mardi, 23 juillet 2024
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documentary, 16 mm, color, 52' and 66' - 2003

selections: FIPA, Thessaloniki, Istanbul, La Rochelle, Haifa, Montpellier, Prague






The rebetiko is the popular Greek song 'par excellence'. Created at the beginning of the last century in the dives and slums of Piraeus, it sing of the lives of ordinary people, using simple, ordinary words to evoke the joys and heartbreaks of love, the hardships of work, the pain of prison, drugs and exile. The song-form known as the rebetiko first emerged from the aftermath of an historical catastrophe: the expulsion of a million and a half Greeks from their centuries-old homeland in Asia Minor following the war with the Turks in 1922, and their forced settlement in the suburbs of the largest mainland towns. This traumatic event led to the transformation of a form of musical expression which had originally existed as collective improvisations in prisons, or in the 'tekke', clandestine hashish dens, and which now evolved into the popular song of the poorer quarters and underworld.



directors' note

Ways of Rebetiko is not a film 'about' the rebetiko. It tries to record and convey its music, rhythms, and movements in such a way that the filmic language and form take on the rhythms and poetry of the music itself. It allows the rebetiko to speak for itself. The film returns to the source of the rebetiko and tell its story, revealing a kind of parallel history of the country as well as the persistance of a myth, but it essentially shows how the rebetiko is sung, played, danced and watched by today's generation. Filmed in small taverns, ports, prisons, Ways of Rebetiko creates an imaginary map of the rebetiko, a world of memory and desire, a multifaceted and multi-layered collage of times and places, where the voices of the greatest rebetes echo in the sound and fury of modern Greece.






interview on the occasion of the FESTIVAL DE MUSIQUE DEMONTPELLIER

questions by Olivier Bernard


How do you explain the massive popular success of the rebetiko, a nearly clandestine musical expression at its beginning?

Greece was a poor country then, its people suffering from the historical upheaval of the1922 war and the pre-industrial changes of society. The rebetiko sings of the lives of ordinary people, using simple, ordinary words to evoke the joys and heartbreaks of love, the hardships of work, the pain of prison, drugs and exile. Hence its enormous success. But it'll take time. We have to wait until the thirties –basically the release of the songs on 78t records- before large parts of the people listen to the rebetiko.


The lyrics of its songs being ironical and without taboo, the rebetiko is a surprisingly subversive music. Neither the censorship during the Metaxas period nor nazi occupation, civil war or the dictatorship (1967-1974) were able to root out this music. How do you explain this capacity of survival?

The longevity of the rebetiko results from its capacity to reflect, for half a century, the experience of the everyday life of the ordinary people. Certains songs may have a subversive content but on the whole the rebetiko has never expressed political or social demands. But when a song tells about the human experience of living in exile, the people will recognize their life during the 1922 catastrophe, or during the years of massive emigration in the twenties and until the sixties; or the rebetiko will describe a "cloudy sunday" –the most famous exemple- and give an account of the sadness of the nazi occupation without ever mentionning it. And there is nearly no song evoking the civil war. Most of the rebetiko songs are love songs.
Concerning the dictatorship (1967-1974), you must not mix up things. At that time, nobody writes rebetiko songs anymore. Since resistance songs, for examply by Mikis Theodorakis, are prohibited, the rebetiko –classical songs by then- offers a refuge.

What do you think about its revival today?

There is no revival. The historical and social conditions which have given birth to the rebetiko are definitely gone by. Nobody composes rebetiko songs after the fifties anymore. There is a kind of going back to the roots, though. A lot of young people don't recognize themselves in the currently prefabricated music. They look for authenticity and turn naturally to the rebetiko.




  Michalis Genitsaris, Takis Binis, Kostas Tsanakos,
Stelios Vamvakaris, Sotos Zachariadis 
written and
directed by
  Timon Koulmasis, Iro Siafliaki
  Boris Breckoff
  Marinos Athanassopoulos
  Aurique Delannoy
line producer
  Bonita Papastathi
executive producer   Iannis Leondaris
producer   Daniel Toscan du Plantier, Miriana Bojic-Walter





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