Black Death is a 2010 kike-movie starring Sean Bean, directed by antichristian Christopher Smith, and written by Kike Dario Polani ("Mother's family is of Irish descent, father's family is Italian" - IMDb).

Director Smith:

"It's a 'medieval guys on a mission' movie. The period of the black death – what's fantastical and rich about that period? I said, 'What if we took a realistic approach?' The people of the time believe the plague was sent by God to punish them for their sins, or by the Devil to torment them. I wanted to find out what the characters felt and posit them on a journey of 'is it real? Or is it not real?' What would a necromancer be like if he existed? We added this fundamentalist knight, so it touches on fundamentalism. It's a super dark film but it's exciting. It's like a dark parable about how things haven't really moved on in the last 600 years."

["Director Chris Smith on Black Death", by Ryan Rotten, Shock Till You Drop, 2010.01.29]

Black Death: Why you should avoid this like the plague...

By CHRIS TOOKEY, Daily Mail, 10 June 2010

Verdict: Lacks life

British director Christopher Smith takes us back to a mud-spattered, superstitious 14th century in this eccentric mixture of action movie and horror flick.

Christian fanatic Sean Bean and youthful monk Eddie Redmayne go on an expedition to a marshland village where the plague has yet to arrive. There are rumours of a necromancer at work.

Christian fanatic Sean Bean stars in Black Death, but is not one of his best performances

Smith seems fatally undecided whether to turn the ensuing narrative into a Lord Of The Rings-style adventure, an anti-religious parable, a psychological study of disintegrating faith or gruesome horror.

There are hints of depth in the performances by Redmayne, Bean and John Lynch as one of their henchmen. But too many roles, especially Tim McInnerny's and Carice van Houten's as leaders of the villagers, feel underdeveloped.

Dario Poloni's script pays tribute to Werner Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath Of God, and British cult films such as The Wicker Man, but fails to bind the ingredients into anything like a plausible or satisfactory narrative.


Lorena, Los Angeles: Fanatical Christian ... of course. Hollywood rarely portrays religious people as being "normal" ... we're all nuts and psychos, or at best, hypocrites, hiding a dark secret. I was looking forward to a movie where I got to feast my eyes on Sean Bean, but this formula is getting very tired. And no, I'm not uneducated, not creepy, not a psycho, and though I have my flaws, I try very hard not to be a hypocrite. And I'll tell you a secret: Most truly, truly holy people I've ever met in my life radiate happiness, contentment, and a deep love. They are a pleasure to be around. I guess the producers and screenwriters haven't met any truly holy people, but then again, they worship money ...

Actors include Kike David Warner as "The Abbot", Kike Andy Nyman [who "has played lead roles in [Kike] Jon Avnet's Emmy award winning film Uprising (NBC) as a Polish freedom fighter and in Coney Island Baby as a gay French gun dealer."], and Emun Elliot (Emun Mohammadi) as "The Squire".

"Black Death was developed and produced by [Kike?] Douglas Rae and [Kike] Robert Bernstein at London's Ecosse Films ["founder Douglas Rae...remains executive-producer on all of Ecosse's films, company director and producer Robert Bernstein"], with Phil Robertson of Zephyr Films acting as physical producer. Ultimately it could not get off the ground in the UK and became a 100% German production.The film was financed solely out of Germany, with Jens Meurer of Egoli Tossell Films acting as producer. The film was originally due to be directed by [Kike?] Geoffrey Sax, with Rupert Friend and Lena Headey attached to star."

Distributor: "Magnolia Pictures is an American film distributor, and is a holding of 2929 Entertainment, owned by [Kike?] Todd Wagner and [Kike] Mark Cuban. Magnolia was formed in 2001 by Bill Banowsky and Eamonn Bowles"


Interview by James Klein

Unrated, 24 February 2011

One of the many rising talented directors out there is British director Christopher Smith. Smith has worked in many genres since his debut film Creep in 2004. He has done a monster film (Creep), a horror/comedy (Severance), a suspense thriller (Triangle) and his newest film Black Death is a period piece about England’s black plague and a small band of Crusaders and a young priest on a quest to find a village that has yet to be infected by this plague.

All of Mr. Smith’s films has been very unique and different. Speaking to him I got the impression that he is foremost, a movie fan and his passion and love for making films shows in not just this interview but in his films as well.

