A touch of spice

Tassos Boulmetis

Greece-Turkey, 2003





The Separation


The Explanation Astronomy/Gastronomy




Third Grade of Junior High School, History, Chapter 8, “The War in Asia Minor”

Third Grade of Junior High School, Modern Greek, “Diversity”

First Grade of Senior High School, Composition, “Love” / Second Grade of Senior High School, Composition, “Racism”

Third Grade of Senior High School, Modern Greek Literature, Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “The Other”

Suggested Questionnaire:

Observation Questions:

Watch the trailer of the film and reply to the following questions:

– Who are the protagonists of the film?

– Does the film belong to a specific genre?

– Where are the heroes of the film situated?

– How would you describe their relationship?

– What historical event does it refer to?

– Where do you think the film was shot?


Extract A:

  • Describe the sentiments of the protagonists in five words.
  • In your opinion, how do Fanis and Saime feel? Which choices in direction highlight the sense of farewell?
  • Saime gives Fanis the kitchen toy as a gift to take with him in Greece. What does this mean for their relationship?
  • Do you believe that the music narrates their thoughts?
  • In the end of the scene, Fanis goes through customs. The customs officer marks his toy with a chalk: What do you think this gesture means? What is Fanis mostly scared of: the trip or the destination?
  • In the customs scene, we can hear the voice of the narrator. Do you believe he is a homodiegetic narrator or a heterodiegetic narrator?
  • A Touch of Spice contains many autobiographical details. Try to spot them!

Extract B:

  • Why does Fanis’ father blame himself? What are his feelings?
  • While he narrates his story, we experience a jump cut. For a moment, we are transferred in the past and we see a man with a tranch coat and a hat. In your opinion, what is his role in the film and how is he related to the story told by the father of Fanis?
  • Is the ambience pleasant? What kind of shots are used to convey the protagonists’ feelings?


Film Language

Extract A:

– Try to count the shots that comprise this specific scene and calculate their length.

  • In which moments in the scene does the camera stay still and in which moments does it move? In the latter case, in which direction does it move and why?
  • The shots are framed by the music composition “The Station,” which is only heard once throughout the film. The role of the camera is to narrate, but also to communicate something. In your opinion, what is it that it tries to deliver to the audience?
  • Rewatch the scene and try to give a title to each shot.


Extract B:

  • In which way does the music frame the protagonists’ thoughts and wishes? Does it suggest a nostalgic mood and retrospection to all these that were left behind?
  • What are the layers of time in this scene and how are they represented? Apart from the retrospective narrative, is there any directorial gimmick that functions as a means to transfer in time and space? Which one?

 Social-Historical Context:

– Fanis and his family flee the city of Istanbul. Why do they do that? Is this a conscious choice?

How does young Fanis feel when he reaches the customs office?

– What is the meaning of the word prejudice? Which groups or groups are usually treated stereotypically? What are the forms of this discrimination and in which ways is it expressed?

– What is the meaning of the word xenos? Can you recall the last time you felt you were xenoi? What were the actions that triggered these feelings?

– Do you think that in the 21st century Europe there are still minority groups who have experienced or are experiencing similar situations? Can you mention examples from the last 20 years?

– Imagine that the same thing happens today, to a neighboring family. The doorbell rings and they appear, announcing that they need to flee the country straight away. What would you choose to give them?



Association: 2nd Grade of High School: Presentation / Reviewing

1st step: Read the following reviews.

2nd step: Complete the following table according to the positive or negative features you have noticed in this fragmentary screening.


The exceptional cinematography and the meandering art direction are not the only mesmerizing elements of this film. Evanthia Reboutsika’s melodies sound like music from the past, charged with memories and full of feelings. Without any doubt, the choice of actors was made very carefully, so that each and every one seems born for the role, while as a whole they seem born to co-exist and infuse life into one of the greatest film productions in this country. Of course, the fact that some of the best actors of our time play in the film adds some extra value to it.

Giota Papadimakopoulou, http://www.cine.gr/film.asp?id=703662&page=4

Unique personalities, childhood loves that were never forgotten, simple and humane words that speak straight to our soul, move us and immerse us into a trip to the universe. In this universe, everything is a matter of gastronomic perception, everything passes through the kitchen, the emotions flare up or settle down, as they depend on the spices, and vibrate as they send messages to the brain and the heart through the senses. People are judged and distinguished by the smell of a meal that stayed on their clothes, relationships are boosted and involve people or are dissolved due to the spice that was used on purpose or by accident in the wrong food, at the wrong time!

Elena Andreadou, http://www.cine.gr/film.asp?id=703662&page=4

A forty-year-old astrophysicist returns to Istanbul and his childhood memories… When tears blur the eyes of the critics, their judgement gets blurry as well. Boulmetis’ film is a nostalgic kitchen, but at times, the film follows the easy way to our hearts and leads us through paths of remembrance, just like an innocent kid would do. The spices from the grandpa’s store, the smells and textures of food, the cores of each moment of everyday life weave a web of memory and emotions around the main character Fanis and us who witness his story. The cuisine of Costantinople, this beautiful, beloved, tortured city of Greeks in exile, permeats every human fiber and every facet of this film. Salt is sprinkled over life, it is the stardust of the universe that remains invisibles but spices up everything. How can all these flavors fit in one mouth, two eyes, one brain?

