Politiki Kouzina (A Touch of Spice) (2003)




Director:     Tassos Boulmetis. 

Starring:     Georges Corraface (Fanis Iakovides), Ieroklis Michaelidis (Savas Iakovides), Renia Louizidou (Soultana Iakovidou), Stelios Mainas (Uncle Aimilios), Tamer Karadagli (Mustafa), Basak Kklkaya (Saime), Tassos Bandis (Grandpa Vassilis), Markos Osse (Little Fanis).

unrequited love for a young Greek-Turkish boy who has to leave his young love when his family is deported from Turkey back to Greece



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

In Greece, the Greek-Turkish Fanis is finishing the last astronomy class of the college term.  He is going to go on leave for awhile.  As he prepares to leave he learns that his Grandpa is coming from Istanbul, Turkey.  Fanis prepares wonderful appetizers for his grandpa's arrival.  Five of Grandpa's friends from Istanbul are coming to the surprise party for Grandpa.  But just as the party is about to start, Fanis learns that Grandpa is in the hospital. 

Flashback.  1959, Istanbul. 

The Appetizers

Grandpa has a spice shop on the east bank of the Vosporos River in Istanbul.  Fanis learns about spices from Grandpa's store.  Grandpa tells one of his customers to put cinnamon in her meatballs to make a point.  At home Fanis secretly puts cinnamon in his mother's meatballs.  Dad and Mom argue about what's in the meatballs and Fanis smiles to himself.  They fight over Paleologos.  Fanis first learned about astronomy through Grandpa different spices associated with the different planets and the sun.

Osman Bey and his son Mustafa come into the spice store.  Osman Bey wants Mustafa to be in the army, Mustafa wants to be a doctor and Grandpa tells them that Mustafa will become a military doctor.  There is a new crisis with Athens. 

Two years later.  Fanis thinks he loves Saime, the daughter of Mrs. Aise, Mom's best friend.  Saime dances for Fanis in exchange for the secret ingredient for meatballs.  At a lighthouse, Grandpa teaches Saime and Fanis about geography.  Uncle Emilios, a ship captain, returns home from his most recent voyage.  There are problems in Cyprus.  The men talk about the atrocities of September 1955. 

The headlines in the local paper say:  "All Greeks to be Deported."  The properties of the Greeks to be deported will be confiscated.  Riots occur in Cyprus.  Two agents from Immigration call on Fanis's father.  They tell him that the government will not renew his residence permit.  The main agent blames all of the trouble on Archbishop Makarios.  The father-in-law and wife can stay because they are Turkish citizens, but the father has only one week to be ready for deportation. 

Mom, Dad and Fanis take the train headed for Athens.  Grandpa says that he will come to Athens within two months.  Saime comes to the station with her mother to see Fanis depart.  Narrator Fanis remarks that ever afterwards, he was afraid of people in uniforms: police, military, firefighters, but especially immigration officials. 

Back to the present.  Fanis has traveled the world, but has never gone to see Grandpa in Istanbul. 

1964, Athens. 

The Main Course

Dad argues with mom about where she heard about King Voulgaroktonos.  In two weeks Grandpa is coming and Saime will be coming along with him.  Unbeknownst to his family, at night Fanis prepares a special meal for Grandpa and Saime.  His parents are impressed at his ability to cook.  But Grandpa is a no show.  The family receives a telephone call saying that Grandpa had a sore throat, felt bad and missed the plane. 

Fanis cooks so often that his parents begin to worry about him.  They lock the kitchen door to keep him out of that room of the home.   Fanis responds by locking himself in the bathroom, from which he only comes out to go to school.  Fanis's uncle, the ship captain, tries to talk him out of the bathroom.  No luck.  There has been no word from Saime for two years.  Fanis packs his belongings in a suitcase and gets on the train for Istanbul.  His parents and the train conductors intercept him at one of the main stops along the way. 

April 21, 1967.  The Greek military junta comes to power.  Fanis is now in the Boy Scouts.  He and his colleagues visit the brothel to get some money donations for one of their goals.  Madame Barbara takes a liking to Fanis and has him cooking for her.  The police find Fanis in the brothel and tell his father that he has been acting as a cook in a brothel.  Dad is shocked. 