Being this was my first interview, it was such a treat to speak to such a class act, a very down to Earth kind of guy. Special thanks go out to Brandon Nichols for allowing me the chance to interview Mr. Smith. An also special thanks goes out to Adam Bielawski for bringing me on to write for UnRated Magazine.

Hope you all enjoy this. There are some spoilers for those who have yet to see Black Death. —James Klein


JK: Well I wanted to jump right into Black Death, which by the way I really enjoyed.


JK: What sort of research did you do for Black Death? How much of Black Death’s facts regarding the plague is based on fact?

CS: It was as close as you can get. We researched it heavily. We didn’t want to show just the titillating side of how they died. It’s not in the way they died, it was in the numbers. I wanted to shoot it in the way that this event happened say ten years ago instead of something that happened 600 years ago. If it happened just ten years ago, we would be filming it with respect for the absolute human tragedy that it was. That’s why I shot as if you were watching war footage rather than how I shot say Severence, the kind of [Kike] Sam Raimi style where I think that wouldn’t be right for it. The reason I think this feels authentic…weirdly there was a talk show in England today that I heard while I was driving in my car and the film was actually being discussed by these historians. I didn’t even know the film was going to be discussed. They were very, very positive about all the things we had done. There were a few niggling things that only a historian would pick up that even we hadn’t realized. Things like the sequence when the flagellant soldiers, whipping themselves having to cross up the river. Actually, they would only walk on land because the purpose of the flagellant soldiers was to make other people join them by flagellating themselves, they would please God and punish themselves and keep the plague at bay. Visually, we wanted to do the sequence in the river so I said, “Ok, what they are really doing this for is they are giving themselves as big of a burden as they can by actually walking against the flow of the river.” That factual incident is wrong but what they all commended us on that I am most proud of is that it feels as though the characters have Medieval thinking and are behaving in a Medieval way. But that atmosphere comes alot from the script and from the way the actors are performing as well as the way it looks with all the costumes and make up.

JK: That’s funny when you mentioned that you shot it like a WWII movie. I thought the same thing when I was watching it, that it was very different from the way Creep, Severence, or Triangle looked. I was thinking to myself that this is nothing like, say Braveheart or Conan the Barbarian…

CS: Yes, its got that certain feel like when you watch the History channel and you see the way WWII was filmed. The footage these soldiers shot wasn’t the most clear, not the best stuff ever shot. [Kike] Spielberg made Saving Private Ryan based on this idea, that the footage that has been captured and shown in documentaries of people being gunned down is so much more shocking and brutal and it’s not just to do with the fact that it’s obviously real people. Even if you reproduce it in a movie, you get that same sense and feeling as that horrendous footage, it kind of creates this immediacy. I think alot of modern cinema today has come from that. Just look at the amazing first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg is just amazing. I think that film affected everything that has came out after in terms of this kind of style of immediacy. I also think the way we view the internet and the way we can now see this footage that we never had access before…the language of cinema has really changed as a result of all that.


JK: Ok, I gotta know, what was it like to work with [Kike] David Warner [of Holocaust, Portrait in Evil; in 1981, he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special for his portrayal of Pomponius Falco in the television miniseries Masada.]? I am a huge fan of his.

CS: (Laughs) It’s funny ya know, I have done four interviews today and everyone wants to know about David Warner. He’s one of those actors who…if you see him reading lines in a room, David has so much gravity…he almost feels too big for the screen. It reminds me of a story that Sean Bean told me that when he was making the film The Field. Richard Harris was performing and he does this scene where the director was worried that Harris’s performance was just too big and Richard Harris said, “No, just go watch it back in the rushes, you’ll love it. It’s brilliant, darling.” And as it turns out he won an Oscar for that performance. David Warner is one of those similar actors. If people really spoke the way he speaks on screen or in a room, you would go, “What? That guy is ridiculous!” But on screen when you put it back on playback, it’s just brilliant. It was just a pleasure working with David. Every line would just be…he could give you 15 different versions of the same line. It was incredible.

JK: That’s awesome. Now, Black Death seems to have a theme regarding organized religion in that if any religion is taken to the extreme it can become dangerous. Would you say this is correct?

CS: Absolutely yes. That’s the film. It’s about the way people can corrupt religion and use religion on people. Not so much the religion in itself, but just the corrupting influence of people.


JK: The ending of Black Death ends on kind of a downer with what happens to the character of Osmund. Was this always the original ending? Were you ever at any point asked to change the ending?

