While doing ethnographic research alongside the Koutroulou Magoula excavation, near the Neo Monastiri Village in Thessaly, anthropologist Konstantinos Kalantzis constantly encountered peoples’ narratives that linked archaeological endeavors to poignant war experiences of the 20th century. Two of his senior interlocutors in particular, Christos and Vassilis, frequently expressed the desire to visit the mountainous area where some of their family members spent time during the 1940’s as members of the communist guerilla forces. During the Greek Civil War some their siblings were killed in clashes with right-wing paramilitaries or forcibly migrated to the Soviet Union only to return some 30 years later.
‘Dowsing the Past’ is an ethnographic film that documents the journey undertaken by the two local men, along with the anthropologist, and two of his Athens-based peers. The men drove from Neo Monastiri in the plain of Thessaly to the ‘National Resistance Museum’ in Rentina, hoping to find anything related to the siblings’ biographies. On the way, the locals recollect national and personal (hi)stories, while searching into the landscape for lost treasures and other traces of their past.
The film explores the intersection of geography and imagination, trauma, and the sensory experiences of place and the past: the entanglements between browsing the landscape, and remembering local and global histories. ‘Dowsing the Past’ also examines the dynamics of the ethnographic encounter, including the affective misunderstandings and humor that emerged in the encounter between an anthropologist, two cinematographers from Athens and senior local men in Thessaly.
Directed by Konstantinos Kalantzis, Camera by Leonidas Papafotiou, Giorgos Samantas and Konstantinos Kalantzis, Edited by Giorgos Samantas, Leonidas Papafotiou and Konstantinos Kalantzis, Sound Editing by Giorgos Samantas, Sound Mixing by Iason Theofanou, Music composed and performed by Konstantinos Kalantzis, Ethnography by Konstantinos Kalantzis (supported by the Koutroulou Magoula Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography project), Subtitling by Konstantinos Kalantzis, Subtitling Consultant Paddy Baxter, Produced by Leonidas Papafotiou, Giorgos Samantas and Konstantinos Kalantzis. Greece 2015. [46 min].
Access the film here: https://vimeo.com/119858630
The impossible narration explores the difficult memories of a massacre perpetrated by the German Wehrmacht in the town of Kalavryta, Greece in 1943. The film focuses on survivor Giorgos Dimopoulos and his narration of the day of the slaughter which he experienced as a 13-year-old boy, who was by chance spared execution. Dimopoulos takes the director and the audience on a walk where he retraces the steps that he took that day, particularly after fleeing from the elementary school in which other women and children were held captive. During the walk, he remembers the people, the landscape and the things he encountered: from burning houses that collapsed amidst fruit groves to a frightened girl that he reencountered some 70 years later as an old woman. The protagonist also discusses with the filmmaker the difficulties and (im)possibilities of narrating this slaughter, and of turning his raw experience of the past into visual and verbal representations.
A film by Konstantinos Kalantzis.
Directed and researched by Konstantinos Kalantzis.
Edited by Leonidas Papafotiou.
Original music and subtitles by Konstantinos Kalantzis
Post-production sound by Jason Theofanou.
The film was funded by the European Research Council (EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, grant agreement no. 695283, PhotoDemos: Citizens of Photography, Department of Anthropology, UCL.