Τετάρτη, 16 Οκτωβρίου 2013

THE OTHER TOWN

The Other Town
October 15, 2013 19:00
ASCSA, Cotsen Hall, 9 Anapiron Polemou, 106 76 Athens
Documentary Film & Discussio
Presented byimage a painting   
The Gennadius Library

Speaker
Nefin Dinc (Director) & Hercules (Iraklis) Millas (Writer)
210-72.10.536 (ext. 101)

Is “The Other Town” Similar to Our Town? A documentary on ethnic controversies
(By H. Millas)
Documentaries on ethnic groups which are in conflict are mostly of two kinds. Either they blame the “other side” for all the ills or they try to show that there has been a kind of misunderstanding and that both sides are innocent. The first kind reflects the nationalist approach: the “other” is responsible, we are the victims! The second approach is good-willing and reconciliatory but unrealistic and even naive. In our documentary on Greek-Turkish relations, The Other Town, we tried to show that there is something in the wrong in both societies that recreates national prejudices, stereotypes and mistrust for the “other” that in consequence impedes mutual understanding. 
The Greek-Turkish relations are calm the last decade. Some serious problems still remain, however, and they pose as potential danger. The disputes over the Aegean (gray zones and claims on sovereignty rights about continental shelves etc.), the minority rights and the Cyprus issue are still pending. These political controversies become more difficult to solve when perceptions about a “negative other” are still widespread in both communities and they are continuously recreated through media, schooling, political discourse, literature etc. Maybe even worse is that the two sides in conflict do not even suspect that prejudices and stereotypes are daily produced in everyday talk within both societies and that the decision makers themselves are under their negative influence. This is a vicious circle where prejudices cause tension which reinforces prejudices anew.  
The “Other Town” examines not only how the two sides think and feel about the past and the “other,” but also the environment in which these opinions are formed. The educational practices, the public ceremonies and speeches, the museums and the monuments are all means that shape this environment. The attitudes of the young and old people with whom we talked also showed that nations mostly believe what they have been told to believe. They feel happy when they exalt their side, i.e. their nation, and when they treat the “other” as a scapegoat. They base their identity on all these constructions. Most importantly, they are far from awareness of what forms their opinions and perceptions. Therefore, the film can be utilized to study national identity, frozen conflicts, and deadlocks in conflict resolution.  
All contemporary societies have certain characteristics in common, so this film should interest a wide circle of viewers. Love and hate, insecurity and pride, attachment to communal myths and compassion, fear and desire for peace (or for strife), ethnic prejudices and stereotypes are all human features and shared by many communities.
The director Nefin Dinç and I worked for more than a year to complete the filming in two lovely towns, the first in Greece and the second in Turkey. The Greek town is in the center of the Peloponnese (southern Greece) and is famous for its contribution to the 1821 Greek revolt against the Ottoman rule. The town produced much of the gun powder needed during the revolution. Dimitsana is now a winter resort area that attracts visitors and tourists. It is also known as a historically religious center. Picturesque monasteries as well as the residences of historic religious personalities populate the area. For example, the house of Patriarch Grigorios, who was hanged in Istanbul by the Ottoman authorities when the revolt began, has been turned into a museum.  

Birgi is a historic town in Western Turkey (Anatolia), near Ödemiş, with many mosques and other monuments that attract tourists. Once a Byzantine town (Pyrgion), in the 14th century it became the capital of Aydınoğulları, a Turkic emirate. According to a legend, Umur Bey, who was from Birgi, was the first Turkish sailor to reach the Peloponnesus and fight there. In the first quarter of the 20th century the town was inhabited by both Turks and Greeks. Its present proud inhabitants narrate stories about the “efes” and the “zeybeks,” the legendary warriors that fought against the Greek army that invaded and occupied the area during the years 1919-1922.
We talked to many people in both towns, and asked questions about the way they perceive their history and the role and character of the “other.” We observed that the blend of “us-other” operates for both groups with reference to their identity. We watched how the public sphere influences young and old, and how people react to related “difficult” questions. Stereotypes characterize the discourse of the inhabitants of the two towns:  the “other” is negative because he is the same throughout history. Insecurity related to sovereignty is the second aspect: “they invaded our land, they may do it again!” Both the stereotypes and the insecurities are justified by references to old times.

The past is projected into the future. “History” is reminded and reproduced by various means but always one-sided. The “other’ is being taught stereotypically not only in classrooms as shown in the film but by many other public manifestations: The national celebrations foster militarism, the museums and the monuments reinforce the national myths that recreate the bipolar controversy. The residents of the two towns either reject or try to silence events that they contradict their beliefs. Especially the better educated ones repeat “with absolute confidence”, as one of them said, that there is no prejudice in their town vis-à-vis the “other”. It is only “the other town” to be blamed. 
       
The documentary also shows that there are exceptions to the rule. There are individuals who clearly express their concern for the “education” that is dominant in the two societies.

A booklet accompanies the documentary where some scenes are further discussed and some recurring questions put after the projections are answered.  The problematic of the film can be summarized in a passage that is included in this booklet: “Why is the past interpreted so differently in the two countries? When and how did these mutual prejudices arise? Is our hatred and distrust of one another the result of what happened in the past or a reflection of what we’ve been told at school, at home, or on television?”

Various universities at present make use of this documentary to discuss issues of political science, conflict resolution, national images and stereotypes, international relations. 

The film has won the Audience Award at the Thessaloniki International Documentary Film Festival (March 2011) where it made its premiere. Until now The Other Town was shown in many festivals, in universities and in institutions in Turkey, in Greece, in the USA, etc. In December 2011 it received the Special Documentary  award in the 16. Boston Turkish Cultural Festival and in October 2012 the Best Historical Documentary Award at the Greek Film Festival of Chicago. It has not been in the market yet. The residents of the two towns speak, naturally, in Turkish and Greek and at present there are two versions of the film: One with English subtitles and one with Turkish subtitles. The original filming exceeds eighty hours but the documentary itself is forty five minutes.

Our documentary is critical to the “educational” practices of Greece and Turkey. The negative effects can be traced in what both sides say about the “other”. We were worried we will face reactions from the audience. On the contrary and to our great relief we received almost in all cases only positive comments. We believe that this shows that both communities are ready to face their shortcomings once these are presented impartially.
Nefin Dinc, worked as an Associate Professor at State University of New York at Fredonia until June 2013 and she is now in Turkey working on her new documentary projects. She studied Economics at Ankara University, Political Science Faculty. She has a Masters degree in Media and Culture from Strathclyde University, Scotland as well as a MFA degree in Documentary Filmmaking from the University of North Texas, U.S.A. She produced six documentaries and she is also the Project Director of Youth Filmmaking Project in Turkey which is a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, teaching young Turkish students how to make short films, for which she is now working on the documentary film.
Hercules (Iraklis) Millas was born and brought up in Turkey and presently lives in Greece. He has a Ph.D. degree in political science and a B.Sc. in civil engineering. In the years 1968-1985 he worked as a civil engineer in various countries. He contributed in establishing the Greek literature department at Ankara University and he taught Turkish literature and history at Greek universities. His translations, mostly Greek and Turkish poetry, comprise publications of more than twenty books. He published ten books and many articles on Greek-Turkish relations, focused on interethnic perceptions, stereotypes and images. He received the ‘Abdi Ipekçi Peace Award’, the ‘Dido Sotiriou’ award of the Hellenic Authors’ Society and the award ‘Free Thinking’ of Publishers’ Association of Turkey.”
The film will be shown with English subtitles & the discussion will be in English. Languages spoken in the film: Greek and Turkish.

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