OK so you see the phrase “Epic Greek Tragedy” and you might surmise it is some ancient Greek play I am referring to. Quite the opposite. This is a 2015 Greek film delving into a most unpleasant topic which is the humiliating step by step process where in 1943 some 50,000 Jews in Thessaloniki were transported to German concentration camps being told by the Germans they were going to proper housing and would be treated well after of course handing over all their money which they would be reimbursed for in Polish Zlotys when they arrived in Poland.
In 1492 some 20,000 Sephardic Jews were exiled from Spain and the Ottomans, then controlling Thessaloniki, permitted them to settle in Thessaloniki. At one point the Jewish population in Thessaloniki reached close to 70,000. However the great fire of 1917 left some 50,000 of Jews in Thessaloniki homeless and many, including President Sarkozy’s family, emigrated to Paris. Today there is one synagogue left in Thessaloniki serving an estimated population of 1,000.
Thessaloniki is a lovely city full of Byzantine churches and Roman ruins and is home to The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki where I learnt the fate of the 50,000 so the Film “Cloudy Sunday” which depicts the barbaric road to extermination for so many was no surprise but it was painful to watch.
Besides being an historical drama, it is also a love story between Yorgos (Haris Fragoulis), a young carpenter who is Christian, and Estrea (Christina Heila-Fameli) a Jewess. And there is prejudice shown by both families to this relationship.
I appreciate that honesty and I also commend the film for documenting the Greek informant’s and stoolies who turned Greek resistance members in and worked side by side with the Germans.
The Greek resistance bravely fought against all odds as they did in most of Greece paying a severe price for their families and community.
The German tactics were a gradual stripping away of dignity and civil rights with hangings, assassinations and torture and finally expulsion.
The portrayal of a Jewish rabbi was not very complimentary in saying let’s co-operate and they’ll leave us alone. Many agreed and some disagreed but the rabbi was obviously very wrong.
I do not want to reveal the plot line here but my thought is that this is an epic film presenting many sides of an unpleasant equation. Neither Jew, Christian or Greek is sanitized.
After all the trauma you witness it looks like the love story will finally bear fruit but it takes a shocking twist that just might take your breath away.
Fragoulis and Heila-Fameli are impeccable and the casting solid all around. The direction by Manoussos Manousakis is solid and the soundtrack magnificent.
You can catch this film streaming at the Hellenic Film Society USA through February 7th. In fact the Society streams a couple of Greek films for a month starting on the first Sunday of the month. It is accessible to viewers throughout the world so check out their website.
Keep reading here and I’ll give you a tip if these Greek films are a good watch.” Cloudy Sunday” is an excellent watch. It is a tiring if not exhausting experience.
The film is 119 minutes long in Greek with English subtitles. You can catch the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxUnuOHzySk&feature=emb_logo