Accepted paper:

The ship as the symbol of immigration in the Greek cinema of the years 1957-1984


Eleni Mitakou (NTUA)

Paper short abstract:

The film is a prisoner of the time filmed and this makes it a historical document. The quotation and the comparison of a number of Greek films with references to immigration, dated from 1957 up to 1984, will explore the use of ship representations, described as transitional spaces or as symbols of hope.

Paper long abstract:

Immigration, a multi-dimensional phenomenon, with economic and social effects on society was ignored for many years from the Greek film industry. Testimonies, saved in national or private archives reflect the desperation of people leaving, packed, uncomfortably fitted on board ships, trying to keep in their memory that last image of saying goodbye. It was only in 1957 that the first movies with references to immigrants were filmed, presenting a one dimensional perspective of the return, of the successful businessman, a deus ex machina to his relatives. In the next two decades film productions created dramas with references to immigration revolving around love stories or comedies. Instead of presenting the life changing journey, the film companies, as a result of the prevailing censorship of the time, chose to show the amenities and comfortable compartments of the ships. These commercial films, products for mass entertainment, presented cruise ships with several decks and lounges. The passengers, according to their income, were placed vertically from the upper to the lower deck. The ship became a place of encounters and the space of great love stories. The true dimension of the immigrant's trouble, his/her family and the reality of a depopulated rural landscape were first presented in 1966 in the movie Until the Ship Sails. The moment of the embarkation is the only reference to the grimness of the upcoming trip. Thus the ships became the symbolic image of immigration in Greek cinema, representing either the encounter with success or the image of the unknown.

panel P23
Humanity at sea: hybridity and seafaring