The core of the plot of Plato’s Academy is in fact the realization of Stavros, who is believed to be Greek, but it is found out that he is essentially Albanian after his mother acknowledges an Albanian man as her son. It is then revealed that this strange Albanian man is Stavros’ brother. A mysterious confusion inevitably occurs with regards to what the national identity of Stavros is. The film terrifically portrays the traditional long-term malicious Greco-Albanian relations that date back to 1991, after the fall of the Albanian communist regime whereby allegations of mistreatment by the Albanian authorities of the Greek ethnic minority in southern Albania and of the alleged Albanian minorities in northern Greece occurred. Albanian economic immigrants have penetrated the Greek state and their presence caused huge tension between the two parties. Therefore, Greeks have developed certain prejudices and biases against Albanians that is they consider them as evil, ugly, uncivilized and miasmatic entities which pollute their “civilized” and “cultured” social well being. As a result, Albanians by no means would be accepted to be integrated or tolerated within the Greek society, because these “savages” do not simply match with the Greek mentality of education and culture derived from the ancient Greek ideals (!). The Greek companions’ actions really reminded me of a typical Greek nationalistic quotation that dictates “Whoever is not Greek is Barbarian”. The companions’ objection to the idea of constructing a monument in the name of intercultural solidarity declares that in their “territory” (implying their quarter) no ‘foreign’ influence is possible to change their Greek habitual rituals and way of living (namely playing football and gathering around, drinking coffee, etc), hence tolerance, respect and compromise are bizarre words in their ordinary culture. In the meantime, at the moment of the football game between the Albanian and Greek National teams, we observed an intense social solidarity from the two sides, which separately gathered in a sort of a coffee shop to watch the match, using national symbols and passionately supporting their teams. Apparently, in such case football as a ritual, represents ethnic origins which are regarded emotionally, and this reality brings about collective consciousness which in turn binds people who share the same ideals and values. Stavros, as every compatriot of his, holds strong bonds with his Greek national identity and is not willing to accept the severe truth that he had to face up to because otherwise he would have lost his Greek companions who merely believe in the homogeneity of the Greek community, hence they wouldn’t easily accept an Albanian in their company. Nevertheless, the allegorical language and imagery used in the film (sheepdog called “Patriot”, Euro 2004 Greek National team photos posted on the wall, )signify the reality that was previously described. As Filippos Tsitos, the director and writer of the film said before its screening, the situations employed in the film are not be taken for granted that represent nowadays’ reality. However, Tsitos takes the issue of cultural absolutism, xenophobia and racial intolerance into a deeper level and through its problematic and complicated nature, the dramedy simply communicates a range of messages intended to those who suffer from cultural myopia and particularly ethnocentrism.
13 September, 2010
Posted by Michalis Michael at 11:42