"Children teach diplomacy in a Cretan village"

Children teach diplomacy in a Cretan village
A documentary by filmmaker Loukia Rikaki

In the village of Patsideros on Crete students learn how to read and, above all, how to coexist. While the school no longer exists, Loukia Rikaki's camera captures a precious project which has a lot to teach the rest of the country.

In Crete, the village of Patsideros cer­tainly does justice to its name. “Patsos” stands for peace and the residents put the word into practice by coexisting in good will and harmony through the one-teacher school that used to operate with one Greek and five Albanian students. Judging from the kind of conflicts that arise on days of na­tional celebrations and conflicts over who gets to carry the flag, this seems almost un­thinkable in other parts of Greece.

A very powerful lesson in social diploma­cy was given in Patsideros, however, through the children and their teacher, Yiannis Fragiadakis. Leading the pack was Manolis, a priest and a teacher of 14 years. “I had to explain that I’m not running a school of five or six Albanians, but one with six stu­dents,” he says in “The Other,” a documen­tary directed by Loukia Rikaki, currently be­ing screened at local cinemas. It was “Pappa Manolis” who encouraged the immigrant children to attend the school.
For two years, Rikaki filmed the daily rou­tine in the class, visited the children’s homes and talked to their parents, trying to detect their emotions and thoughts. Through all this, the director managed to produce a doc­umentary filled with love, caring and great attention to detail.
Step by step, Rikaki introduces the stu­dents’ characters and shows their relation­ship with their inspired teacher Fragiadakis, their welcoming innocence and their indis­putable intelligence. Together they go on ex­cursions into the countryside, discuss the war, talk about peace. The children are taught and teach in return. Fragiadakis knows how to avoid friction: “We do not en­force the idea of a motherland,” he says.
Andreas, Angela, Despina, Armando and Giorgos (the Greek) play together, learn and reveal their dreams. They are not arrogant. Brought up by the land and the idea of work­ing in the fields, they develop a solid and bal­anced relationship with life. Their teacher’s work is complex. Not all parents are con­vinced of the necessity of peaceful coexis­tence. He has to persuade them, without in­sulting them.

The director becomes a discreet observer, at times seduced by the children’s grace, at times allowing emotion to cover the neces­sary ground with the use of hyperbole and emotionally charged music.
Though the one-teacher school - origi­nally established in 1873 - has now closed down, Rikaki’s documentary guarantees a testimony for the years to come.
by Maria Katsounaki