The Greek movie, Ouzeri Tsitsanis, was released in December 2015, and is based on the book by the same title, written by George Skarbadonis. The story takes place in Thessaloniki during the winter of 1942-’43. In spite of funding issues during the financial crisis in Greece, fortunately, the Greek cinema was still productive.
You can watch a video, where the crew and the cast talk about the difficulties they had to overcome and the way they worked. Especially for you, we wrote down the dialogue in Greek, so it is a good listening exercise!
The story is about the forbidden love between a Christian and a Jewish girl in Thessaloniki during the German Occupation. This love has to face the senseless racial discrimination and the Nazis regime. The story mainly takes place in Tsitsanis ouzeri, where the great Greek composer sings and composes.
For the release of the movie, it was important to create the right scenery, which could represent the real atmosphere of this difficult period. Apart from the writer, the director, the cinematographer, a very well-organized team was necessary to reproduce the era: a historical consultant, a production designer, a costume designer etc. collaborated to create the correct atmosphere.
The historical background
Thessaloniki fell to the forces of Germans on April 9th, 1941. The German occupation in Thessaloniki is more brutal than in Athens. The shops close at once. Black market is in its peak. It is the period of The Great Famine, a mass starvation hits all the urban areas. The Nazis soon force the Jewish residents into a ghetto and begin the deportation process of the city’s 50.000 Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp by train.
Ouzeri: a popular type of small Greek tavern, which serves “ouzo” (anise-favoured aperitif) and “mezedes” (kind of Greek finger food).
He is one of the most important composers, musiciens and singers of “laika” songs of the 20th century. According to him, he wrote his best songs during the period 1938-’45 . The difficulties inspire the composer. Click here to read more about the music of Tsitsanis and the music of the movie.
Click here to watch the video , where the crew and the cast talk about the difficulties they had to overcome and the way they worked. While listening, you can read the Greek dialogue below and/or the English translated dialogue at the bottom of this article.
Παραπάνω μπορείτε να δείτε το βίντεο όπου μιλάνε για την μουσική της ταινίας ο συνθέτης (Καραμουρατίδης) και ο σκηνοθέτης (Μανουσάκης).
Μανούσος Μανουσάκης (σκηνοθέτης): Το «Ουζερί Τσιτσάνης» διηγείται μια ιστορία του ’42-’43 στην Θεσσαλονίκη με τον Βασίλη Τσιτσάνη που τότε έφτιαξε αυτό το ιστορικό ουζερί και μέσα από τα μάτια αυτού του συνθέτη βλέπουμε το τι είναι πραγματικά ναζισμός, τι είναι πραγματικά ένα ολοκληρωτικό καθεστώς μέσα από έναν μεγάλο έρωτα: τον έρωτα του Γιώργου και της Εστρέα, ενός Χριστιανού και μιας Εβραίας.
Λάκης Κομνηνός (ηθοποιός): Είναι μια ταινία που τα έχει όλα.
Γιάννης Στάνκογλου (ηθοποιός): Η ταινία προέρχεται από το βιβλίο του Σκαμπαρδώνη το «Ουζερί Τσιτσάνης».
Ιωάννα Παλαιοπάνου (ηθοποιός): Πάρα πολλοί κομπάρσοι, πάρα πολλοί ηθοποιοί.
Αλμπέρτο Εσκενάζη (ηθοποιός): Σε αυτή την κρίση που βρισκόμαστε, θεωρείται αδύνατη αυτή η παραγωγή.
Μανούσος Μανουσάκης (σκηνοθέτης): Οι χώροι ήταν μια μεγάλη δυσκολία, γιατί ζούμε σε μια χώρα που έχει κατεδαφίσει την ιστορική της μνήμη. Μια πόρτα εδώ, ένα παράθυρο εκεί, ένα κτήριο παραπέρα και δημιουργήσαμε μια κοινωνία που δεν υπάρχει, την κοινωνία της Θεσσαλονίκης του 1942.
Τον Ιούλιο του 1942, οι Γερμανοί καλέσανε να παρουσιαστούν όλοι οι άρρενες Εβραίοι της πόλης στην πλατεία Ελευθερίας για να απογραφούν. Έχουμε μια ιστορία να διηγηθούμε και τα ψηφιακά εφέ μας λύνουνε πάρα πολλές φορές τα χέρια.