A few years later.  Fanis still hangs around Madame Barbara and the brothel.  The Turks invade Cyprus.  Fanis works in a restaurant in the kitchen.  He hears once again that Grandpa is coming for a visit.   He also learns that his ship captain uncle is going to marry a woman named Lela, who must learn how to cook Hunkiar for her new husband to be.  Fanis does not think that Lela is the right woman for Lela so he deliberately sabotages her preparation of Hunkiar for his uncle.  Dad and Mom are upset with Fanis, but he tells them that Lela is just not the right woman.  Dad tells Fanis that Grandpa will never come to Greece because he will never leave Istanbul. 

The Desserts

Back to the present.  Fanis visits the Hospital for Greeks in Istanbul.  Grandpa has fallen into a coma.  Fanis visits Grandpa.  Afterwards, he visits Grandpa's old spice shop.  Fanis sees Saime again.  He finds out that she's married, but separated.  She married Mustafa from their childhood.  Mustafa now works as a military doctor.  They have a daughter together. 

Fanis gets a job with the University of Vosporos as a visiting professor.  He tells Saime about his new job, but adds that the final decision kind of depends on how she feels about the relationship.  Mustafa arrives at the birthday of his daughter. 

Fanis invites Mustafa to a talk in a Turkish bath.  Mustafa surprises Fanis when he tells him that he asked Saime if she would get back together with him and she agreed.  They will soon be leaving for Ankara. 

The next day Fanis appears at the railway station to say good-bye to Saime.  They say good-bye and part from one another. 


Pretty good movie.  It is a story of unrequited love between a Greek-Turkish boy in Istanbul and a Turkish girl.   Due to the disputes between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, his family is deported back to Greece.  The boy seems to be a bit delusional always thinking about his life back in Istanbul, his Grandpa and his girlfriend Saime.  The long, painful wait for Saime seems a bit foolish.  What is lacking from the portrait of Fanis is any knowledge of Fanis's relationships with women in Greece.  A young boy who pines for a woman who he only knew as a girl for a brief time and who keeps pining after this woman for a great part of his mature life, sounds  like he needs a psychiatrist more than anything else.  (I did not find the great emphasis on food in the movie very interesting or enlightening.)

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:

1014  --  a battle of the Greco-Bulgarian War took place at Sintiki's Roupel (Kleidi). The Byzantine army was led by Emperor Vasilios, who became known as Voulgaroktonos, the "Bulgarians' Slayer".

1448-1453  --  Paleologos was the last reigning Emperor of the Byzantine Empire.

1878  --  Cyprus placed under British control in return for British support of the Ottoman Empire in the Russian-Turkish War. 

1913  --  Cyprus formally annexed by the British.  (Turkey had joined the Central Powers.)

1914-1918  --  many Cypriots fought in WWI for the British.  The British promised them that Cyprus would be granted independence after the war. 

1950 --  a majority of Cypriots voted in a referendum for union. (The Turkish Cypriots felt left out of the process.)

1955  --  the struggle against British rule erupted with the foundation of EOKA, a Greek Cypriot nationalist organization.

1960  --  independence attained.  (80% of the population were Greek, 18% Turks.)  Greek Archbishop Makarios became the first President of the Republic of Cyprus.

1963 (November)  --  Archbishop Makarios proposes thirteen amendments to the constitution that strips the Turkish Cypriots of much of their political protections.  Turkey rejected the proposed amendments.  So too did the Turkish Cypriot Vice- President Dr. Kutchuk.

1963 (December 21)  --  a brawl breaks out between Turkish Cypriots and plainclothes special constables.  Greek Cypriot para-military forces attack the Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia and in Larnaca.

1964 (March 4)  --  UN Security Council establishes a UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus that remains to this day.

1967 (April 21)  --  the Greek military junta comes to power.

by 1974  --  Greek nationalist right-wingers wanted to unify with Greece.  They started a Greek military backed coup d'etat against President Makarios.  The new president was Nikos Giorgiades Sampson.  Bishop Gennadios became the head of the Cypriot Orthodox Church.

1974 (July 20)  --  Turkey invades Cyprus. 

1974 (August 12)  --  after negotiations stalled in Geneva, Turkey proposed a new system and gave Greece 24 hours to accept it. (Turkey pushes forward to control control 37% of Cyprus's territory. (Greek Cypriot paramilitaries eliminated the entire Turkish Cypriot male population of Tokhni.)  There were over 150,000 Greek Cypriot refugees and over 60,000 Turkish Cypriot displaced persons.


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