Many countries around the world have experienced the devastating effects of earthquakes. In 1953, Greece went through such a tragedy when one of the world’s most powerful series of earthquakes destroyed several Greek islands of the Ionian Sea. Two amateur cameramen happened to be on the island of Cephalonia at the time and captured some rare footage of those trying times for the Greek people. For those of you that saw Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (also filmed at beautiful Cephalonia), the author of the book turned film, writes about the great earthquake that took place in August of that summer. The documentary gives viewers an opportunity to see the before and after effects of the series of earthquakes that took place.
In this film, interviews with a number of former residents and those who survived the devastation, gives us a chance to really understand that while such destructive experiences can either be seen with a heavy dose of unhappiness and loss or an opportunity to build anew literally from the ground up and restore faith for a better future.
As a young boy, the narrator remembers images of bombed out cities from the ruins of the World War II atrocities, his very own mother held captive in the concentration camps, and now the earthquake, which only made things more challenging. Despite this, the Greek people’s strength, courage and faith in their patron Saint Gerasimos is impressive as some of the interviewees shared their insights into how their lives changed for the better. With the help of foreigners, they were able to restore their villages. A street in the island capital of Argostoli is named after the first British Royal Navy ship HMS Daring that brought much needed assistance.
It was quite inspiring to see such positivity expressed by some of the interviewees about the opportunities that this event brought, some even looking back now were able to express themselves with a dose of humor about it. As one 45 year married couple who ballroom dances in their living room for an hour each day with gratitude of their survival said “one has to look at the past because your past follows you.”
Overall, the director Yuri Averof presented a well documented film about this topic. While many people of Greek origin will be able to connect with the historical aspects of the film, it also will give non-Greeks an opportunity to understand this historical happening as well as understand on a universal human level that many times, circumstances may look bleak, but with a positive attitude and efforts, things can change for the better. As the narrator Stratis Haviaras adds “work released energies we did not know existed.”