Mourning Rock

A surprise hit on its release in Greece, this extraordinary documentary by veteran cinematographer Philippos Koutsaftis is an impassioned work about the troubled relationship between the ancient and the modern in contemporary Greece. Filming over a period of ten years, Koutsaftis focuses on the people and the town of Eleusis (about 14 miles west of Athens), an ancient site of enormous historical significance that’s under threat from crude industrial development. The film reveals Eleusis as a unique meeting point between ancient Greece of the Eleusinian Mysteries (it was here, according to myth, that Demeter, goddess of the earth, bestowed the gift of grain), the refugee influx of the 1920s, and the industrialisation of recent times. Drawing all of these strands together through a deft combination of interviews, documentary observation and poetic voice-over commentary, the film builds up a powerful sense of a people struggling to preserve the past in order to enrich the future. Mourning Rock, says Koutsaftis, is an appeal for the importance of ‘historical memory’. It’s a measure of his film’s achievement that it can stand comparison with the great philosophical documentaries of Chris Marker, and there can be no higher praise than that.
(2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 85 mins.)

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