Monday, 7 December 2015


“That government is best which governs least.” - Henry David Thoreau

One of my strongest childhood memories concerns the early morning on the 21st of April of 1967 when we were living in Athens. We were awakened by the noise of tanks rumbling on the city streets outside our windows, punctuated by a few distant shots being fired now and then. We rushed to the window and saw the soldiers and tanks marching on the street below and as we turned the radio a blare of military marching band music was enough to realise our worse fears. A coup had been staged by a group of colonels of the Greek army and the democratic government was deposed. The king had been put under observation in the palace. Within a few weeks the country was under the fist of a military dictatorship...

I remember this very vividly today, even though I was only nine years old at the time. I am thinking of how many more such dictatorships are in place around the world. Central and South America have had a string of such juntas to contend with and each new coup brings with it arrests of dissenters, torture, murder, destruction. Tyrants and dictators never seem to be in short supply and the trail of destruction they leave behind them scars a country and its people for decades after they are deposed.

The situation in Myanmar has only just started to resolve itself following the first free elections for 25 years. These polls are the first openly-contested election held in the country since 1990, which was annulled by the military government after the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) victory. The poll was preceded by the 2010 General Election, which was marred by a widespread boycott and allegations of systematic fraud by the victorious USDP.

On 11 November 2015, chairperson of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, called for “national reconciliation” talks with incumbent president, Thein Sein, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Shwe Mann to be set for a later date. All accepted her invitation.

On 12 November 2015, incumbent President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, who has led political reforms during his tenure, congratulated Aung San Suu Kyi and her party on his Facebook, promising that his current government will “respect and obey” the election results and “transfer power peacefully”. Commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, also took to Facebook to congratulate Ms Suu Kyi, vowing that the Tatmadaw will co-operate with the new government following the transition. This was after a meeting conducted within the Tatmadaw’s top ranks.

US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Suu Kyi on her victory and praised Thein Sein for his organisation of the election. Suu Kyi also received calls from French President François Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But what has all this to do with Movie Monday, you may ask… Read on!

The novel “Z” byVasilis Vasilikos is a novel based on fact and centres on the assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis, a left-wing politician and dissenter during the early 1960s. Vasilikos has written a fictionalised account of the assassination, but it is thinly veiled and the work of fiction describes actual political realities and historical events that can be seen for what they are by anyone familiar with the actual events.

Although Vasilikos is not writing history, he is intent on setting the record straight. A record that was whitewashed by the right wing governments in power after the murder and also of course by the military junta that came in power in 1967. It is a powerful novel and despite it being based on actual events, it is not a simple “newspaper report-type” documentary, it is a worthy work of fiction that obeys the rule of engaging narrative fiction.

The novel was made into an equally famous movie (“Z”) by Costas Gavras in 1969 and it starred Yves Montand, Irene Pappas and Jean-Louis Trintignant. The film is an excellent adaptation of the novel and is a great thriller. An added bonus is a fantastic soundtrack by Mikis Theodorakis, a Greek composer who certainly had his own personal bitter experiences as a political prisoner to draw inspiration from.

The film was nominated for a large number of awards, including an Oscar for Best Picture, (winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Film). It also won the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language Picture, and is named best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and National Society of Film Critics Awards. The film was also nominated for a Golden Palm award at the Cannes film festival. The film was banned in Greece as was the soundtrack during the Colonels’ rule. The film ends with a list of things banned by the Junta which include the peace movement, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, mini-skirts, the peace symbol, the Beatles, Sophocles, Tolstoy, Aeschylus, Socrates, Eugene Ionesco, Sartre, Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, free press, new mathematics and the letter Z, which pronounced as “zee” means 'he lives' in Greek...

1 comment:

  1. I am pleased your family escaped. It must have been difficult living under a dictatorship. Tanks rolling in when you are having your breakfast must be terrifying. You should write a poem about this.
    Next prompt is could write one about the colour of fear !
    Irene Pappas has the most expressive face imaginable...the epitome of a real Greek goddess beauty.