Between 1947 and 1951, more than 80 000 Greek men, women and children were deported to the isle of Makronissos (Greece) in reeducation camps created to ‘fight the spread of Communism’. Among those exiles were a number of writers and poets, including Yannis Ritsos and Tassos Livaditis. Despite the deprivation and torture, they managed to write poems which describe the struggle for survival in this world of internment. These texts, some of them buried in the camps, were later found. «Like Lions of stone at the gateway of night» blends these poetic writings with the reeducation propaganda speeches constantly piped through the camps’ loudspeakers. Long tracking shots take us on a trance-like journey through the camp ruins, interrupted along the way by segments from photographic archives. A cinematic essay, which revives the memory of forgotten ruins and a battle lost.
One usually writes poems to celebrate the nature, to express feelings of love or existential sufferings. But rare are the ones who wrote poetry behind barbed wires, under torture. The texts written by the poets of Makronissos rise voices of resistance and bursts of strength; their poetical chronicles of the life of the exiles tell the terror and the survival in this barbaric laboratory entirely devoted to the “mental reprogramming” of communist resistants; they express the ubiquitous fear, the never ending wait, the thirst which consumes the bodies and the fatiguing stone duties. They talk about the nights full of the screams of the those who became insane under the tortures…
When I read those poems, I saw images of a terrifying past that I wanted to confront with the nowadays pictures of the ruins of the camps on Makronissos. I wanted to search in those heaps of stones and concrete for the “prints” of what happened there, to confront those “prints” with the shouting in the loudspeakers that crackle the fascist propaganda, to superpose those mental images with the pictures of the exiles.
The film fights against forgetting, at a time when nauseant nationalist fervours seem to re-emerge in Greece…
Duration: 87 mins
Shooting Format: HD 1080p
Screening Format: DCP 24i / HDCAM 1080p
Sound: Digital 5.1
Language: Greek, French
Subtitles: English, French, German, Greek
Year of production: 2012