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Matinee: 'In The Eyes Of Children' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

20 May 2017

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 188th in our series of Saturday matinees today: In the Eyes of Children.

Directed by Fuyuko Mochizuki, this 11-minute production follows the Greek photographer Vassilis Nikas as he visits the Ritsona refugee camp. I a voice-over as he takes photos in the camp, he expresses his empathy for the plight of the refugees in the very first scene. "The same thing could happen to us," he says.

We see a few of his portraits of the refugee children in a short slide show before we drive into the camp with him. He gets out of the car and we see him surrounded by children.

He follows them around, photographing their play. It reminds him of his own childhood "when we would play outdoors" instead of sitting in front of a screen all day.

Nikas was touched, he says, by the children's enthusiasm and smiles despite their difficulties. He asked himself, 'How can I help these people?'

Nikas was touched, he says, by the children's enthusiasm and smiles despite their difficulties. He asked himself, "How can I help these people?"

He has been a photographer since 1998 and taught photography for 15 years as well. Photography is his life, he says.

As a photographer, the idea of an exhibition "to motivate the people of Chalkida" came to him naturally. So he exhibited his portraits at an outdoor show.

But he didn't stop there.

Theodora Akriotou, former manager of the camp, remembers how one day Nikas asked what she would say if he put on some films for the kids. "Of course, just do it," she told him.

And the next time she saw him, he had started a film night every Tuesday. With the help of his friend George Kounis, he has shown over 30 films like Cinderella and Spiderman.

You hear the children chant, "Film, film, film" and "Talata, Talata, Talata," which is Tuesday in Arabic. Then you see them watching the movies, eyes wide open.

Akriotou explains that Nikas was not just giving the refugees food and shelter but something more, something to heal their souls. When the children grow up, she says, what they'll remember is that "there was a tiny light in this dark time."

Children, she says, are the future. They are a people's hope. And when Nikas comes to see the children, he is taking care of their hope. "If you save children, you save hope," she says.

Director Mochizuki explains how Nikas also changes the conversation about refugees:

These are unusual times for society. In many countries the national and social media swirls fear and sensationalism in concentrated sound bites that cloud our core beliefs. This makes it the perfect time to show my documentary which re-frames the narrative about refugees by focusing not on the politics or religion but simply on Vassilis Nikas, a Greek photographer who has made it his priority to replace despair with hope and smiles by being true to not only his own core beliefs but all of ours.

Nikas never loses sight of what matters perhaps because as Cinderella tells the children, "In dreams you will lose your heartaches. Whatever you wish for, you keep."

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