Director and writer: Stefan Haupt. He was born in 1961 in Zurich and is a Swiss filmmaker, director, and film producer.
Cast: Argyris Sfountouris, Chryssoula Tzatha Sfountouri, Astero Liaskou Sfountouri, Kondylia Sfountouri, Maria Papaioannou Sfountouri, Panajotis Sfountouris, Stamatia Barla, Mikis Theodorakis, Stathis Stathas, Charalambos Giagkou, Gabriele Heinecke, Eberhard Rondholz, Rolf Surmann, Albert Spiegel, Leonidas Sakellaridis….
June 10, 1944
Distomo: a small farming village at a stone’s throw from the sea, on the road leading from Athens to Delphi. This is where little Argyris, who was not even four years old, survived a brutal massacre committed by the German occupying forces. An SS division’s so-called “expiatory measure” after a partisan attack in the vicinity. Within less than two hours, 218 villagers were killed: women, men, elderly people, toddlers, and babies. Argyris lost his parents and thirty more relatives.
Together with thousands of other war orphans, the boy spent several years in orphanages around Athens. One day a Red Cross delegation appeared selecting a few children to travel to a faraway country. Argyris wanted to go with them at all costs. This is how he went to the Pestalozzi Children’s Village in Trogen/Switzerland. Years later he obtained a Ph.D. in maths and astrophysics at the ETH Zurich. He taught at Zurich grammar schools, translated Greek authors into German and was then active as a development aid worker in Somalia, Nepal and Indonesia, on behalf of the Swiss Disaster Relief Corps. Since returning to Europe, he has been travelling between Switzerland and Greece. His sojourns in his former home country are getting longer.
66 year-old Argyris Sfountouris, a man of winning charm and melancholy cheerfulness, has been tackling the horror he was subjected to as a little boy. He organised a “peace congress” where he reflected about ways of escaping the vicious circle of violence. Rather than trying to come to terms with his childhood experience or to get over it emotionally, he has attempted to learn to live with it and to bring something about in the outside world.
A film about how to deal with personal grief and about the issue of historical guilt.
A film about the almost insurmountable difficulties linked to true reconciliation and about his quest for peace – an open-ended journey.
My review of the documentary
It is very rare that a film or a documentary can keep my full attention and concentration for as long as it lasts, but watching this one I could not stop watching. Not because I like it to be shocked, but because of the everywhere present respect and the avoiding of any exaggerated sensation, avoiding manipulating video or sound effects, but yes: because all is pure, truthful, honest, open hearted and open minded, creating a deep awareness about cruelties, about wars, pain, loss and traumas, that people can become beasts or victims in situations as in June 1944, in Distomo, Greece, that the vicious circle of wars, ending wars and starting again with new wars has to be broken.
Of course we know much details from World War II, but with “we” I mean the western part of Europe. Greece was far away: as a child I did not even realize the meaning of Europe. Amsterdam was already far away, and nobody from my village went there, though it was in the same country. (I lived in the Netherlands). So, Greece was too far away, comparable with the moon, impossible to get there, and reason that there was not a true mental or emotional connection. This documentary is bringing news to me, though it is almost 70 years old. This documentary brings Greece closer to Europe, to the Europe-feeling and awareness. Closer to me.
I admire Argyris, his way of trying to give that what happened, a place in his life. I admire him because he went through a lot what gives him reasons to hate and reject the Germans for ever. But he does not.
Forgiveness cannot take away pain, not the pain of the loss of so many relatives, not the pain of the cruelties he has been witnessing. Hatred is an overwhelming illness however, and it kills the heart if there is not forgiveness. With forgiveness the heart heals, does not take away the responsibilities of the other to bear their guilts, but it creates an open door for the self, to go through, and live life again.
Argyris got a second life. Liberated from the pain of hatred and being the victim. That is worth it to deserve a Nobel Prize for Peace. Because if Argyris can forgive all what has traumatized him deeply, for more than one life can bear, then it must be possible for all humans, and all peoples to forgive and find true Peace, with an obviously also human inner special quality to unlock deep inside of the heart the iron doors of trauma and hatred to the liberation of the Self. Nelson Mandela could forgive. Jesus Christ could. Ghandi could. Martin Luther King could. Mikis Theodorakis could. Argyris could. You can. I can. We can forgive. Forgiveness is a human quality of a very high level, maybe even the highest, and therefore so difficult to reach it.
I would like to recommend you this film, but especially the media, schools, universities, and military academies. Politicians.
Stefan Haupt, the director and writer of this documentary, has created a highest refined quality film, in all its details and subtleties. The film really deserves awards.
Sources and additional information
- IMDb: Ein Lied für Argyris
- Fontana Film: A Song for Argyris (translation in German, Greek and English)
- Cineuropa: A Song for Argyris nominated for Erasmus EuroMedia Award
- Wiki: Stefan Haupt
- Fontana Film: Stefan Haupt
- Mixtape: Ένα Τραγούδι για τον Αργύρη
- GreekReporter: 20.000 Copies of Kazantzakis’ “Ascetic” distributed by Arab Newspapers
- Mystagogy: The Ascetic Makarios and Nikos Kazantzakis
- Google+ Collection: A Song for Argyris