Yannis Beratis volunteered in the 1940 war and in the years that followed wrote the famous “Wide River”, the most stark, modern and concise work, not only about the 1940 epic, but in Greek literature.
Sotiris Dimitriou, Eri Stavropoulou and Anna Berati.
I regard Yannis Beratis as the most extraordinary figure in the 30s Generation. He wrote only few works, but just the “Wide River” would have been enough. It is his masterpiece. No one else ever chronicled in such simplicity and almost documentary-like manner a war, and in particular the war in 1940.
In a gesture of genuine modernity (without aspirations of being pronounced a modernist) he got rid of all flowery features and delivered a remarkable literary chronicle with enough meaning and truth that it makes a thrilling read even today and I am confident to say in 200 years from now as well.
A documentary on Beratis had been a longstanding desire of mine. The “Wide River” wasn’t the only reason for that. There was also his famous Black Folder, the journal he kept for almost 30 years, until his death in 1968. Going through its pages one discovers the most sparkling and extraordinary spirit in 20th century Greek literature.
But mainly it was Beratis himself. A passionate man, a gentleman, a reformist, a man of extremes, witty and unaffected, truly modest and above all an outsider, an outcast in Greek literature.
Except for two Literary Prizes awarded to him by the state, he never really earned the place or recognition he deserved in Greek literature, neither from the scholars, nor from his peers.
Beratis was also very bold in his love affairs. His first great love was Nitsa, his “Nitsi”, as he used to call her, a Greek beauty from Russia, who died of consumption in the wake of the Recapitalization war. A desperate Beratis volunteered for military service, aged 36, and became an interpreter (being fluent in Italian) for the frontline propaganda; even beyond the frontline itself. In other words he had decided to commit suicide by choosing the most dangerous mission there was. And yet, he survived. He returned wounded and with shattered health and he was fired from his longstanding job as a civil servant.
At that period, during the German occupation, he met 11 year-old Anna, a destitute little girl, her family was unable to feed. Little by little he took her under his wing, first as an auxiliary father and eventually as a lover and a husband. It was a relationship that shook the morals of postwar Athens and lasted until his death.
I chose to unfold the picture on a triple axis model in order to approach the universe of Beratis.
In the first part, professor Eri Stavropoulou, a Beratis scholar, considers the work and the life of Beratis from a literary perspective.
The second part is an unusual road movie. Together with Sotiris Dimitriou, one of the most notable authors of the last 30 years, we are trying to trace the steps of Beratis to Epirus and the river Aoös, which lends its name to his great book. Dimitriou is inspired by the bitter winter and tries to sense Beratis. He talks about him based on how the places we visit make him feel. Almost 45 years after the death of the great author, another one, equally great, traces his footsteps to get a feeling of him and give us some insight into his intrinsic thoughts.
In the third part, we meet Anna, who at an advanced age, but always in love with, and defined by her husband, still lives in the couple’s old apartment in Kipseli She tells some memorable stories.
This is a documentary I love very much.
Not only because of the subject matter, but also because it was the first picture, in which my partner Apostolia and I started working together.
And, of course, I will never forget that my mother passed away during the shooting of that picture.