From Both Sides of the Aegean Is More Social Studies Lesson Than Cinema
Following the end of the Greco-Turkish war, the participating countries signed a mutual population expulsion that chaotically, violently forced the denaturalizing exchange of 1.2 million Orthodox Greeks from Turkey and 400,000 Muslim Turks from Greece.
In this yawn of a follow-up to their equally sterile historical doc Smyrna: The Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City, 1900–1922, filmmaker Maria Iliou and historical consultant Alexander Kitroeff pay tribute (but hardly do justice) to the refugees through the talking-head commentaries of droning historians and an overreliance on composer Nikos Platyrachos's sober piano-and-strings ode to Anatolian music.
It's honorable that first-, second-, and third-generation descendants of both Greek and Muslim survivors are given the chance to share personal, painful testimonies, but their poignancy is undercut by a stagnant presentation and arbitrary curation of the material. (The emotionality of the piece doesn't speak to the political or economic effects of the ethnic homogenization.)
Since it's more social-studies lesson than cinema, the best offerings are the rare archival footage and photos — images of daily street life, the refugee camps, armies on the march — but the film's trapped-in-amber stiffness misses every opportunity to place its themes of identity and oppression in an accessibly modern context.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.