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Hostage (Omiros)
(dir: Constantine Giannaris, 2005)


A clearly disempowered man (a superb performance by Stathis Papadopoulos) in a makeshift abode burns a letter from his mother and hits the mean streets of northern Greece, ready to “take back his honour”.  An illegal from Albania, he hijacks the local bus, taking ten or so passengers as hostages, and then proceeds on a fraught 24-hour ride through Greece and Albania, before finally being stopped by police.


Director Constantine Giannaris bravely grounds this thriller premise in psychological and social reality.  Since the early ‘90s, tens of thousands of Albanians have migrated to Greece, many of them illegally.  This film is based on a true story, and is an attempt to humanise the seemingly criminal and violent hijacker.  As the title suggests, the hijacker is the real “hostage”, a simple man pressured by circumstance to act disastrously.  He is not absolved of blame though – the film paints him in a complex way, showing both his good and bad sides.


The film uses flashbacks to reveal the narrative’s backstory, and this robs the film of some power, as we do not understand or empathise with the hijacker until some time into the film.  Giannaris’ gritty realist style and impressive arrangement of dozens of side characters keep things moving though, creating a vivid tableaux of Greek-Albanian relations within Greece.  Each bus passenger, for example, is given a clear personality, with his or her own pain and confusion.  In a film that is perhaps ultimately muted because it tries for too much, these human touches resonate.


© Bill Mousoulis January 2008.
This report first appeared in Neos Kosmos.