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Culture

Sold Out Screening of Smyrna, My Beloved at the Museum of the Moving Image

ASTORIA – The Hellenic Film Society USA (HFS) presented the New York premiere of the film Smyrna, My Beloved about the destruction of the cosmopolitan city of Smyrna and its vibrant and prosperous Greek community at the hands of the Turkish Army in 1922. The premiere was held on April 29 at the Directors Guild Theater in Manhattan. On May 1, the film was presented in a sold-out screening at the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) in Astoria as part of the HFS Always on Sunday monthly series of Greek films.

The moving, historical drama follows a wealthy Greek family in Smyrna as they experience the burning of the city and the atrocities committed against the Greek and Armenian populations. The film opens in the present as a young Greek-American woman visits Greece with her grandmother to help Syrian refugees and discovers her own family’s similar experience a century earlier in the Smyrna Catastrophe.

Hellenic Film Society USA President Jimmy DeMetro. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Smyrna, My Beloved is based on Mimi Denissi’s acclaimed play which ran in Athens for three years. Denissi co-wrote the script and also stars in the film, directed by Grigoris Karantinakis.

HFS President Jimmy DeMetro gave the welcoming remarks at the screening on May 1, noting that the film is “quite an epic production” with “very strong special effects and wonderful production values.”

“It is an important film not only for what it represents to Greek cinema, but, of course, for the subject matter as well,” he said. “For Greek and Armenian people the name of Smyrna carries special significance, and I think it’s very important to remember our history, don’t forget, and films like this are valuable because they bring the past to mind and hopefully we learn from it.”

“The burning of Smyrna was a seminal event in modern Greek history, seared into the consciousness of Greeks, many of whom immigrated to the U.S. as a result of that atrocity,” DeMetro said. “Against the backdrop of the current refugee crises around the world, this is an important story to tell and we are privileged to be able to show this moving film.”

The film recreates a way of life that vanished in the Catastrophe, highlighting the cosmopolitan city where various languages were spoken in the streets and diverse groups coexisted, relatively peacefully, for years. Glimpses of other classes and cultures whose points of view differed markedly from those of the middle and upper classes hint at the impending doom, but the Baltatzis family continues on its course towards the inevitable conclusion. Historic figures offer some context and exposition, though the film seems most powerful in the emotional scenes and confrontations between the family members and their servants.

For those of us who know the history, to some extent, there are no surprises. We know which of the historic characters are doomed to a horrific death along with the hundreds of thousands who perished in the burning of the city. The way the fictional characters respond to the tragedy is what keeps the audience’s attention.

A trailer for the film can be found on the Hellenic Film Society’s YouTube channel.

DeMetro also announced the return of Greek Films on Demand May 6-15 with the films Suntan (2016), directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos, and Xenia (2014), directed by Panos Koutras, and the next Always on Sunday screening at MoMI on June 12 of the film Apples, directed and produced by Christos Nikou.

My Beloved Smyrna original movie poster.

More information is available online: www.hellenicfilmusa.org and by phone: 347-934-9497 and follow HFS on Facebook and Instagram.

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