Αντώνης Νικολάου (ψηφιακά εφέ): Για το συγκεκριμένο πλάνο του πολλαπλασιασμού, για 3 δευτερόλεπτα που θα δει ο κόσμος στον κινηματογράφο, χρειάστηκαν 180 ώρες εργασίας.
Μανούσος Μανουσάκης (σκηνοθέτης): Το «Έθνος» έγραψε ότι είναι το πραγματικό τρένο που έκανε αυτό το μακάβριο ταξίδι στο Άουσβιτς. Μας βοήθησε πάρα πολύ ο ΟΣΕ . Βρέθηκε το τρένο εγκαταλελειμμένο στην Δράμα. Τα βαγόνια βρέθηκαν δύο εδώ, τρία εκεί… Από όλη την Ελλάδα μαζεύτηκαν.
Για να ολοκληρώσουμε το σενάριο κάναμε τρία χρόνια. Τρία χρόνια με ιστορικό σύμβουλο, με ανθρώπους που ξέρανε τα ήθη και τα έθιμα της εποχής, πέραν της ιστορίας.
Άννα Μαχαιριανάκη (ενδυματολόγος): Η αρχική ομάδα με τον Μανούσο τον Μανουσάκη, τον διευθυντή φωτογραφίας, τον Κωστή τον Γκίκα και τον Αντώνη τον Χαλκιά, τον σκηνογράφο, έγινε για να μπουν οι όροι και οι προϋποθέσεις με τις οποίες θα μπαίνανε οι αισθητικοί κανόνες. Έπρεπε να ραφτεί ένας μεγάλος αριθμός κοστουμιών. Έχουμε φτάσει μέχρι τώρα κοντά στις 3.000
Βασιλική Τρουφάκου (ηθοποιός): Τα ρούχα και το styling δουλεύουν σε μεγάλο βαθμό μαζί μας.
Γιάννης Στάνκογλου (ηθοποιός): Με το που θα φορέσεις κάποια παπούτσια τα οποία δεν τα έχεις βάλει ποτέ στην ζωή σου, αλλά υπήρχανε τότε, κάτι αλλάζει.
Χριστίνα Φαμέλη-Χειλά (ηθοποιός): Μπαίνεις. Γίνεσαι ένας άλλος μες στο κοστούμι.
Μανούσος Μανουσάκης (σκηνοθέτης): Αυτή είναι η δυσκολία. Οι άνθρωποί σου, οι χαρακτήρες σου, η πόλη όλη να είναι πραγματικοί. Να πεις: «ναι, αυτό συμβαίνει τώρα».
Ouzeri Tsitsanis- A big Greek production (Translated dialogue of the video above)
Manoussos Manoussakis(director): “Ouzeri Tsitsanis” narrates a story of ’42-’43 in Thessaloniki with Vassilis Tsitsanis who created this historical ouzeri and through the eyes of this great composer, we watch what Nazism is in reality, what a totalitarian regime is through a big love: the love between George and Estrea, a Christian and a Jewish girl.
Lakis Komninos (actor): It’s a movie that has it all.
Yannis Stankoglou (actor): The movie is based on Skabardonis’s book “Ouzeri Tsitsanis”.
Johanna Palaiopanou (actor): A lot of extra actors, a lot of actors.
Alberto Eskenazy (actor): During the crisis that we experience, this kind of production is supposed to be impossible.
Manoussos Manousakis (director): The scenery was a big difficulty, because we live in a country that has destroyed its historical memory. A door here, a window there, a building a little bit further and we created a society that doesn’t exist, the society of Thessaloniki of 1942.
In July 1942, Germans called up all the Jewish men of the city on the Eleftherias square in order to register them. We have a story to narrate and the digital effects helped us a lot.
Antonis Nikolaou (visual effects): For the scenes of huge crowd, it took us 180 hours of working to create a scene of 3 seconds that people will watch in the movie.
Manoussos Manousakis (director): “Ethnos” wrote that it is the real train that made the morbid trip to Auschwitz. OSE (company of Greek railway) helped us a lot. We found the train abandoned in Drama. The wagons were found scattered here and there… They were collected from all over Greece.
It took us 3 years to accomplish the scenario. Three years working with a historical advisor, with people who knew the customs of that period, apart from the history.
