IN 2014, Greek filmmakers Myrto Papadopoulos and Angelos Tsaousis wrapped up their documentary film “The New Plastic Road” (2014), which examines the rapid economic and social change among isolated communities in Tajikistan’s mountainous Pamirs zone. They felt a calling to make the film following thorough research on pertinent, modern-day topics in world affairs, which led them to an article titled “The New Silk Road” in Time magazine.
The filmmakers wanted to talk about an international subject that not many people have dealt with, so the article hit the spot, relating the story of a country that is being reborn after the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and after a thunderous seven-year Civil War in the 90s. The relatively unknown country remains the poorest in Central Asia, but has more recently been attracting many big investors from around the world and its geographical position may just have something to do with that (Tajikistan shares land borders with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and China).
Excited and passionate about the unique and timely topic, Tsaousis and Papadopoulos headed out to Tajikistan and began a cinematic journey involving numerous road trips to remember, travelling along the old silk road, sometimes reaching extremely high altitudes, with shockingly cold weather and dodgy circumstances that required some courage and determination to keep on filming. On their way they found their beloved lead ‘character’ Davlat, a merchandiser and father of three, who since the opening of the border between China and Tajikistan has made a fortune out of the exchange of goods. “We found ourselves in very dangerous circumstances, but with the help of Davlat, we felt safe,” Tsaousis said, “He’s a very strong person, just like everyone else that works on this road, driving trucks and putting their lives at risk”.
The pair grew strongly attached not only to Davlat (whose appearance in the very last scene of their film, they both gush, still makes them cry when they watch it) but to the region with its changeable and dramatic landscapes, relatively anonymous societies and cultures and an already shaky national identity that is changing at alarming speeds.
Screened at the Thessaloniki Documentary Fim Festival earlier this year, The New Plastic Road received great aplomb, as it did when shown in two consequent screenings in Athens. Plans for the film include a cinematic feature film version.
Watch this space for more news to come.
Meanwhile, you can watch My Greek Review’s interview with Tsaousis and Papadopoulos, recorded March 2015 on the grounds under the Odeon of Herod Atticus and the Acropolis.