›› From the Edge of the City - Apo tin akri tis polis
a vivid account of a tearaway generation of Russian Greeks
Brought up in the former USSR but now returned to his motherland Greece, seventeen-year-old Kazakhstan immigrant Sasha is seemingly hell bent on destruction, having quit his job on a construction site to hang out instead with his friends; a streetwise gang into petty crime, paid sex, drugs, clubs and the odd bit of rent boy trade in order to pay for life’s highs. Only when Sasha is asked to keep an eye on local prostitute Natasha by way of a favour to her pimp Giorgos, namely a man on a mission to sell her to the highest gangland bidder, is this really the right time for Sasha to get in touch with his heart?
Ingrained with all the rebellious energy of disenchanted urban youth, writer and director Constantine Giannaris has crafted a remarkably vivid account of a tearaway generation of Russian Greeks whose memories of Soviet life, are as poor as their ability to speech the language of their forefathers. Caught between doing rent or theft, they do whatever it takes to put food on the table or drugs by their side. Yet here Giannaris has taken time out to deliver a series of bitter home truths that many a politician would prefer not to hear, including the appalling trade in human life that sees women sold as sex slaves, destined to spend their days behind brothel doors closed to their freedom.
Only this is a film that was not meant to be, given the collapse of Giannaris’ intended work, resulted in the expansion to feature length proportions of a replacement short about the experiences of the Pontian Greek community. That Giannaris found in local boy Stathis Papadopoulos, the star of his show goes without saying,
given Papadopoulos' own experiences of life on the streets of Omonia Square, together with a series of direct-to-camera asides, docudrama fashion, saw the role of outcast gang leader Sasha become the uncompromising cinematic reality of living life, on the edge of the city. Or to be more precise, living life in the poor suburb of Menidi, forever on the edge of the cultural capital of Athens.
Underscored with a pulsating soundtrack, intercut with workouts in the gym and complete with still photography styled hetero sex scenes, let alone a camera only too keen to linger over the toned physiques of youthful eye-candy, this is a work that like the film Head On grabs you by the celluloid throat, only to end up at times meandering around the surreal corner. That said, a number of subplots involving other members of the group are resolved in the final reel, including the relationship between a client clearly in love with his personal Panagiotis styled rent boy.
Yet what is of note here is the way that this feature was received, with its release in Greece seen as a poignant piece on the integration troubles faced by the Russian Greek immigrant youth of the day. Whereas other countries viewed it more in terms of a social comment on male prostitution and of those in the rent boy trade who are only too willing it would appear, to exploit their female counterparts. Whatever way you look at it, it equates to a multi-layered feature from a director not afraid to comment on the underbelly of society. Need more be said?