CULTURE

Documentary traces lives of Greeks in the French port city of Marseilles

Filmmaker Marco Gastine has two cities he calls home: Paris, where he was born in the 1950s and Athens, where he has chosen to live in. Over the past four years, a third homeland entered his life, Marseilles. Gastine’s initial idea for a documentary on Marseilles did not materialize. But it led to another idea, a documentary that would trace the journey of Greeks who reached Marseilles and their descendants. «Marseille, Profil Grec» was awarded first distinction at the National Quality Film Awards in Thessaloniki a few weeks ago. Gastine feels he has an old connection to Marseilles. «I’ve felt drawn to it for a long time. Although geographically this is not valid, I feel that it is halfway between my two homelands, Paris and Greece. I pictured Marseilles as Greece’s opening to France, or rather France with a touch of Greece.» When Gastine’s initial documentary plans fell through, an arranged meeting paved the way for the film which is being screened at local movie theaters. Getting acquainted with Mrs Getou, a second-generation Greek, introduced him to what, until then, had been an unknown world: the Greeks of Marseilles. Some of them, the rich merchants, arrived at the city from the island of Chios or Istanbul in the 19th century. Most of them, however, from Asia Minor and the Dodecanese islands (mostly Kalymnos), reached the French port penniless. Gastine did not see Marseilles Greeks as a close-knit migrant community. «We must not confuse them with the Greeks of Australia or those in the United States. Many of them are politically active in the Left, which was a way for them to become incorporated into French society.» Hence the French-Greek filmmaker focused on the individuals rather than the group: «What was interesting was their personal stories. I discovered small odysseys behind their journeys and that is what I tried to depict.» What is it that unites people apart from their common descent? «It is being away from home, nostalgia and memory. By focusing on something personal, one talks about the universal: What happens with people who have different backgrounds and want to pass it on to their children and grandchildren?» Gastine’s own dual identity comes out clearly in the film. «Toward the end, the leading character says that when you have two identities, you never feel right about where you are. I would change that a bit: I would say that when you have two identities, you are never exactly where you think you are.»