It is strange how life can go sometimes. Sometimes, things suddenly fall into place, as if someone was planning it all along. I had this feeling when I watched the documentary The Fig House at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in March. Watching it suddenly triggered a memory about a place, a place that I visited almost two years earlier. A place that I was not sure was even real, as I never found it again.
The Fig House is a documentary featuring and filmed in Thessaloniki. It was directed by Pitzi Kamouroglou and is about a group of refugees and activists, of different nationalities, living together in a squat in Ano Poli (the Old Town). The group came together after they made a plan to help the refugees escape to Germany through the Balkan Route. The documentary follows them along the way, from when the plan comes to be to when, ultimately, things do not really work out as hoped.
The filmmakers have built up the documentary in a nice way, and use different ‘chapters’ to structure the plot. Because of the careful editing, there is a good ‘storyline’. There is also a good balance in terms of heaviness. There are many funny moments in the documentary, but it also depicts the many difficulties the group is facing, both in terms of practical issues and (mental) health. It made a big impression on me, as the people living in the house filmed the documentary themselves, making it very intimate. They also added a narration, to give more insight into what was happening. For me personally, it also reminded me of a memory, of a place that I had been looking for ever since I moved to this city last August.
When I first came to Thessaloniki in June 2017, it was for a youth exchange. We had a busy schedule, but at some point, there was also a bit of time to explore the city. I went to Ano Poli with a few others. It was quite a climb, but the view of the city that we had from there amazed us. At some point, we walked by a house which had a box in front of it with free food. We were looking at the box and the house, and we got into a conversation with someone living there. Although I don’t remember exactly what we talked about, somehow the moment made an impression on me.
Ever since I came back to Thessaloniki, I have been thinking of this place, because, although I have been in Ano Poli many times, I never saw the place again. I was slowly starting to question my memories, or at least giving up hope of finding it again, as I have no idea how exactly we got there. Perhaps it was one of Ano Poli’s many mysteries, and perhaps I was not meant to find it.
When I saw the location of The Fig House in the documentary, however, I realised that I knew this place! It was the same place as the one we found two years ago! I went to look for pictures, but I sadly didn’t have any of this place. Then, I went to search for it in the pictures of the people I was with, and I managed to find just one picture. It was at least proof that I had not made it up.
However, the place will remain a mystery. For months, I tried to find an occasion to go to Ano Poli, to try to retrace my steps of two years ago, to find the place again, even though that would be hard of course as the squat doesn’t exist anymore. Still, there might be some hints that will trigger my memory and that will give me a sense of recognition. Sadly, I have not managed, and perhaps this mysterious place was just an illusion after all. It is clear that Ano Poli is really full of mysteries!
Find a short review and rating of The Fig House by the Balkan Hotspot team in our latest issue of Balkan Beats!