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Cinema

David Nicholas Wilkinson Talks to TNH on His Film ‘The Marbles’

March 27, 2024

NEW YORK – The fact that the stolen Parthenon sculptures remain on view at the British Museum is perplexing to most people and deeply upsetting to others. In recent years, many media outlets, including The National Herald, have reported on polls in Britain that confirm public opinion is in favor of returning the Parthenon Marbles to their rightful home. So why are we still waiting for the sculptures’ return to Greece?

Filmmaker David Nicholas Wilkinson is working on completing his documentary film ‘The Marbles’, which started filming on March 25, 2021, the day Greece celebrated its 200th year of freedom. The film outlines the case for the Parthenon Marbles to be returned to Athens and documents the ups and downs that have occurred since Greece’s bicentennial. Wilkinson spoke with TNH about the film and the effort to raise funds to complete it.

TNH: How did ‘The Marbles’ come about?

David Nicholas Wilkinson: Alkis Kritikos, an actor I was working with in the theatre (I used to be an actor) back in 1974, corrected me when I referred to the Parthenon sculptures as the Elgin Marbles. The term everyone in the UK called them back then. Alkis also informed me that they were stolen.

I thought he must have his facts wrong. We British don’t go around stealing things; we believe in fair play, honesty, and truth. We are honorable. I was 18 at the time and very naïve. I would later find out the real truth, and like many, I was baffled that my country could continue a lie told by Lord Elgin over 200 years ago that he had legally acquired these priceless sculptures.

Participants in the documentary film The Marbles by David Wilkinson. Photo: The Marbles Director of Photography Don McVey

Over the years, I became so indignant that we were treating the people of Greece with such contempt that I decided that, as a filmmaker, I must use my skills to make a documentary feature film that would put the facts to not only the citizens of my own country but also those around the world. Everyone seeing my film will realize how unfair it was that the Parthenon Marbles were in London, not Athens.

I started the development work in 2008-2009, but at a meeting with a senior official within the British establishment, I was informed that nothing would happen regarding the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles whilst the UK was one of the three leading countries within the EU drafting many of the laws for all the member states on important issues such as climate change and human rights. This person said the UK would never do something as stupid as leaving the EU. They said it would be like California breaking away from the United States of America. How we laughed. I, therefore, put the project on the back burner.

On January 31, 2020, the UK left the European Union. Suddenly, regarding the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, Greece theoretically had 26 other countries siding with it against the United Kingdom.

TNH: What inspired you to make the documentary at this particular time?

DW: On the 25th of March 2021, I started filming The Marbles. It was perfect timing, I thought. A date that means nothing to British people but everything to those of Greek heritage.

TNH: What is the most challenging aspect of making the film?

DW: Raising the money. I cannot finish the film until I raise the money to complete the filming in the USA, France, and, of course, Greece. Then comes the post-production process.

I cannot raise investment funding because the film will never be economically viable. As I stated in my article [The Marbles – An Invitation to Join a Great Cause, published in TNH on March 23] the normal route would be for a UK broadcaster to provide almost all the budget just for the UK rights.

National Hellenic Society Executive Director Art Dimopoulos is a tremendous supporter of the film and understands how a film will be far more powerful at changing hearts and minds than any of the books written about this appalling wrong my country has committed.

Books tend to be read by the converted or those interested in the subject. Documentary films are watched, especially on television and streaming platforms, by people who want to know “what all the fuss is about.” So many will know almost nothing. That’s the audience I am aiming for. I am NOT making the film for Greeks and those of Greek heritage. They know the truth already. I am making it for everyone else.

If this film plays just in the UK and Greece, I will have failed.

In the 21st century, museums and art galleries around the world should no longer display artifacts acquired from dubious sources.

In the matter of the Parthenon Marbles, Greece is our friend, a loyal and decent friend of the United Kingdom. This is not how we treat friends.

TNH: What has been the most rewarding aspect of making the film?

DW: As I have not finished, I cannot answer that, but I suspect it will be when I film in the Acropolis Museum – the rightful home of the Parthenon Marbles.

TNH: Do you think we’re close to seeing the Marbles finally return to Athens?

DW: Yes. It is just a matter of time. For them to be returned, there needs to be an Act of Parliament, and as soon as I have completed the film, I will arrange a screening at the Palace of Westminster for the lawmakers.

Remember, there was a mindset in my country that once said that Ireland, India, and numerous countries in Africa and the Caribbean could not be independent of the British Empire.

As a nation, history has shown that we can change our minds as a result of many things, including public opinion being against the status quo. ‘The Marbles’ will change the minds of many once they know the truth. There are still millions of my fellow British citizens who believe the over 200-year-old lie that the Parthenon Marbles were legally acquired.

TNH: What are you working on next?

DW: I do have other projects, but this film is my priority. I want to complete it next year, as I am pretty certain we will have a totally new government, and with hope comes change. ‘The Marbles’ will show how utterly unfair it is to cling to an outdated British Empire mindset and that the UK (excluding Scotland) is on the wrong side of history.

The National Hellenic Society is supporting the film and encourages everyone to join in and “help set them free” by making a donation online: https://www.nationalhellenicsociety.org/donate.

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