Film: Smyrna: The Destruction Of A Cosmopolitan City


The New York Times
April 5, 2013 Friday
Late Edition – Final

Destroying a City With Hate
Smyrna: The Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City (1900-1922)


“Smyrna: The Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City (1900-1922)” might
have been a stronger documentary had it been made a few decades ago,
when more people were alive who had experienced the events of 1922
as adults. But it is still a sobering study in how individual human
beings can become afterthoughts in the face of broad movements like
nationalism, a phenomenon that is still much in evidence almost a
century later.

The film, by Maria Iliou, depicts the Ottoman port of Smyrna (now
Izmir, Turkey) as a cosmopolitan paradise where people of various
faiths and nationalities, including significant populations of Greeks
and Armenians, lived harmoniously, if not necessarily as social
equals. But rising nationalism and World War I disrupted the balance
and led, in September 1922, to a catastrophic purging in which Turkish
troops marched in and the city burned. Giles Milton, author of a book
on the subject, says half a million people were stranded on the quay
during and after the fire; some died, and many others became refugees.

The film recounts this with vintage footage and photographs and
interviews with a few survivors and descendants of survivors. It
relies too much on overheated interviews with Mr. Milton, but it will
certainly be of interest to the many people who are still debating
what happened there and who was responsible.

Opens on Friday in Manhattan. Directed by Maria Iliou 1 hour 27
minutes; not rated


You may also like