SOCIETY

Documentary on mother’s love, as expressed in food parcels, on screen at French Institute

The Greek mother is a special breed of person, a nurturer whose love for her children is boundless. And wherever her child may go, near or far, her home-cooked food invariably follows. The Greek mother’s food parcel – moussaka, stuffed vine leave, pies and every other delicacy that can be packed into a plastic food container – has been been making its way through airports, ports and intercity bus stations all over Greece and around the world for decades now, most often packed into the luggage of sons and daughters as they head off to university.

These days, meanwhile, as young Greek adults head further and further away from the nest in search of jobs, this practice has experience a surge that goes hand in hand with the typical overprotectiveness of most Greek mothers and everything else that entails.

The typical relationship between Greek mothers and their children, one which is often manifested in food, is the subject of the documentary “Food for Love” by Marianna Economou, which will be screened on Wednesday, December 11 (at 9.30 p.m.) as part of the Cinedoc festival currently being hosted by the French Institute in Athens.

The camera follows three moms – two in Athens and one in Agrinio, western Greece – as they prepare food parcels for their children in Scotland, Romania and the northwestern Greek city of Ioannina.

“I told him: I’m sending you artichokes, meat, apple pies and raisins. And he just started going on and on, complaining. But you know that he’ll be overjoyed when he opens the parcel,” says one of the mothers as she tries to pack the food into a suitcase in such a way so that it won’t be found too easily in a customs check.

In a recent interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA), Economou said that she believes the typical Greek mother is anything but an endangered breed.

“That’s what compelled me to do the documentary,” she told AMNA. “I thought it was a practice that was traditional, but the opposite is the case. When I started seeing that all my friends were sending parcels of spinach pie on the sly, I admit that I was intrigued by the phenomenon and wanted to explore it.”

“Food for Love” has been screened at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival as well as at other festivals in Europe in the past year. It also did very well when it was screened in August by the French-German television station Arte, part of a tribute to Greece.

The way the film is perceived by non-Greeks is as “something that is either very funny or very odd,” says Economou.

“Foreigners wonder how it’s still possible for mothers to behave in this way toward their grown-up children. I try to delve into the psychology of the Greek mother in the film and into what food means to her in terms of her relationship with her child. We know that food has a symbolic dimension, and the truth is that most Greek families are connected through food,” Economou told AMNA.

Is this relationship judged in the documentary?

“Of course there are some issues that are up for judgment, but I have tried not to be judgmental because the messages that come across, the emotions, are very multilayered. It would be very easy to make a film and say that this whole phenomenon is oppressive, domineering, that it destroys the children, etc. Of course this is true to an extent, but there is so much more at play.”

“Food for Love” does not follow a script or have interviews with experts.

“It is done in the same way as I normally do documentaries: observing what is going at that particular moment,” says the director of the award-winning 2009 documentary “Sfaktirias Street.” [AMNA]

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French Institute in Athens, 31 Sina, tel 210.339.8600. A second screening of the documentary will take place on Sunday, December 15, at the Danaos cinema (109 Kifissias, tel 210.692.2655, 210.692.2609).