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Out of the Past: Greeks Fight Crisis With Laughter

Is laughter the best medicine? From the outside looking in, a crisis affecting the economic, political and social structures of a country seems like nothing to laugh laugh about.
Despair and unemployment, depression and fear of a bleak future, loss of sovereignty and piled-on austerity measures require tough solutions to let people catch their breath during a brutal recession.
The Greek debt crisis has brought many changes to people’s everyday lives, but their sense of humor seems to have survived unscathed to date, even if it’s sometimes reflected in gallows humor. The Mediterranean spirit seems unwilling to kneel before the might of the crashing debts and rigid politics, so humor is being used to break the misery. As the Greeks say: “I laugh so that I may not weep.”
Greek TV channels, some of which turned to Turkish soap operas, are once again broadcasting Greek films, especially comedies, directed and produced mostly in the late 1950’s, after World War II and the Civil War created a devastated nation eager to stand back up on its feet. The Greek Cinema began a golden period of memorable little gems that attracted the public with its joyful and somewhat naive characters, vibrant dialogues and the black-and-white scenery hosting a rising middle-class’s adventures.
Just as Greece of the 1950’s needed to laugh and forget the Occupation and the famine, Modern Greece forgets of its problems by watching for the hundredth time the same old movies starring Nikos Stavridis, Rena Vlachopoulou, Thanasis Vengos, Aliki Vougiouklaki, Dimitris Horn, Kostas Hatzichristos, Lambros Konstantaras, Mimis Fotopoulos, Jenny Karezi, Sapfo Notara, Georgia Vasiliadou, Maro Kontou, Alekos Alexandrakis, Dimitris Papamichael, Costas Voutsas, Dionysis Papayianopoulos and so many others.
Most of these names are unknown beyond Greek borders, but their acting talent survived through the years and one Greek generation after the other grew up learning by heart the inspired lines of their films or the vibrant songs full of hope and wit. The Golden Age of the cinema in Greece has left its mark on the industry and the people.
Since the debt crisis began, more and more Greeks turn to the old comedies, or even the ancient ones of Aristophanes to find an escape from their callous reality. Whether in the theater the TV, productions of the past offer something contemporary life cannot: an honest laugh, a glimpse of hope for the better days to come, a happy ending for the troubled ones. The 1950’s and 60’s comedies have been experiencing a revival in the past two years right because they offer a relief from stress with their genuine concepts and honest performances.

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