Showing posts with label Smyrna. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smyrna. Show all posts

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In a Smyrna Mood


My mood is a little somber after seeing the documentary "Smyrna, Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City."
Accomplished filmmaker-director Maria Iliou tells the story of how the cosmopolitan Asia Minor city of Smyrna, now called Izmir, was destroyed by fire as the Allies watched from their ships. Many Smyrniots were murdered and more became refugees. Lost was a place where Greek Christians and Muslim Turks, Armenians, Europeans and Jews Lived together. The Turks blame the Greek Army for the fatal fires that destroyed Smyrna.
Greeks refer to the burning of Smyrna as "The Catastrophe." It was the final end to any hope that the Greeks could maintain any territory or livelihood in Turkey.
The film made excellent use of rare documentary footage. Author Giles Milton was among the narrators. He wrote "Paradise Lost, Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of an Christian City in the Islamic World." His book provides witness testimony that Turkish soldiers and irregulars poured kerosene in the Christian quarters of the city before the fire. The New York Times review of "Smyrna, Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City," was on the fence about the film, saying it relied too heavily on Milton.
Also among the narrators in the film: a Turkish anthropologist who describes a firsthand account of how the Greek army burned the nearby Turkish village of Manisa, just before Smyrna burned. War is ugly. But the victors write the script: Manisa is now marketed through teas and a sweet and spicy paste thought to have health benefits. (see above)
Iliou used a piano-infused soundtrack for the film. But typically Smyrnaika and rebetika music is full of powerful words -- listen to singer Sophia Bilides about loss of homeland, about love and the randomness of fate. In particular, this fun Rebetika song about Little Dimitra, at minute 42, in a Library of Congress concert video, offers these lyrics: "Little Dimitra, go out and eat fish, drink retsina, have a night of high spirits and good health, break things with your hips."
Don't mind if I do!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Must Reads: Middle East Minority Perspectives

Some important international headlines to ponder, glued as we've been to East Coast hurricane news and U.S. presidential campaign coverage:

The largest Christian denomination in the Middle East, the Coptic Orthodox in Egypt, named a new leader this weekend, the BBC reports. The photos are inspiring, with an explanation of how the choice among the top-three candidates was left "in the hands of God."

From the New Yorker: An absolutely gripping tale about a U.S. Iraq war veteran who, tormented by a battle where Americans killed civilians including three members of an Armenian Christian family, sought out his victims' relatives now living in California. In a story highlighed by NPR and Charlie Rose, read how Dexter Filkins' interviews at a Baghdad hospital and subsequent stories facilitated forgiveness from the sins of war. Journalism at its best.

Then, a BBC essay on Izmir, the West Coast city once called Smyrna. It is among the Turkish locales flooded with Syrian refugees. This piece addresses what we have been asked to forget: Turkey still is "scarred by wanton killing and destruction in World War I." Fergan Keane writes,
"Gone are the streets in which the voices of Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Levantines and Jews mingled ... prayed and made music and told stories in the narrow lanes of the bazaar and by the glittering water of the Aegean."
That brings us to New York Times review last week of wildly popular Turkish movie, "Conquest 1453," dramatizing the Ottoman capture of Constantinople, now Istanbul. Fascination with the era has launched TV shows and other projects. The author juxtaposes opinion:
  • Says Melis Behlil, a film studies professor at Kadir Has University: “The Ottoman revival is good for the national ego" ... but films like "Conquest 1453 are engaging in cultural revisionism and glorifying the past without looking at history in a critical way."
  • Says Burak Temir, a German-Turkish actor who learned to sword fight and use a bow and arrow for an Ottoman-era show: “It makes me proud to be Turkish.”
Turkey is diligently working to establish its political dominance as Egypt, Iraq and Syria struggle. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan just met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, underscoring tensions as Turkey pushes 2023 membership in the European Union, reports Der Speigel, the German newspaper. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz emphasizes his plans to visit the Gaza strip.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chaos and Classicism

The rebirth of classicism in art between the world wars, exemplified by this Picasso portrait from a private collection, is the subect of a Guggenheim Museum exhibit through early January. Picasso painted this piece, "Buste de Femme, Les Bras Levees," in 1922, the year of the Greek exodus from Asia Minor. Yet there is no mention of the international castrophe in the timeline and history at the start of the exhibit, which focuses on Italy, France and Germany and includes many other artists. In the year of the Lausanne Treaty, 1923, Picasso said: "The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was. Art does not evolve by itself, the ideas of people change, and with them their mode of expression."
* The New York Times exhibit review says, "Whether [Picasso] was celebrating classicism or mocking it is a little hard to tell."
* Also worth seeing online: Guggenheim's YouTube collaboration, YouTube Play: 100s of stylish, independent videos.