Smyrna review – raw, shocking violence in epic take on Greek-Turkish conflict

Grigoris Karantinakis’s bustling ensemble drama recreates the buildup to a 1922 massacre in what is now İzmir, even if some characters are just walking Wikipedia entries

This epic historical drama could have been called Once Upon a Time in Asia Minor or Once Upon a Time in Turkey, depending on which side of the Greek-Turkish divide you sit. That thorny geopolitical entanglement is what it attempts to unpick, sometimes too forcefully, in telling the story of the one-time melting pot of Smyrna (now İzmir). It culminates in a shockingly raw depiction of the 1922 massacre and ethnic cleansing of the Greek and Armenian population by Kemal Atatürk’s irregulars after they entered the city.

Filio Baltatzis (Mimi Denissi) is the matriarch of a Greek olive oil family in Smyrna, relaxed in their affluence in the Levantine port even as first world war storm clouds encroach. Greece is neutral but her husband Dimitris (Leonidas Kakouris) thinks it should join the Allies and unseat the Ottomans. His brother Spyros (Krateros Katsoulis) is more practical, not wanting to antagonise the ruling Turks. Dimitris should probably have paid more attention, as there are a fair few Turks among his servants, including Halil (Burak Hakkı), who has taken a shine to Ataturk – then a politically ambitious military figure.

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