Short Documentary-in-progress, 25 minutes
Amie Williams and Andriana Theochari, Directors
WE MUST TAKE WATER WITH US
“We must take water with us, because the future will be full of drought” –Michalis Katsaros, Greek poet
WE MUST TAKE WATER WITH US is a tale of land fraud, corruption and environmental destruction, set against the backdrop of a wild, remote beach that is one of the most INSTAGRAM-ed tourist spots in Greece: Shipwreck (Navagio) Beach on Zakynthos Island. A multimedia project, it consists of photos, maps, text, website and a short documentary film that investigates the contested 2014 sale of 14,500 hectares of land which includes pristine forests, rare birds, a Monastery and ancestral olive groves that have been cultivated by 200 families in the area for centuries. The project centers the efforts of two local activists, Spiros Xenos, a sociologist who works for the Church, and George Tsoukalas, a physiotherapist who grew up on Zakynthos. They launch a website and FB page, “Navagiogate” and lead a ragtag army of irate villagers against PIMANA S.A, the Lebanese development company backed by politicians, local mafia and the former Emir of Qatar. We follow George and Spiros’ obsessive, 8-year odyssey to prove the sale was fraudulent, reclaim their land and bring the perpetrators to justice, but we also utilize data journalism and geo-mapping to dive into complex court cases, tax and land titles, forestry and endangered species reports, including a recent public/private company set up to protect the beach and a new Greek Environmental Protection Law that so far seems to be doing just the opposite of what it is claiming. LINK TO SAMPLE TRAILER: https://vimeo.com/ggmp/navagiogate
STATUS OF PROJECT
“It’s an enormous crime against the environment and Zakynthian cultural heritage” –Spiros Xenos“You have no idea how deep the corruption knife cuts,” — George Tsoukalas
We’ve followed this story since 2017, when major wildfires broke out in Zakynthos, in the area of the contested land. Amie, (video journalist), has a summer home there and captured the fires at that time. She interviewed some of the affected villagers, who claimed, along with the Mayor of Zakynthos, it was arson. In the past months, as the story gained momentum in the press due to the surveillance scandals, we put together our team and met to do research and filming with the two main characters in our story, George Tsouklas, born and raised in the mountain village of Ano Finitria, and Spiros Xenos, the sociologist who has spent the last eight years digging into archives, collecting title deeds, church codes, as well as keeping pressure on the Greek government and press. Because the story is so complex and spans years, involving many court cases, incomplete or fraudulent mapping, environmental assessments, and now links to EYP investigations, we need to continue our journalistic investigation to understand the scope of the environmental impact of the story. Specifically, we also want to document through video and photo-essay (portraits and landscapes) the work of the local villagers who have organized an impressive resistance.
Our project is an investigation of the things lost when mass tourism and political greed destroy nature, individual rights and local communities. At a time when the public’s trust in media is at an all-time low, this project supports a citizen-driven effort to research, document and expose a massive scandal and potential environmental disaster that spans two different governments, at least five countries, and the lives of over 800 residents that would be changed forever. It’s a David and Goliath story, but has up until now not broken out of local news, (some which we will prove is in fact fake news). The people of this community need independent journalism support not only for themselves but for the larger issues at stake of climate equity/environmental justice, and the promotion of regenerative and sustainable tourism. Navagio is ranked one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world, visited by half a million tourists a year, but will it remain this way? Other parts of Zakynthos (Laganas) are prime examples of mob tourism devastating precious wildlife, as the near-extinction of sea turtles there attests. Is this what PIMANA S.A will bring to the last remaining wilderness of Zakynthos? We need the support of IMedD for video production, editing, and promotion (building an interactive website), and getting the story as broad an audience as possible in and outside of Greece.