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All content © James Chressanthis, ASC, GSC

The Lynistaina Project

Robin and I first visited the tiny village of Lynistaina in 1979 where we discovered my ancestral roots. The village is perched on a spine of mountain at the end of a road between Olympia and Sparta in the Southwestern Peloponnese. At that time the road was dirt, there was electricity but no running water and the one hundred people shared a single telephone and one television in my cousin’s combination bar, general store, post office. We returned a year later to live with its people. Robin shot a still portrait study and I made a documentary film about their life from the end of winter to the summer wheat harvest. Making the film Remembrance of a Journey to the Village opened my eyes to the world and taught me many lessons. It was also the beginning of my professional career in cinema.

We made many friends there like my cousins George Gougousis and his sister Maria, Costas Symrnis and family, Stathoula Korkolis and her family, Johnny, Dina and Nitsa. The villagers were self-sufficient farmers, shepherds and goatherds. They raised a bounty of fruit and vegetables, meat, cheese, olive oil and wine. As Stathoula said in my film, “We have everything here!”

Some of the women still spun their own wool, boiled local plants into dyes and wove beautiful blankets or rugs. Dina was one of them. I met her in 1980 and filmed her tending her sheep as she spun wool on a distaff formed from a bent sapling.  The clouds gathered darkening the mountainside. In the cold of the first rain drops Dina mounted her mule and drove the sheep to shelter. She cried back to me: “You are putting me in the museum!” She laughed again, snapped the reins and waved to me: “To the museum!”

I have returned to Linistaina in 2009 and 2012 reunited with the villagers and screened the film again. I connected with old friends and made new ones and began this photographic record. In these pictures are featured Dina and also Toula Lampropoulou, Dimitra Panagoulia and many others.

It was end of winter, snow fell at night and the days were clear but cold. Dina made me coffee then we walked the village and surveyed what had changed and what had remained. When we parted we cry out to each other: “To the museum!”