Greek cinema, frame by frame

How does one fit the history of Greek cinema into a museum space of 600 square meters? As the technology that developed from the Lumiere brothers’ magic wooden boxes to the all-powerful equipment of today? As a technique that captures and preserves reality? Or as an art form that has its own, continuously evolving aesthetic rules and directions? Questions like these were examined by a small team following the European Union’s approval of a complete renovation of the Thessaloniki Museum of Cinema funded by Community Support Framework III. The final result can now be seen at the museum’s home, Warehouse A at the northern port city’s main harbor, where visitors will be given a – literally – frame-by-frame tour through the history of Greek cinema. «Brought to light» is the motto of the new exhibition, which is split into eight parts, or scenes. A reel that unwinds, accompanied by a countdown from eight to one, is the underlying theme of this smart and attractive museological proposal that is ideal for educational field trips. The eight scenes have been coordinated with the time line of Greek history up to the point where a three-dimensional film is shown (the first in any of the country’s museums) which describes, step by step, the painstaking process of making a film, and how many elements are involved in order for it to be «brought to light,» explained the Thessaloniki Museum of Cinema’s director, Vassilis Kechagias, at a recent tour of the premises. The exhibit’s permanent tour guide, however, is Takis, a film character who is half real and half imaginary – the creation of director Yiannis Manakias – and was born at the same moment that cinema emerged in the Balkans. At the entrance of the museum, the facades of two old movie theaters recall the shadow play in Plato’s «Republic» – also the first description of the art of cinema – as they flit away, yet leave behind the essence of the act of cinema, which has captured a moment – forever. The museum reel, with its touch screens, pictures, objects and texts, guides the visitor through known and unknown scenes of Greek cinematic history. There are important dates, such as 1907, 1915-40, 1960-70 and the blossoming of post-junta artistic freedom in the late 1970s and 1980s. Also, one corner is reserved for significant personalities of Greek cinema, such as the Manakias brothers, Takis Kanellopoulos and Stavros Tornes. There is even a tribute to the Thessaloniki Film Festival and the chronology of how quality cinema gave itself up to more mainstream fare in order to survive. «The film that you see, and think it is one reel, is actually a montage derived from dozens of reels,» clarifies Nasia Hourmouziadi, who was in charge of the of the architectural and museological study for the museum’s renovation. The chief character in this exhibition’s game of illusion is, of course, the films themselves. Scenes from famous Greek films play on projector screens scattered through the premises. Also on display are original film posters, old photographs, costumes and other film memorabilia serving as scenery, while digital technology helps to round out the exhibit by making a database available. «This is by no means a final result,» notes Hourmouziadi. «We want this museum to evolve – we want the visitor to be the one that says ‘Cut!’»

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