My family and I watched Cliffs of Freedom yesterday, on my name day and Greek Independence Day. I didn’t know what to expect, and I found it pretty good. It definitely did the job it was made for.
The movie was produced by the National Hellenic Society to educate Greeks in the diaspora about the Greek revolution of 1821. It’s based on a novel by Marianne Metropoulos, wife of Greek-American billionaire Dean Metropoulos. It’s not a historical story; it’s a romance and family story set during the rebellion.
So, in a word, it’s propaganda. But it’s propaganda that’s probably worth watching for Greeks in the world. First, because it’s a pretty well-done film. It looks great; the sets and costumes are lush and authentic. I was surprised to see that it was shot in Albuquerque, NM. I was pretty convinced it was filmed in Greece.
The story is good, too. Telling the history of how the Greeks got their freedom from the Ottoman empire, it would be tempting to make black-and-white distinctions between the two. But the Turks and Greeks are shaded in various grays, which is good. There are collaborators and traitors, and those who played both sides, just like in the real story.
The cast is good, too. The female lead is Tanya Raymonde, who played Alex in LOST, as a Greek patriot rebel. She and her Turkish love interest, played by Jan Uddin, are both so easy on the eyes that you really enjoy watching them on screen. Billy Zane of Titanic and Twin Peaks is a treacherous Greek collaborator. Christopher Plummer is a Greek advisor to the Turks.
There were parts I didn’t like. There is a lot more glorification of suicide than I usually want to show to my kids. Multiple characters jump off the titular cliffs because there is “no other way out” of whatever situation they’re in. Also, the love story gets more complicated than it needs to be. Finally, when Kolokotronis appears on screen, his moustache isn’t long enough. Hollywood, when you need a moustache model, you know where to find me.
Overall, I’d say it’s probably the best dramatization of the Greek Revolution in English language film that I’ve seen, which isn’t saying that much. I actually would have preferred a Ken-Burns-style nonfiction story, but I don’t think any of those exist, either. Given the importance of the Greek Revolution for European and world history, it’s kind of a shame that we don’t have more media about it.
I’d say watch this movie if you’re Greek or Greek at heart and have an occasion to, like 25 Μαρτίου.