NEW YORK – There have been occasions to wonder whether non-Greeks care more about some Greek matters than Greek-Americans, but the screening of Jules Dassin’s film “The Rehearsal” which filled the renowned National Arts Club in Manhattan on December 9 was not one of them.
The audience came because Jules Dassin’s 1974 film about the bloody suppression of the student uprising against the Greek dictatorship at the Athens Polytechnic on November 17, 1973 raises universal questions echoing across America today in protests against and in support of police forces: what is the role of the police and military in democratic societies.
The film aslo asks, with relevance for Greece today: How far can citizens be pushed before they cry “Stop! Basta! OXI!”
The Rehearsal was filmed in an experimental style that captured the fast paced events of November 15-17, 1974. The singing of the actors also accurately reflected the events and the spirit of the students. It is a unique work that should be seen, not described, and is available on YouYube.
After the screening there was a panel discussion and Q & A featuring Stathis Giallelis, who was the lead in both the Rehearsal and Elia Kazan’s Amerika Amerika, Stephen Diacrussi, then a student at the High School of Performing Arts who also played a student and presented the film debuts of now-classic Greek songs like Markopoulos’ Dubu-dubu-za and Theodorakis’ Ena to Helidoni, Foster Hirsch, noted film historian and Sharyn Grossman, Chairman of the NAC Film Committee.
The film was created by Dassin, his wife Melina Mercouri and other leading lights of Greek culture like Mikis Theodorakis, who composed the music, to spread the word around the world and especially in America about the crimes of the regime in the hopes of creating a movement that would bring it down.
It was shot in secret with a tiny budget fueled by passion and urgency in less than four weeks on a Manhattan sound stage. Sadly for the film but happily for Greece, the regime fell just as it was finished. It was never distributed in the U.S.
During Q & A Gaillelis noted that most of the Greek-American community had made its peace with the regime, but that many young people participated in the film behind their parents’ backs.
Grossman told TNH how she discovered The Rehearsal.
Marisa Stefatos, who had helped her present a different Greek film, introduced Grossman to Stavroula Toska. The latter was directing documentary – which was finished in 2014 – titled “Beneath the Olive Tree” regarding another dark period in Greek history – about the women who were sent to concentration camps for allegedly being communists by the Greek government during and after WWII. Grossman met Dukakis, who is in the Rehearsal, at an early screening of “Beneath the Olive Tree.”
When Hirsh suggested presenting The Rehearsal, she asked Toska about it, who excitedly told Grossman: “That is the film Olympia Dukakis is most proud of,” sealing the deal.