CS: No…it was…well, the original script I read was entirely different. The second half of the movie was entirely supernatural. At the end of that script before I got involved, he (Osmund) was actually in Hell and Hell being in the physical place. And that was when you find out that Carice’s character was actually the Devil reincarnated. I loved the idea of Osmund ending up in Hell but I wanted to…well Hell for me is the Hell you are in within yourself. That’s what Triangle was about, being trapped in guilt and Hell. I wanted the character to be in Hell at the end so I wanted to come up with an idea for that. That’s when I came up with the epilogue which we did put in. And all the way through there was not an appetite for this ending because it was so dark, they did try to cut it from the script. Then they tried to cut it from the shooting schedule. Eventually they realized they needed it to show Osmund’s radicalization. Suddenly with just two days to spare, everyone wanted the epilogue. But for me it was a closure, the whole point of the movie is in that epilogue. It’s hard to watch the first time when you see it but when you know it’s coming and you see it again it makes absolute sense that someone has become the embodiment of evil. No witch was ever guilty of being a witch and thousands and thousands were killed. Why? Was it just for money? For power and corruption? Probably. But there were other people who passionately believed in this evil so…why? And so Osmund almost becomes worse than Sean Bean’s character.


Carice Van Houten: The _Heeb_ Interview

by JOSHUA_NEUMAN, The_Heeb, Apr 4, 2007

In Black Book (in theaters across the U.S. today), Dutch starlet Carice Van Houten plays the typical Paul Verhoeven femme fatale—aggressive, cunning and gorgeous. The director, best known in the United States for classic guilty pleasures like Basic Instinct and Showgirls, returned to his native Holland to tell the complicated story of life in the country during the final days of WWII. With a compellingly and risky performance that earned her a third Golden Calf (the Dutch equivalent of an Oscar), Van Houten plays a Jewish woman who goes undercover for the Dutch Resistance and falls in love in the process. Eric Kohn spoke with the Dutch actress in Austin, TX last month.

*What sort of reactions have you been getting to your performance as the Jewish character Rachel Stein?*

It’s funny. Even though she isn’t the perfect hero, the audience is with her anyway, because you like her. She’s a human being, not Catwoman.

*She is identified as Jewish, but the movie doesn’t make overt physical connections to her culture and faith.*

It was difficult, because in the beginning I was thinking, 'I don’t look Jewish. I have blue eyes!’ But then I felt really stupid because, of course, there are black people and redheads who are Jewish. It made me realize that not everyone looks like Woody Allen and Anne Frank. And the German [character in the film] wasn’t a blond guy with blue eyes. To play my character, I talked to a few Jewish people, asking them, 'What is typically Jewish?’ It was difficult for them to answer that.

*Rachel falls in love with the Nazi Ludwig Muntze, played by Sebastian Koch. Somehow he’s an entirely sympathetic character.*

It’s complicated and we wanted to approach it very subtly and carefully. We wanted to see if a love story could overcome the fact that it’s between a Jewish girl and a German man, who obviously isn’t the German you expect him to be. Even though he chose the bad party, it doesn’t mean he was born an asshole.

*Do you consider the movie a tragedy?*

Yes, in a way. These people connect because they were both wounded. He lost his family as well. It happens so often that people fall for the wrong guy.

*There is a lot of subtlety to your performance, particularly when your character has to pretend to enjoy herself in the company of Nazis. How did you bring such nuances in your reactions?*

Paul [Verhoeven] gave me a lot of freedom. He gave me a lot of space and trust. I felt really like I could do my own thing. Of course, sometimes he would correct me a little, but he trusted me. I was brought up on silent films—Chaplain, Laurel and Hardy—because my father was a silent film freak and he writes about them. It’s all in me. I would love to do a film where I don’t speak. I fuck up so much with talking. Really!

*As an actress with a career based in Holland, what’s it like for you to encounter American audiences?*

I’m very happy that they’re subtitling it here. They dub it in Germany, Italy and France. Reaction-wise, there’s not so much difference between Europe and America. Maybe Americans see the more amusing side of it, the irony—there were more laughs in the audience outside Europe. Of course, in Europe, the story is a little closer to home.