Anna Machairianiaki (costume designer): We organized a team consisted by Manoussos Manoussakis, the cinematographer Kostas Gikas and Antonis Chalkias, the production designer, to define the aesthetic rules. We had to sew a lot of costumes. We have created up to now almost 3.000 costumes.
Vassiliki Troufakou (actress): Clothes and styling work very much along with us.
Yannis Stankoglou (actor): Wearing a pair of shoes that you have never put on, but existed at that time, something changes.
Christina Fameli-Cheila (actress): You “get” in the costume. You change into somebody else wearing the costume.
Manoussos Manousakis (director): This is the difficulty. Your heroes, your characters, the city must be real. You have to be able to say: “yes, this happens now”.
The music of the movie
In the movie “Ouzeri Tsitsanis”, which was released in December 2015, there are both the Tsitsanis songs and music, composed by the famous composer Themis Karamouratidis.
Below you can watch a video where the composer (Themis Karamouratidis) and the director (Manousos Manousakis) talk about the film’s music. If you would like to listen to the video and read the dialogues in Greek at the same time, click here. A good listening exercise!
For those of you who prefer the English translation of the dialogue, you will find it here below, under the video.
Vassilis Tsitsanis is one of the most important composers, musicians and singers of “laika” songs of the 20th century. He was born in Trikala (central Geece). He went to Athens to study Law, but finally he was drawn into a musical lifestyle. Tsitsanis arrived to Thessaloniki in 1938 as a soldier. There he met his wife, Zoe Samara. During the German Occupation, he opens an “ouzeri” with the collaboration of his brother in law, Andreas Samaras. There someone could meet all the different kind of persons living in the city: security battalion officers, Resistance fighters, Germans, Jews. In this “ouzeri”, Tsitsanis plays music and writes new songs. According to him, he wrote his best songs during the period 1938-’45 . (you can listen here to one of his hits ). The difficulties inspire the composer. In 1946, he returns in Athens where he records those songs.
Click here to listen to one more song, while reading the text.
Manousos Manousakis (director): We started recording the music of the film “Ouzeri Tsitsanis”. It’s our first day…
Themis Karamoratidis (music writer): …and we are about to make what was on paper to
come true. “Ouzeri Tsitsanis” talks about the forbidden love between a Jewish girl and a Christian in the city of Thessaloniki in 1942…
M.M.: …and through this difficult relationship, we see the Jewish community of the time and its extermination by the Nazis.
TH.K.: Of course in all this, there is the atmosphere of Vassilis Tsitsanis and his music, as part of the movie takes place at the “Ouzeri Tsitsanis”.
M.M.: The whole city of Thessaloniki passes by the “ouzeri”: from the betrayer to the resistance, from the millionaire to the porters. This is our background, our scenery. Tsitsanis observes his time and creates.
TH.K .: The basic needs of the film are basically divided into two main axes: first, we wanted to represent the “Ouzeri Tsitsanis’’ and clear the Tsitsanis’ songs. I think it is interesting to hear how a song comes back to its first version, after so many adaptations, remakes and changes.
M.M.: Another important part of the music for Themis Karamouratidis was to create an emotional, atmospheric music.
TH.K .: I wanted to find an orchestra, a sound that covers the need of a high quality production, and at the same time has the “laiko” and the Greek element needed to represent this period and Greece of ’42, as well, and of course to present Vassilis Tsitsanis in the best way. We wanted that Vassilis Tsitsanis is present in the original music, that’s why a lot of motifs come from well known and beloved Tsitsanis’ songs. Music in the romantic moments of the movie “Ouzeri Tsitsanis” should be able to show the eroticism and tenderness that exists in the relationship of two young people and meanwhile to preserve the melancholy and the cruelty of the period when this love is taking place.
Regarding the hard scenes of the movie, the music was very demanding. There must be a balance between what the viewer watches and what he hears so that the music doesn’t sound more pompous than what is going on.
The scene that put me more in trouble, I think was the first time Nazis gather the Jews on the Eleftherias square. It was a scene where we had to say in an obvious way that something very difficult will take place, but without betraying the rest. The collaboration with Manoussos took place thanks to “Feelgood”.
M.M.: I had listened to his music and I liked it. I observed an authentic element that was easily usable in the movie we wanted to create.
Th.K.: Cinema haw its own codes that you need to follow. I think Manoussos was a key to this. The way we worked was for sure very creative.
M.M.: It is a magic thing how the music is connected to the picture, and this majesty is very successful.