition.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Tangiers Solitude

Novelist and composer Paul Bowles escaped to Morocco, where he was the center of a mid-century, international, bohemian set that included literary luminaries such as William Burroughs, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, and Gore Vidal. Even though he appeared cool and elegant, his presence in Tangiers made it a hip destination for both beats and hippies.

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Paul Bowles: The Cage Is Always Open directed by Daniel Young (Switzerland) 2012 includes the last interview Bowles made before his death. The film traces the life of Bowles and his wife Jane, whose story is fictionalized in The Sheltering Sky. Paul primarily focused his attention on men while Jane was primarily interested in women.

The documentary will screen once only Monday 24 June 2013, 11:00 AM at the Castro Theatre during frameline 37. For more information go to www.frameline.org.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Longevity Project

The Blue Zones (Second Edition) by Dan Buettner, National Geographic 2012 is a report about a world-wide study of centenarians: women and men over a hundred years of age. The author traces his travels to areas where there are a significant number of people that fall within that demographic. The newest edition includes two Mediterranean islands: Sardinia and Ikaria.

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Ponce de Leon searched for a legendary Fountain of Youth but tailed to find it and there are a myriad of products and services promising to delay or reverse the aging process in humans. Buettner initially attempted to indentify a single factor but found a variety of possibilities among the people he met during his travels. In some cases there were contradictions between cultures he studied. In his summary he lists nine general principles.

The fundamental question underlying the research is, What does it mean to live a good life? There are dangers in succumbing to the extremes of material deprivation or overabundance. There are negative consequences to personal isolation and definite benefits of human engagement with others. Longevity is all about quality of life at every stage of development.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Urban Renewal

The Haussmann Plan under Emperor Napoleon III transformed the French capital from a sprawling Medieval city to the modernist metropolis greatly admired today. The jumble of alleys gave way to broad boulevards and monumental structures that not only glorified the French autocratic ruler in power but also provided an easier access for his armies to quell the frequent rebellions that broke out.

Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, the Seine prefect, was commissioned to carry out this sweeping project that uprooted hundreds of women and men from their homes and places of business, forcing them to resettle. The monetary compensation they were offered might have satisfied some of them but others suffered emotional trauma not easily healed.

The House I Loved by Tatiana De Rosnay, St. Martin’s Press 2012, a novel set in 1860s Paris, reveals the unsettling turmoil experienced by its main character and narrator, Rose Bazelet, an elderly widow whose entire life has been lived in one neighborhood moving only a few blocks from her childhood home to the nearby family house of her husband.

Rose writes a series of letters to her deceased spouse, telling him things she was unable to vocalize while he was still alive, as the wrecking crews move relentlessly closer to the house they both loved. Eventually rue Childebert is to be obliterated to make way for two great thoroughfares, Boulevard Saint-Germain and rue de Rennes. The book opened my eyes to a time in history I previously knew little about, providing a momentary glimpse at the lives of ordinary people in a way that touched my heart.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Remembering Hardship

When Snow Fell On The Lemon Tree Blossoms, by Leonidas Petrakis, Pella Publishing 2012 is a lyrical account of a difficult period in contemporary Greek history. While it’s presented as a fictional memoir, it might very well be based on the experiences of its author.

Greece was ruled by a dictator on the eve of World War II. During the 1940s the country was invaded by Italian, Bulgarian, German, and British forces. Both communist and fascist Greek guerillas fought against the harsh Nazi occupation. Afterwards the left and right engaged in a bitter civil war. However its political future was predetermined by British, American, and Russian leaders who made sure Greece remained within the Western block during the Cold War.

This book manages to describe the day-to-day difficulties facing the Greek people during that decade. Families divided by politics and differing loyalties. Some neighbors coming together to help one another and others exploiting the situation for personal gain.

I found the voice of the young narrator unconvincing. He sometimes spoke as a child, while at other times his words were clearly expressions of a mature adult. The work would have gained credibility if it were told by a man looking back at what occurred during an earlier time in his life. Allowing him to show the child he once was and also permitting him to reflect on his past experiences.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Tweet Journal

Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions by BBC economics editor Paul Mason, Verso 2012 tracks the recent upheavals throughout the world. Millions of people recently took to the street protesting injustices. Tahrir Square in Cario. Syntagma in Athens. Unrest spread through several Arab countries and European capitals. Students, workers, and pensioners all joined in to protest harsh austerity measures while politicians and economists endlessly debated how best to preserve the assets of banks and multinational corporations.