*Do people consider Rachel Stein to be the hero of this movie?*

Yes. I read a lot about young women in the Resistance in Holland, and after reading about just one 19-year-old girl, I was already identifying with her. It was all very scary, courageous work. All of sudden, she has to shoot someone because he’s in her way. Everyone [who sees the film] wants me to kill the killer, which is very interesting. If you want the innocents to kill, then it’s never going to stop. It shows how difficult it is to forgive if people do bad things to you.

*Is this movie your calling card to the American film industry?*

I hope it is, so I don’t have to knock on the door of every agent in showbiz. I’m very grateful for the fact that I can say, 'Well, if you’re interested, just go and see the film.’ It’s a dream part for a woman. I definitely would like to work outside my own country, because the film industry [in Holland] is too slow.

*Are there particular American filmmakers you’d like to work with?*

This [Guillermo] del Toro man is interesting. And the directors of Little Miss Sunshine are very nice as well. I always say that if Paul Thomas Anderson calls me, I’m on the first plane. I love Magnolia. And [Kike] Sydney Pollack. Tootsie is one of my favorite films. I’ve worked so hard and so much so there are so many things I haven’t seen yet.

Review: ‘Black Death’

By [Kike] Leslie Felperin, Variety, FEBRUARY 22, 2010

A savvy, stylish horror-actioner that's more than the sum of its genre parts.

A savvy, stylish horror-actioner that’s more than the sum of its genre parts, Brit-German co-production “Black Death” follows an envoy of soldiers led by Sean Bean on a mission to capture a heretical sorcerer, while the bubonic plague harrows medieval Europe. While managing to deliver enough suspense and bloodletting to appease gore fans, steadily improving helmer Christopher Smith (“Severance”) and screenwriter Dario Poloni smuggle in a merciless critique of religious delusion. With the right marketing spell, the pic could do better biz in Blighty and offshore than Smith’s underperforming previous “Triangle,” and develop a cult following on ancillary.

Although the pic is set in 1348, screenwriter Dario Poloni (“Wilderness”) has spliced into “Black Death” a lot of thematic DNA from 20th-century-set “The Wicker Man” (1973), another pulpy but haunting drama that pits Christians against pagans. Revered, dark-hearted B-movie “Witchfinder General” (1968) also reps an obvious influence. Use of grainy stock and a preference for special effects rather than visual or CGI effects gives “Black Death” a pleasingly retro feel, as does its willingness to explore uncomfortable moral ambiguities.


Unrated, 09 February 2011

Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Theatrical Release: March 11, 2011

Director: Christopher Smith

Review by James Klein

British director Christopher Smith’s newest film is yet again very different than all of his previous films. He has dabbled with a monster movie, (Creep) a comedy-action-horror film, (Severance) and a thriller (Triangle). Now he jumps into a period piece about the Dark Ages, witch hunting, and the Bubonic plaugue. Black Death is yet again very different than any of his other films and this is so far his best. However, the film may not be for everyone as the tone can be pretty bleak and violent but it is also very powerful.

A young monk decides to help lead a crusade to a small village that is rumored to be uneffected by the black plague that is killing everyone. The crusaders believe they are doing God’s will and that this village may be filled with witches and demons who can bring the dead back to life. As these crusaders go on their journey, they themselves are hit with not only the plague but also forest thieves, witch hunters and soon the actual villagers from this village. I have always been a fan of sword fighting films and period pieces set during the Middle Ages. Black Death is different in that the film plays out like a drama but then mixes in action and horror. The best way to describe the film is think Braveheart meets The Wicker Man with just a touch of The Witchfinder General thrown in.

Black Death’s script poses many questions regarding organized religion. How important is our faith? Can our beliefs be dangerous? Should a religion push their beliefs onto others?

The Todd Wagner Foundation [@ Wikipedia]

Wagner has his own charitable foundation, the Todd Wagner Foundation. After meeting with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wagner in 2001 launched his Foundation’s first children’s program, the Dallas chapter of the After-School All-Stars (then called Inner-City Games), a national program championed by Schwarzenegger that provides year-round technology, academic, sports and cultural programs for children in the nation's inner cities. The Dallas After-School All-Stars now reaches more than 4,000 children with programs ranging from chess and art classes to golf, running clubs and math competitions.

Wagner also created a Minority Technology Fund that provides funding and resources to minority-owned, technology-focused businesses based in Dallas and has made investments in numerous companies including: Imaginuity Interactive, a Web site development firm; Abstract Concepts, developer of African-American communities and; and rocKnot, a software development firm.

