Monday, 8 October 2012

Hollywood comes to Hania

Last week, as I was picking up the kids form school, a phantom bus caught my eye. The old bus didn't look out of place in the empty parking lot where I saw it while driving along the main road, but it had a strange load of suitcases tied up to it on the top rack on its ceiling. They looked like those old square cardboard ones that the few of us that travelled long distance used to carry (no wheels). I last remember seeing this kind of luggage transportation in 1974...

 Photo by Roula Spartali

Photo by Tim Perks
Photo by Magda Vogiatzi
I thought I'd try photographing it the next day as I was taking the kids to school. Alas, by that time, the bus had disappeared. It felt like I'd seen a ghost from my past!

It turns out that this was all in aid of the filming of The Two faces of January, starring Viggo Mortensen of Lord of the Rings fame. The film is set in 1962, and uses Athens, Crete and Istanbul for on location filming, while part of it will also be filmed at Ealing Studios in London.

Recreating the Hania of 1962 is not difficult, thanks to John Sooklaris' work on youtube. He has uploaded the videos his father Antonis Sooklaris (the Anglicised form of Tsouhlarakis) took when his family (immigrant Greeks living in the US) came to Hania on a holiday in 1961, known as the PanCretan Excursion. Marie Sooklaris, John's sister, remembers the trip:
"I was in Chania for a month one summer when I was 11 (1961) and I have fond memories. I remember souvlaki from the street vendors -- the best I think I've ever had. My brother started putting up the films on youtube after my father died. Too bad he wasn't around to see what a splash they made. My dad loved to film and tape everything. We arrived in Hania in May of 1961, stayed for a month with my mother's cousin. Even though I was only 11, I have vivid memories of my time there." (personal communication through my facebook page)
Hania, Crete, 1961

The above video depicts the inspiration for the recreations of charming 1960s Hania and her Venetian harbour in the photograph sets uploaded by Chania Nikos and Tim Perks. You will also see some food shots - street sellers, refreshments, kafeneia, watermelons με το μαχαίρι, among others. These photos all hint at the seamless continuity of more than 5,500 years of continuous habitation in the area.

A word of note about the refreshments used in the filming: in the photo sets I've linked (see above paragraph), EPSA soft drinks (and other advertising paraphernalia for EPSA) are shown prominently throughout the set, but this would have been unlikely in Hania 1962, as the locally made GERANI soft drinks were very popular in Hania at the time. This may have to do with the film sponsors.

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