Political Film Society - From the Edge of the City


PFS Film Review
From the Edge of the City


 

Why does a seventeen year old become a male prostitute? This question was recently posed by Konstantinos Giannaris, Greece’s only out-of-the-closet film director, in a documentary interview featured on Athens television. In 1998, Giannaris directed a film to go along with the interview, hiring street prostitutes in most of the roles, and the result is From the Edge of the City (Apo tin akri tis polis), which had a one-week in Los Angeles in December 2000 to qualify for an Academy Award as best foreign film. The film centers on the interviewee, Sasha (played by Stathis Papadopoulos), who was happy as a boy in Kazakhstan until his parents left for Athens to begin a new life when he was seven years old. Most of the dialog is in Russian, with English subtitles, because the principal characters are former residents of the Soviet Union, though ethnically Greek. (They were part of the Greek diaspora, having fled Turkish ethnic cleansing in the 1920s to the Soviet Union, and were relocated by Stalin in the 1930s to Kazakhstan.) Sasha, whose father (played by Vasias Eleftheriandis) is a middle-class college graduate, could not pick up the Greek language in school, so he hangs out with fellow Russian-speaking young men at Omonia Square in Athens, and drug use is a regular part of the camaraderie. When the film begins, Sasha is late for work as a construction worker, but the labor is too arduous, so he quits to make easier money "without doing a thing"--by responding to sexual advances from men, as he has been doing since the age of thirteen. He refuses to get fucked so that he will not be a "faggot," in accordance with Greek traditional views, but his young friend Panagiotis (played by Panayiotis Hartomatzidis) does so and still does not consider himself gay. In time, Giorgos (played by Dimitris Papoulidis) serves as Sasha’s pimp in a lucrative trade as a prostitute for rich suburban females. Giorgos asks Sasha to take care of one of his female prostitutes, Natasha (played by Theodora Tzimou), but he find romantic interest in her. When he takes her home to his parents, his father is upset, telling Sasha that her presence has brought disgrace to the household because she is obviously a whore. They leave and call for a taxi, but Giorgos unexpectedly arrives in the incoming taxi, beats up Natasha for pairing up with Sasha, and then fights with Sasha, who kills him after a scuffle with one kungfu punch. In the end, police are taking Sasha to jail. The Q&A that is interspersed throughout the film, with Giannaris as the unseen interviewer, could presumably be taken as an interrogation by a social work probation officer, who would recommend a sentence appropriate to Sasha’s background and state of mind. Ethnic prejudice is an important element in the film, as native Greek prostitutes get top dollar, Sasha and his cohorts rank below as Pontioi (Greeks from the Black Sea diaspora), but Albanians are at the bottom. Giannaris, a former male hustler, found Stathis Papadopoulos and was so amazed by his story that he felt that the Greek public should know about the alienation of immigrant youth, which presumably could be avoided if the government provided bilingual education for language-minority children. Accordingly, the Political Film Society has nominated From the Edge of the City as best film exposé of the year 2000. MH

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