Wagner has also developed the MIRACLES technology, education and life skills program that provides an after-school program for inner-city children. This program is currently in its fifth year and is operating in nine cities in conjunction with the national After-School All-Stars. The multi-year program begins in sixth grade and continues through high-school graduation. The Foundation recently made a grant that unites the MIRACLES curriculum with The Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA) technology program “Club Tech”.
The Foundation has also provided funding to bring KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter school to Dallas in 2003 and to Wagner's hometown of Gary, Indiana in 2006. KIPP Truth Academy is a program for students to develop knowledge, skills and character.

Wagner’s philanthropy has earned him several honors including the national First Star “Visionary Award” (2006), the Dallas CASA “Champion of Children” award (2005), the national “Kappa Sigma Man of the Year” award (2003), the Milton P. Levy Jr. Volunteer Award from Dallas' Special Care and Career Services (2008), an honor from the Urban League of Greater Dallas (2003), “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” from Dallas’ Center for Nonprofit Management (2002), and After-School All Stars’ “Man of the Year” (2000).

Black Death – Interview with Dario Poloni


Black Death, a supernatural thriller set in England in the year 1348, will be coming to movie theaters next month. Starring Sean Bean, the movie centers around the efforts of a monk and a group of knights to learn the secret why a remote village is not being effected by the plague which is ravaging Europe.

How did you come up with the idea of setting a supernatural thriller in the Middle Ages?

"I have always been fascinated by history and feel it is an underused resource in British films, certainly film makers tend to favour some periods of our history over others, and pre-Elizabethan England is not seen that often. For me just the name ‘The Dark Ages’ is enough to get the imagination going. I’m not sure I’d classify the film as supernatural, that decision is for the audience to make."

What was so appealing about the episode of the Black Death to make it your background to the story?

"As a backdrop the Black Death is a writer’s dream, a chaotic, turbulent and unpredictable world. It’s hard to draw too much of a parallel between today’s epidemics / health concerns and what happened back in 1348, partly because the world was so different then, as was the mindset of the average person. Though I believe fear of contagious disease is part of the human psyche, and of course that made this period especially interesting. But just as much of an attraction was the ‘Wild West’ aspect, the lawlessness, the fear of the unknown and the lack of central organisation."


Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by [Kike] Harvey Karten

Dario Poloni, who wrote the script for "Black Death," tells us one thing that many of us already know: that the greatest cause of violent death on a global scale aside from disease is brought about by religion. The knights and one monk who ride into a village in this equine road movie all bear the cross on their chests, all have sworn fealty to God, and all end up killing in His name. But wait! Poloni does not "have it in" only for bible-thumping fanatics, but as well for those who do not believe at all. The atheists, or pagans as they are called by the Christians, are at least as crazed and violent as the pious. In fact, the movie is saying that all extremes are bad, whether absolute believers or absolute non-believers, a point that can be stretched into modern times as a condemnation of Nazis, Communists and Fascists of all stripes, all the people who believe that humankind can be molded into some ideal image while the ones who cannot conform to that ideal are vermin to be eradicated.

That's a heady point, but not all broadly philosophic themes are translated into great movies. "Black Death" is no "Seventh Seal" and Christopher Smith is hardly another Ingmar Bergman. Director Smith, whose "Creep" in 2004 dealt with a woman pursued by an attacker in London's Underground, whose "Severance" in 2006 took us to a sales meeting that goes wrong in the mountains of Eastern Europe , and whose "Triangle" in 2009 brought scenes of havoc on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, is in his métier with "Black Death."

This time Smith takes us way back to the Fourteenth Century, obviously one in which the Adjustment Bureau must have left to free will for human beings to act as they will, and they're up to no good as usual. Bad enough that rats brought Bubonic Plague, or Black Death, to Europe in 1348, leading to the death of up to sixty percent of the continent's population. To help the rats and fleas along, people bearing swords, axes, hammers and spears galloped in response to the call of the Church to do something about those pesky witches and necromancers whose Black Magic was the real cause of the decimation.

There must be witches in at least one village, according to the local bishop in England, since that town is completely free of plague. Osmund (Eddie Redmauyne) a young novice monk who loves both God and his girlfriend agrees to lead a "holy warrior," Ulric (Sean Bean) and his band of merry murderers to that pristine village that knows no plague. What they find there is a group of people who are surprisingly cordial to them, welcoming them to stay the night and eat of their table. But things are seldom what they seen, particularly in the guise of Langiva (Carice van Houten), who looks like a witch and who appears to be the leader of the community.

