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Smyrna: Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City Fails to Honor a City's Rich Legacy

Istanbul was Constantinople, just as today's Aegean-coast metropolis of Izmir, Turkey, was once Old Smyrna—an ancient Greek settlement that would eventually be fortified by Alexander the Great before evolving into an affluent Ottoman cultural center. Ripe with several centuries of absorbing history, filmmaker Maria Ilioú's uninspired flake of talking-head Wikipedia cinema focuses on the forgotten Anatolian port city's post-World War I years. A pompous British writer and five historians, including the film's official consultant, Alexander Kitroeff, and some second- and third-generation Smyrniots, speak hyperbolically yet broadly about the fancy fabulousness of this forgotten melting pot—split into Greek, Armenian, Muslim, and Jewish quarters—and its wealthy American region, nicknamed "Paradise." But how did residents make money? What was daily life like? The film's few hints of specificity lie in the remarkable found footage and vintage photos, roved over Ken Burns–style while Nikos Platyrachos's too-jaunty score gives them the awkward feel of a silent comedy. (Even the testimony of the sole Smyrna-born interviewee is limited by his having been a small child before the mass evacuation.) Yes, as the Greco-Turkish war neared its end in 1922, enemy forces invaded and mass fires broke out, causing tens of thousands of deaths and even more refugees to flee. If only the film offered more depth or pleasures to honor their legacy.

Location Info

Map

Quad Cinema

34 W. 13th St.
New York, NY 10011

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Greenwich Village

Details

Smyrna: Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City
Written and directed by Maria Ilioú
Proteus, Inc.
Opens April 5, Quad Cinema

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2 comments
planckbrandt
planckbrandt

Conspicuously missing is the British Empire specifically Foreign Office. Lloyd-George may get paraded around for 2 seconds, but the prior decades of war materiel into the Balkans exploiting or perhaps inciting nationalism is not mentioned once. City of London had discovered oil in Basra decades before and had carefully plotted the fall of Ottoman Empire setting up the conditions into which the hapless Smyrniot were pushed. Historians documenting the same plots using the Arabs further south are undisputed history now not mentioned once. But "humanity" gets fingered, or "Turkey for Turks" but not "Oil for Brits"? Or, in fact "World for Brits"?  That little pathology had nothing to do with what happened later in Asia Minor?

Refugees of Holocausts deserve better than this kind of pablum concealing real cause and effect. British statecraft set this game in motion. The Greek nationalist movement was created by the Brits for the very purpose of destabilizing the entire region the facts of which we are still living with. And, this kind of horror has now been visited on Palestinians, Lebanese, Afghanis, Iraqis, Syrians, to add to the long list of Armenians and Greeks. We see the fixings in the corporate media politburo to execute the same template in Iran. All so City of London, British Empire oligarchs, and their upstart US Krypto-Neo-Empire oligarchs can have oil for warships and air forces.

Meanwhile, all the world's people are oppressed by these Oligarchs and their Templates to destroy civilizations. That should be the real story of this film at this late stage. NY Times just ran the story of CIA guns into Syria to create conditions for the very same process. And, German news reported it months ago. The trafficking of arms to both sides of conflicts is no longer a secret. The grip of oil, war materiel, and bank shareholders over these empires is no longer a secret. We all have a lot to learn. Especially these filmmakers to correctly choose their sources. Instead of pablum we need to see this template clearly since it is being used in Syria now. In fact, the culture war carefully constructed over 3 decades in the US itself with such transnational institutions as the News Corporation should give us all pause. Now, they are finally enraging everyone over guns while the bottom falls out of our economy and our currency is being denuded of its reserve status. The ABCs of Statecraft are aided by the statecraft DEFs of propaganda, misdirection, and disinformation. These methods create the conditions into which the matches were thrown in Smyrna.

Dimitra
Dimitra

Besides your useful criticism regarding the muscial selections or story telling techniques used, I am sorry to tell you that your negative criticism seems to stem from genocide denial. You refer to the catastrophe of Smyrna of 1922 as the naturally brutal conclusion of the "Greco-Turkish war". ?. Your denial of what is was is patent: an ethnic cleansing campaign complete with death marches, rape, torture, stores looted and burned along with entire residential neighborhoods. Obviously, you are not in favor of the catastrophe of Smyrna being told from the Greek or the victim's point of view. You ackowledge that, of course, there were victims as any war has victims. Why do no neglect to tell your readers that the Greeks, Armenians, and other ethnic minorities of Turkey were Turkish citizens, upon whom other, mostly muslim Turks had been encouraged to brutalize, plunder, and murder? That is what this documentary is about, and not about "how they had made their money" before the ethnic cleasing campaign was launched against them, insinuating they might have deserved what they got. Your criticism is so heavily biased that, frankly, I'm surprised you do it professionally. 

 

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