The recording of each region’s tradition contributes to the collective memory

Nikos Ziogas

Memento of a fading world

Text: Yorgos Papadimitriou || Photographs: Nikos Ziogas ' archive
Nikos Ziogas
Nikos Ziogas

Nikos Ziogas was born in Florina, in 1986, and made his directorial debut with the short film Spring (2018), which follows two a pair of young lesbians from Syria, who arrive in Greece as refugees, hoping to make a fresh new start. The movie celebrated its premiere at the 21st Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, taking part in many more international festivals. His following short film, bearing the title Walk With Me, was shot in Peru and Chile, while in 2020 he co-directed the feature film Lena.

His latest film Memento takes part in competing for the award of the >>Film Forward section in the 23rd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, inviting us on a journey to the village of Giromeri, in Thesprotia, Epirus. The film immerses us into a mystical tradition devoutly preserved by the inhabitants of the village. Every Easter Monday, they pay a visit to the village cemetery, performing lamentations and folk song to honor the memory of the deceased.

Ziogas, adapting a visual style that matches ideally with the transcendental ambiance of its topic, etches the portrait of a fading Greece. Selecting a dashing black-and-white to portray the present and resorting to color to illustrate the past, Ziogas reenacts an eternal and timeless battle: Life is struggling to banish death, by crafting an intermediate world where the dead and the living co-exist and interact. Memento starts out as an anthropological study; it evolves into a heartfelt homage to a way of living that is facing oblivion; gradually it utters a cry for the acceptance of our common fate and the reconciliation with the passing of time and loss.

Is it possible for the documentary genre to work as the safekeeper of a region’s legacy and collective memory? “The memories are linked with both the present and the future. The recording of each region’s tradition contributes to the collective memory. Memory is an attempt, in the face of the merciless digitalization of our times, to preserve the analog memory of the Greek countryside,” explains the director.

Ziogas’ directorial approach and editing process craft a suggestive universe, where every look and nod are integrated in a secret ritual addressed only to the initiated of an unseen world, visible only if we shunt the curtain of the tangible. “I wanted to speak with the people portrayed in the film as if they were my people. To record their truth and thoughts in the most realistic way. Like a fairy tale with true characters,” mentions Nikos Ziogas.

Films such as Memento prove that the Greek documentary is flourishing and stepping into the right direction, giving us films that serve as point of reference both in the national cinema production, as well as in the relation we develop with Greek society. What’s his take on this issue? “The more you nurture a tree, the more fruit it bears, both in terms of quality and quantity. The Greek documentary is in need of support and vital space. A significant effort is taking place over the last years,” he concludes.