"Black Death" is part horror, part historical fiction, and all dark. There's not a human being, at least in the principal cast, who can be called "good." The film is dark photographically as well, cinematographer Sebastian Edschmid swirling his camera hither and thither to make the audience seasick while Stuart Gazzard supports the project by editing the fight scenes so you never really get to see who's battling whom. Regrettably when one individual is drawn and quartered-one horse pulling his left arm and leg in one direction and another pulling the right arm and leg in the other-we hear bones crack and sense that limbs are leaving the torso, but we're never allowed to see this lovely scene close-up.
It's a reasonably entertaining pic, one that might frustrate horror fans by the limitations on torture while having all of us wonder whether the whole project is camp or serious.

Rated R. 97 minutes.

Harvey Karten, Member: NY Film Critics Online.

+ + +

More Mega-Kikery


The film tells of Thessaloniki, of its unparalleled Jewish past, meeting most different people and thereby revealing the complex reality of a city at the outskirts of Europe, a display of historical layers and stories.

Der Film taucht ein in das heutige Leben der Stadt Thessaloniki, begegnet unterschiedlichsten Menschen und erzählt so die heutige Realität der Stadt, ihre Schichten und Geschichten auffächernd.

The idea behind the film

Initially there was a poem.

Una llave de Salonica
Abarvanel, Farias o Pinedo,
arrojados de Espana por impìa
persecuciòn, conservan todavia
la llave de una casa de Toledo.»

A key to Salonica

«Abarvanel, Farias or Pinedo,
chased out of Spain through unjust
persecution, still possess
the key to a house in Toledo.»

It was in this poem by Jorge Luis Borges that I first came across the name Salonica.Salonica? And what did Borges mean by the key to a house in Toledo? There were many unanswered questions.
Subsequently I came across Salonica whilst reading Primo Levi’s «Ist das ein Mensch?», in which he relates how he survived Auschwitz.

I believe that thanks to my nocturnal excursion, the Greek rather overestimated my capacity for being „débrouillard et démerard“, as one so elegantly put it in those days. In my case, I must confess that I principally relied on his extensive experience as well as on his qualities as a Salonica Jew, which as anyone in Auschwitz knew were synonymous with an aptitude for trading and the certainty of making the best out of any situation.

I also well remember being deeply impressed on reading Elias Canetti’s autobiography «The tongue set free», in which he describes his childhood in Rustschuk, Bulgaria, before the First World War:

Apart from the Bulgarians, who often came from the countryside, there were also a lot of Turks, who lived in their own neighbourhood, one that adjoined ours - the Spaniole neighbourhood. The Spanioles’ loyalties were somewhat complicated. They were devout Jews and community life meant something to them. However, they considered themselves to be special and this was related to the Spanish tradition. In the course of the centuries since their expulsion, the Spanish they spoke to each other had changed very little.

Salonica, or Saloniki, refers to Thessaloniki and the Sephardic Jews, who were expelled from Spain by the Spanish inquisition in 1492 and who found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. These Jews spoke Spanish, the Spanish of the 15th century, and they settled in various places within the Ottoman Empire from Istanbul to Sarajevo, from Corfu to Izmir.

But Thessaloniki became the most important city for the Jews from Spain.

Historical digression

Up until the 1920s Thessaloniki was not a Greek city. After Istanbul it was the second most important city of the Ottoman Empire and birthplace of Mustafa Kemal, later Ataturk. The Jews were the largest population group - before the Turks, Greeks, Slavs, Albanians, Armenians and Levantines. Ladino, their medieval Spanish language, was the lingua franca of the city and on the Sabbath day the city stood still.

When David Ben Gurion, later prime minister of Israel, visited Salonica just before the First World War, he was convinced that a Jewish state was feasible. The Jews of Thessaloniki were living proof that they were not merely merchants and bankers dealing in financial business, but that they were quite capable of running a community. Of a population of 150,000 in 1910, 110,000 were Jews; workers from the docks and factories, skilled artisans, physicians, rabbis businessmen – in short, all social classes and professions were represented. That was unique in the history of the world.

The decline of the Jewish population began after the defeat of the Turks and the loss of Thessaloniki, which now became Greek. In the course of the Hellenisation of the city, many Greeks settled here (the so-called Pontic Greeks). They had entered the country as refugees from the Ottoman Coast, from Istanbul or from the Black Sea Region in exchange for the Turks who were living in the city at that time.

