Director/screen writer: Tassos Boulmetis
Producer: Makis Angelopoulos
Soundtrack: Evanthia Reboutsika
They say history is written by the victors, and that these stories will be echoed through the annals of time. It was 1968. Greece had struggled through three civil wars and was entering its second year of a military dictatorship. People were divided and tensions were running high.
On April 4th, 80 000 spectators made their way to Kallimarmaron Stadium (a Guinness World Record at the time) and the streets of Athens were deserted. Director/screen writer Tassos Boulmetis cleverly weaves fact with fiction to tell the story of the night Greek basketball team AEK made history against Czechoslovakia’s Slavia VŠ Praha in the European Cup. The story of a victory that united a dived nation.
The story commences with a bus driver tuning his radio to the beginning of the match. The driver’s first stop is at the “Refugee Quarter”, the neighbourhood where ethnic Greeks landed after fleeing from “Constantinople” (modern day Istanbul) in the aftermath of the Greco-Turkish War. Boulmetis incorporated real footage to gives a historical background of the War and to demonstrate the atrocities committed against the Greek and Armenian population.
A flash back to 1924 reveals the formation AEK or Athletic Union of Constantinople (Athlitikí Énosis Konstantinoupóleos). Kostas Dimopoulos, one of the creators of the club, wanted to form a basketball team using the refugees and use the story of their suffering to “build the new world”.
Boulmetis integrates real interviews with surviving members of AEK and Slavia VŠ Praha who recount their experiences. The AEK players and their determination to beat the odds for the pride of their nation. And the Slavia VŠ Praha players reflecting on the hospitality and generosity shown to them by the Greeks.
Radios are used as a motif to deliver us back to the fictional stories occurring on the night of the match. A waiter who promises to marry his girlfriend in the unlikely event that AEK win. A prison guard who secretly lets a jailed political dissident listen into the match. And a man searching for his long, lost brother.
Despite the intensity of the stories, this film has a serious injection of humour. Through life and death, weakness and fortitude, this film is laugh out loud funny.
Evanthis Reboutsika must also be commended on her atmospheric soundtrack. The wedding scene makes you want to stand up, yell “op-ah!” and smash some plates.
Like the gift that keeps on giving, the depth of this docudrama will really resonate with you. And the stories of a moment of glory will echo through time.
Review by Hannah Parslow
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