Paul Mason witnesses and reports from within and tries to make sense of it all. He interviews both the organizers and other participants. I admire his attempts to go to the source of those mass movements instead of remaining at a distance and spouting preconceived clichés. He records not only the words shouted but also includes the Twitter hashtags so that readers of his book can follow future developments in real time.

In some instances I gained a better understanding of the complaints from a journalistic perspective. But in the end I finished the book wanting more: a deeper exploration and a wiser evaluation of the situation. However, for that one must look elsewhere.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Most Beautiful Books

Two books with most beautiful in the title: one focuses on Paris and the other covers Greece. While those two words may grab attention, a reader is bound to face disappointment because of the high expectations these superlatives evoke.

The Most Beautiful Walk In The World, by John Baxter, Harper Perennial 2011 is a ramble through space and time. It starts in Paris but touches on several other locales as well. The author begins by praising walking. Then relates an incident involving his French in-laws, who are surprisingly inept at cooking the annual holiday meal.

Eventually Baxter is invited by a friend to be a tour guide, replacing a tour guide who failed to engage his audience. Initially reluctant, he performs better than he expected, beginning a new career in his adopted city. It’s a job that requires flexibility and creativity.

Baxter proves seems well-suited for the challenges, dispensing amusing stories and offbeat historical information to delight both the tourists he guides through Paris and those fortunate to discover his book.

The Most Beautiful Villages Of Greece, text by Mark Ottaway and photographs by Hugh Palmer, Thames & Hudson, 1998 suggests more than it delivers. I expected stunning images revealing delightful architectural gems. Perhaps in the style of Architectural Digest. However, what turned up is more reminiscent of National Geographic. While the type size in the paperback edition is rather small, I managed to read it without a magnifying glass.

The book contains photos and text about villages in the northern and southern mainland as well as islands in both the Ionian and Aegean seas. I was surprised by the tower houses of the Mani and learned a few things about the geography and history of the country.

It’s a good introduction to prospective travelers or anyone that collects all things Greek.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Three Women

Sophia Antonini and Stavroula Toska met while working on the management team of the Paris Theater, a Manhattan art house that screens non-English-language films in their original language. They soon discovered that they both shared a passion for cinema.

Toska came to New York from Greece to continue her acting studies, and Antonini is currently enrolled at the School of Visual Arts working on a degree in screenwriting. In 2010 the two women founded Orama Pictures to produce original work for film and television.

While searching for suitable material to develop into their first feature length production, Toska introduced herself to Olympia Doukakis after a panel discussion where the actress spoke about personal and business experience. They exchanged contact information and when they met a second time, Doukakis recommended a book that moved her twenty-five years earlier.

Greek Women In Resistance by Eleni Fourtouni, Thelphini Press 1986 documents the experiences of Greek women imprisoned during the Greek Civil War (1946–1949). Most of the book is a translation into English of the journals kept by the women who were confined. It provided the inspiration for further research on the subject.

Three Candles, the working title of the Orama Pictures feature narrated by Olympia Dukakis, is in post-production with a projected release date of 2013.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Olive Oil Exposed

Tom Mueller began his 13 August 2007 New Yorker article, Slippery Business, with an incident that is sadly typical.

Two decades ago a tanker freighter filled with hazel nut oil in Turkey eventually arrived in Italy, where the cargo was described on official ship documents as olive oil from Greece. Passing through customs unchallenged it was bottled, perhaps as part of a blend, and sold to consumers as real olive oil.

The author provides convincing evidence of widespread fraud that continues both in Europe and the United States. Over the last five years he’s continued researching the subject worldwide.

Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller, W.W. Norton, 2012, is a fascinating book and a must-read for both food lovers and health advocates.

He not only uncovers the abuses in the industry but also highlights individuals who are attempting to reform and promote the benefits of an authentic high-quality product. He interviews both those accused, and in some cases convicted, of selling lampante (lamp oil) as extra virgin, and others who continue to champion practices and safeguards that will insure the sale of honest and healthful olive oil.

Some of the largest Italian distributors of olive oil are supplying inferior oil to consumers through supermarkets nationwide.  Too often the Italian flags and appellation found on bottles is part of the scam. Mueller writes that more than half of what is sold in the United States, a rapidly growing and totally unregulated market, is bogus.

He includes advice about shopping and storing extra virgin olive oil and lists sources he believes are reliable in his book as well as his web site.

I was glad to find several growers and bottlers in Northern California listed and am enjoying the oil of one family-owned company he cited several times during a recent interview on a local radio station. Others may find Australian, Italian, or Spanish olive oil to their liking.

Do read this book!

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved