“Unwitnessed Memories” – A Post-War Cypriot Film by Athena Xenidou

ASTORIA – The Greek Cultural Center’s Hell Gate Film Society welcomes Independent Filmmakers of Cyprus to showcase their exceptional work in New York. The series which began March 27 and is ongoing illustrates the array of work from the independent film scene on the beautiful island of Cyprus.

On Sunday May 1, Athena Xenidou, a director, producer, and screenwriter presented her 3-minute shorts, Insidious, Invisible (2020) and Saving Joy (2020) co-directed by Sophia Tsangaridou, as well as her first feature film documentary, Unwitnessed Memories (2000). The film was an International Emmy Awards semi-finalist, Gold Special Jury Award winner at Worldfest Houston, Best Documentary at the Cyprus International Film Festival, and received distinctions at The International Human Rights Film Festival in Prague and IDFA in Amsterdam.

Left to right: Elisabetta Lucia Diorio, Athena Xenidou, and Anastasia Antoniou at the Greek Cultural Center in Astoria. Photo: Courtesy of Athena Xenidou

Unwitnessed Memories encapsulates the painful and poignant experiences of the post-war generation which lived through 1974 when Cyprus was invaded by Turkey. Families fled their homes unexpectedly, separated from one another, with the hope of seeing their loved ones again.

The documentary features eight different individual experiences from people who may have not gone through the war themselves, but were the generation branded by this event. Director Athena Xenidou stated during the screening’s Q&A, “1974 defined our generation and traumatized us, whether we were there when it happened or not. We were so close to the trauma that we were inevitably formed by it.”

When asked whether she would produce a continuation of the film today she said, “there have been times where I have been approached by producers internationally in order to do a sequel now that the borders are open, and I said no. I didn’t want to relive the trauma.”

Q&A with director Athena Xenidou during the series, Independent Filmmakers of Cyprus. Photo: Courtesy of Athena Xenidou

The unresolved political situation is kept alive today, as Cyprus’ capital city, Nicosia is the last divided capital in the world. It is a historical city with a fenced old town and impressive landmarks, but brutally split in two.

The question however remains. Does memory fade throughout generations? “I felt like it back then, that by generations down the line, the feeling will not be as intense as how we felt it back then. I don’t think any of our kids today would ever climb a pole to change the flag in a demonstration,” Xenidou said.

“As a political strategy from any invader, whether it’s Putin, whether it’s the Turks back then, they know that memory fades and through generations it will not be as intense for the kids to fight for what happened years ago,” she added.

The film series is free to the public and will run through May 11.




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