This whole colourful Jewish world disappeared sixty years ago. Within two months a 500-year-old civilisation was extinguished: 56,000 people were deported and destroyed in Auschwitz between April and June 1943.
I went to Thessaloniki with this knowledge

If you stroll through Thessaloniki, it feels no different to any other ordinary nervous Greek town. However, if you know anything of its past you start to see the city through different eyes. You can feel that something is missing.

I was disenchanted: there was no trace of the former «Jerusalem of the Balkans». Of the 32 synagogues only one remained, of the grandiose Jewish cemetery only the stones were left, and these now served as a road surface.

I was appalled to find that nothing could be seen or felt of this splendid history. A pathetic monument that had finally been constructed in 1997 at the insistence of the European Union was the only reminder of the Jews of Salonica. This is where I decided that I would like to make a film.
Initially I imagined that it would be a historically comprehensive film exclusively about the Jewish history and based on archive material. I also imagined portraying Jews originally from Salonica, but now spread all over the world in Argentina, France, Israel and USA.

But then I lived in the city, got involved in the city. I discovered a nervous, agitated city, whose inhabitants went out of their way to emphasise their Greek-ness or Macedonian-ness. As if something had not yet been resolved with regard to the Greek national identity and as if everything were still very fragile and new.

And this identity continued to be defined by the fact that a considerable number of inhabitants were descended from the Greek refugees, who had swarmed into the country in their hundreds of thousands after the defeat of Greece in Asia Minor.

Slowly but surely my original plan was modified. I decided that the film would play exclusively in the city and only in the present and that it had to confront the modern reality of Thessaloniki.

- Paolo Poloni, January 2008

Bio- und Filmography

Paolo Poloni, director (and editor)

Born 1954 in Lucerne, film maker since 1989.

2008 Héritage feature documentary in preparation
2008 Salonica feature documentary 87’
2004 Eine Strasse namens Josef documentary 52’ TSI
2004 Die Ratte, Die Stadt, das Gift documentary 52’ ARTE
2003 Viaggio a Misterbianco feature documentary 90’
1999 Asinara documentary TSI 30' TSI
1998 Fondovalle Spielfilm 80' SRG
1995 Rites de passages documentary 45' TSR
1994 Asmara feature documentary 80'
1991 Witschi geht feature documentary 60'
1989 Volver documentary 60' DRS

Matthias Kälin, cinematographer

Born 1953 in Aarau. 1974 - 1979 INSAS (Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle), Brussels. 1980 - 1987 cameraman for TSI and DRS. Since 1988 freelance cameraman for various feature films and documentaries. Since 1991 regular teaching work at various film schools. 1994 award from the Federal Office of Culture for his work as a cameraman. 2002 UBS prize in Solothurn.



cinematographer (selection):

2008 SALONICA by Paolo Poloni
2007 TROPHÄEN DER ZEIT by Barbara Zürcher and Angelo Lüdin
2007 DIE TUNISREISE by Bruno Moll
2005 MARIA BETHANIA by Georges Gachot
2002 EPOCA by Andreas Hoessli and Isabella Huser
2002 LES PETITES COULEURS by Patricia Plattner
1993 LE HIBOU ET LA BALEINE by Patricia Plattner
1993 LUDWIG 1881 by Fosco and Donatello Dubini
1989 HYENES by Djibril Diop Mambéty
1989 YAABA by Idrissa Ouedraogo

Minos Matsas, music

Studied at the Athens Conservatory, the Juilliard School and the Columbia University in New York. Producer for EMI, has his own music label «Messogios». 1996 founded the Odeon Studios in Athens. Minos Matsas is a musical composer for film, TV, live stage productions und song writing.


2008 SALONICA by Paolo Poloni.
2006 EDUART by Angeliki Antoniou, awarded a prize at the Thessaloniki Film Festival
2006 A DIFFERENT TUNE by Amanda Campbell.
2005 OBSCURA by Andreas Lascaris, Northampton Independent Film Festival
2005 MAKING LIFE WORK by Maximilian Jezo-Parovsky. (Second prize at the Kurosawa Film Festival Tokyo, 2005)
2005 SLEEPWALKING von Tatia Pilieva.
2005 LEFT AT RIO GRANDE by Kevin Abrams.
2004 RES by Maximilian Jezo-Parovsky.
2004 LOOPER by Maximilian Jezo-Parovsky.
2004 SECOND COMING by Darren Cambpell.

