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!