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Raw Material Offers Strong Message

A 90-minute documentary that explores some of the shantytowns resting just outside Athens, Greece, was screened last week at the Bright Family Screening Room.

On hand was the director of Raw Material, Hristos Karakepelis. Following the screening, Karakepelis spoke with students from Visual and Media Arts, Writing, Literature, and Publishing  (WLP), and the Institute for Liberal and Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, and other guests. WLP Associate Professor Maria Koundoura, who organized the event, translated the dialogue between Honors Program Director Nigel Gibson and Professor Dusan Bjelic from the University of Southern Maine.

Beautifully shot over a course of years, Raw Material not only provides a closer look at contemporary Greece and its economic problems, but also examines the attitude upheld by natives toward immigrant workers, many of which are vying for the same jobs as Greeks. The film focuses on several struggling immigrants—three Roma from Albania, a Turkish man, two Indians, and a Greek man all working toward the same goal of survival. “Surviving” is accomplished primarily through self-motivated foraging through the city and the shantytown outskirts for scraps that can be sold for mere pennies to steel conglomerates. Told in a stream-of-consciousness style with the shantytown setting taking on a life of its own, Raw Material left its audience with many questions about life on the outskirts of industry.

Karakepelis was more than happy to expand on the topic with the audience, having spent several years entrenched with these steelworkers. “Their dreams are predetermined by the capitalists,” he explained on behalf of the film’s subjects, “the agrarian community they come from determines everything.” He went on to say that Greece has become something of an “immigrant-importing” society that relies on workers scavenging for lower wages to keep industry afloat, and that the “shantytown is the product of the industry.” Koundoura also spoke of her own experience as a Greek-Australian immigrant and expounded upon the unique culture that shapes the steel industry, as well as the ethics of Greek shantytown culture. The audience and speakers left the screening with a new perspective on industrial society and a vision for using the personal in creating documentary film.

The Consulate General of Greece in Boston sponsored the event, hosting a reception at the Consulate before the screening and attending the film. Consul General Ilias Fotopoulos attended the event, as well as the Greater Boston UN chapter and academics from Harvard University, MIT, Boston University, and Tufts University. 

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