6th Silent Film Festival of Odessa

HFC–Odessa participates in the 6th Silent Film Festival of Odessa, with the screening of the Greek film Social Decay, by Stelios Tatasopoulos, from 1932. The screening will be accompanied by live music performed by Yuri Kouznetsov.

22-23 August.

Historical Context
In 1932 Tatasopoulos made Social Decay, a film that heralded the era of neo-realism and the first film in Greece to attempt social criticism in a realistic setting ,within the framework of the working class at a time of severe censorship.

It is an instance of socially relevant cinema and the first film with an unadulterated Marxist outlook. In an interview, director and leading actor Stelios Tatasopoulos explains that “in this film I focused on white slavery and drugs. I described drug trafficking even in hospitals and exposed the corruption and wickedness permeating the prison system.”Tatasopoulos’ father sold a plot of land in Constantinople and provided him with the necessary funds for the film (40,000 drachmas). Cinemas in and around the city center were reluctant to show Social Decay, which was first shown in Kokkinia and became a box office hit. He went on a big tour of the provinces and when that was concluded, Tatasopoulos went back to Paris to further his studies in direction.

Dinos Vristhenis (Stelios Tatasopoulos), a poor student in the University of Athens, has dropped out of his studies because of dire financial difficulties and is job hunting. He is employed as an actor in a theatre company, where he falls in love with Niki (Danai Grizou), the leading actress. When she gives in to an industrialist’s promises for a bright future, Dinos is disillusioned and abandons theatre. Poverty drives him to join the ranks of the working class and get a job as a laborer in the tobacco industry to earn his living. He is confronted with labor force exploitation, becomes a founding member of a workers’ union and takes the lead in the struggle for social justice, with complete disregard for ruthless police persecution. He goes to prison and when he is released he denounces his past and resolves upon fighting social decay.

In 1989, Aglaia Mitropoulou urged the director to look up and gather whatever material from this forgotten film he could lay his hands on, so that the Greek Film Archive could try to restore the film. Acting on her advice, Tatasopoulos searched the REX Theatre and in one of its storage areas he located all the film negatives in “raw” form, i.e. not edited. They were technically restored and a new working copy was made, which was edited by Antonis Tempos with the help and under the supervision of Tasopoulos himself. And so 95% of the film was successfully restored. The same procedure was applied to the intermediate titles, where the letters, syntax, stress and language are very close to the original form. Having been restored, Social Decay was one of the “lost films” shown in the Avana Cinema. It has been shown in many parts of the world in the context of events by various organizations in Greece and abroad.

Biographical note
Stelios Tatasopoulos (1908–2000) came to Greece from Constantinople after the Smyrna disaster, took a cinema course in the Dag Film School (run by the Gaziadis brothers) and studied drama with Rontiris and Veakis. He played in almost every one of the Dag Film productions and went to Paris to further his studies.