Doc Productions GmbH – Rose-Marie Schneider, production

Doc Productions GmbH, Zurich, founded by Rose-Marie Schneider in 1997, is an independent film production company, exclusively producing documentaries. The focus is on humanitarian, social and cultural themes.


2008 SALONICA by Paolo Poloni 90'
2007 WOHNEN IM TRANSIT by K. Naraks & M.Litscher 53'
2007 SONIC MIRROR by Mika Kaurismäki 90' (co-prod. CH/Fi/D)
2006 ER, DER HUT, SITZT AUF IHM, DEM KOPF – Robert Walser-Geschichten by Walo Deuber, 51'
2005 COCA – DIE TAUBE AUS TSCHETSCHENIEN by Eric Bergkraut 86' & 53'
2002 SCHREIBEN GEGEN DEN TOD by Rolf Lyssy & Dominique Rub 57'
2002 LAST MINUTE – Geschichten um den Tod by Reno Sami 51'
2002 RICCO by Mike Wildbolz 120' (Koprod.CH)
2001 STANISLAW VINCENZ by Waldemar Czechowski 57' (co-prod. PL)
1998 SPUREN VERSCHWINDEN by Walo Deuber 79' & 54'

The film’s protagonists

Moishe Bourlais 87 years old and lives in the Jewish old people’s home, Saul Modiano, in Thessaloniki. He has had an eventful life: at 13 he became a communist, at 20 he fought as a partisan against the Germans. After 1945 the right wing Greek government banished him for seven years to a penal colony, before finally extraditing him to Israel. He subsequently lived in Russia and in 1990 he returned to his hometown, Thessaloniki. He says that whether he was Greek, Italian or Jewish was of less significance to him than being a communist and having a free spirit.

Sofia Leviti is a care worker in the old people’s home, Saul Modiano. She grew up in remote Kazakhstan, where she was an English teacher. Her family is of Greek descent. In the former Soviet Union there were several hundred thousand people of Greek descent. Many emigrated after 1990, the majority to Greece, many to Thessaloniki and Sofia is one of these.

Yaacov was 15 years old when he was deported to Auschwitz. He comes from a wealthy family. After the war he went to Israel, because he did not want to get involved in the Greek civil war. It was only many years after the concentration camps that he conquered his shame and began to talk of his experience.

Olivera Shaquiri is an Albanian Roma, who begs for a living. Her family lives in Albania. She is 20 years old and has a six-year-old daughter. The gypsies are a part of life in every town in the Balkans.

Jiannis Kiriakidis is a reporter and has photographed all the local events in Thessaloniki over the past 50 years. He is a quintessential Thessalonian and his family, like many of his fellow citizens, is from Asia Minor, he is a Pontic Greek, as the Greeks from the Black Sea Coast are known. But he is also a fervent Macedonian and patriot, who feels that his identity is being threatened by the new Republic of Macedonia.

Oscar Florentin is descended from a poor Jewish family and was 18 when he was deported to Auschwitz with his family. He had just finished grammar school and intended to go on to further studies. But as he said: «The Germans have sent me to a much better university... to Auschwitz!» He talks of the dismissive and indeed disrespectful reception that he and other survivors received at the hands of the Greeks on his return. This seems to cause him pain even today.

Dani Sevi is 13 years old. He is preparing for his bar mitzvah. He and his brother, Baruch, belong to the youngest generation of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki. In total there are about 500 Jews still living in this once predominantly Jewish city.

Davico Saltiel has been the chazan, or cantor, in the Thessaloniki synagogue for the past 25 years. He is the only person who is still familiar with the traditional, Sephardic way of reciting the psalms. He was originally a shoemaker and is descended from a very poor Jewish family. His father was a socialist and partisan. In 1942 he fled with his family to the mountains, where he survived the war and the deportations.

Devin Naar is a history student from New Jersey. His ancestors originate from Salonica and emigrated to the USA in the 1920s. In the process of tracing his family history he came to Thessaloniki, where with the help of the little surviving archive material pertaining to the Jewish community he is researching the history of his family and that of the Jewish community as a whole. He is particularly interested in the fusion of the Ottoman-Turkish, Spanish, Jewish and Greek lineage in the city.

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