Golfo, Greece’s 1st Feature Film, at 100

THESSALONIKI – “Golfo, a young shepherdess, and Tasos, a young shepherd, are secretly in love but are too poor to support their union.

“Fortunately, an English lord, who visits the area, gives the boy a great sum of money for rescuing his life in an archaeological expedition and the couple is now able to get engaged. Shortly after, a new obstacle emerges: the rich Master Shepherd Zisis’ daughter Stavroula and her cousin, rich shepherd Kitsos, wish to marry Tasos and Golfo respectively.

“While Golfo is not affected by Kitsos’ woos, Tasos is convinced by Yannos, the village villain, to abandon his beloved and marry Stavroula. As the wedding is in preparation, Golfo, half-mad, curses Tasos and then poisons herself. Tasos, after a violent fight with his rival Kitsos, regrets his decision and rushes back to Golfo, who dies in his arms.

“The young shepherd commits suicide next to her. Death has united them.”

That summary, of an 1893 play by Spiridon Peresiades called Golfo, if from the article “From ‘Made in Greece’ to ‘Made in China’: a 21st Century Touring Revival of Golfo, a 19th Century Greek Melodrama,” in Issue 1 of FILMCON: Journal of Greek Film Studies (September, 2013), written by Panayota Konstantinakou, a PhD candidate in Theater Studies at the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki.

The play was turned into a silent film – in fact, Greece’s first feature film – by the same name, by Konstantinos Bachatoris in 1914, exactly 100 years ago. Virginia Diamadi starred as Golfo, and Yorgos Ploutis as Tasos.

The “dramatic idyll” genre in plays morphed into the “mountain film” cinematic version, an easy transition from the stage to the screen of the popular Greek pastoral setting.

As natural a choice as Golfo seemed to have been for Greece’s first feature film, it did not fare very well, and it was only in later years – the interwar years, Konstantinakou wrote – when that film genre ascended in popularity.

Yet Golfo has endured, was remade into a film in 1955, wrote film scholar Dimitris Koliodimos in Greek Filmography: 1914-1996, and its main characters’ roles were revived in the 1982 satirical film Alalum, whose plot Konstaninakou summarized in her article: “Golfo and Tasos are offspring of the two most powerful families of a Greek village, who are longtime enemies. Not even after their children’s wedding do their families stop fighting against each other; in fact, the whole village is drawn into the fight. This popular comedy – a huge commercial success – transforms the given story in order to provide a metaphor for the Greek Civil War and modern Greek character, i.e. for the inability of the Greeks to live in concord with each other.”

Konstantinakou told TNH that at the dawn of the 21st century, “theatre people have found new ways to approach these old plays and offer them to 21st century audiences.” Specifically, she referred to: 1) The Golfo Project of HoROS Theatre Company, a touring work-in-progress directed by Simos Kakkalas (2004-present), which is a post-modern reading of the original play, addressing current issues, such as national identity and childhood memory; and 2) The Greek National Theatre performance directed by Nikos Karathanos (2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons), which forms part of the theatre’s wider program that attempts to answer the question: What is our homeland?

Happy Birthday, Golfo! To the next hundred years!