Lilly M. Papayanni, Cinema, November 2003, Volume 150

But how did the film A Touch of Spice manage to stimulte the passive and rather wary (when it comes to the artistic practices of its contemporary Greek filmmakers) “wider audience,” bringing people closer and leading them to the dark theatre? In other words, how did this film manage to obtain the functionality and directness of the films of the “Old Greek Cinema,” which was adored by older spectators, yet resisted in finding resort in easy style solutions or in copying; these films never let down the younger fans of “New Greek Cinema” or Contemporary Greek Cinema of the last two decades, that is related with revised themes, diverse aesthetic approaches, and experimental inquiries.

A Touch of Spice is a classic fiction film that crawls in between genres, since it can be described as a social, political or historical film, a comedy or a drama, and primarily functions as a reflective wandering in a past that is fovever gone. The narrative plot brings the spectator back to Istanbul in the 1950s: This city is the emblem of trauma and loss for the collective imaginary of many people, and not only for the dispersed Greek community that once lived there.

Maria Moira, A Touch of Spice: A Place of Memory

PLUS                                                                          MINUS





Association: Second Grade of Senior High School, Composition, “Immigration / Refugeedom”

  1. Reflect upon the reasons people are forced to change residence (eg. war, natural disasters, persecution, better opportunities for studies or work in another country, etc.)
  2. After brainstorming, fill in the “Map of Need and Choice”: Hang a cardboard on the wall and write down the reasons people are forced to move despite their will in one column, and the parameters that encourage people to move in the other column.

After all, does naming someone a refugee or an immigrant have to do with the reasons and nature of the moving? In other words, is it important if the movement is forced or volontary?

  1. Split into groups of 4-6 people. Close your eyes and imagine you are part of a group (or preferably a “family”) that comes from a foreign or imaginary country and each member has his/her own individual identity.
  2. As members of each group/family, you have to outline the profile of your family and take on individual roles, so that each family has two adult members (eg. mother, father, grandmother, uncle, etc.) and certain underage members (sons or daughters, depending on the students’ gender). Pick up a family name and give each family member a new first name. Use questions that will help them form a clearer image in their mind. (For example, what color is your hair? How does your room look like? Who is your best friend?)
  3. While you still have your eyes closed, the teacher reads out loud the following text:

“It’s Sunday and you are out for a regular family outing on the city square. The weather is lovely and you are in a good mood. All of a sudden, an airplane is flying low over the rooftops. The thundering sound surprises and terrifies you. A few minutes later, a group of airplanes appears in the horizon and attacks the city. Bombs explode and throw shrapnels everywhere. The street where your family is placed is covered by dense smoke. People scream and start running in all directions. Your family is dispersed. It is impossible to see through the dense smoke that makes your throat hurt and burn. You start screaming, hoping that you will find your family and escape this situation together. With great difficulty you manage to trace the other members of your family in this meyhem. During the bombing, the youngest kid in the family had his leg wounded and you are surrounded by debris. You have a quick discussion and decide that the conditions are too dangerous for you to stay in the city. Until the next bombing, you barely have the time to decide which of your belongings to take with you, before you flee your region in search of a safer place.”

  1. With their eyes open, each family has five minutes to decide on the safest way to escape and what things to keep. Each family member can only take one object with them. Write the name of the object on a piece of paper, gather all the pieces in a sac/box, and hand it to one of the adults of the family.
  2. In the end, you managed to flee the country and you reach the borders of a neighboring country, where you are ambushed by a group of armed men. Gangs of thieves take advantage of the fragile situation of the population that escapes the country, and threaten families before they attempt to cross the border. Each family has to trade their safe crossing with half of the objects they took with them. Each group has to convene and decide which objects they can hand to the thieves.
  3. In the end, all the groups gather in a circle and present the objects they managed to retain as they fleed their country, as well as the ones they had to leave behind.

Reflect upon the following questions:

-How difficult was it for each member to decide what to take with him/her from his motherland? Were you surprised by the choices of other members or other families?

-Did the objects you chose have functional or sentimental value? Would they help you survive and escape to another country if you had to leave your country as reugees in real life?

-What would you miss the most from your country if you had to leave?

-Was this activity realistic? Do refugees always have the chance to gather their stuff?



Association: 2nd Grade of Senior High School: Art and Composition

Focus: Career orientation for students

Based on the extracts you have watched and the activity on “Empathy,” create your own scene.

Try to adapt the goals and the motives of the director in the contemporary social context social context and the given structures. How do you imagine the Touch of Spice of 2016?

Tips: For what reasons can you imagine that you could create a solidarity group and what would be your goals?

If you are in a creative mood, you may start by preparing your shots with pen and paper on the storyboard you can find below (refer to: Manuals-Script). Alternatively, you can create a digital story board by visiting this website. What kind of setting would you choose, which costumes/make up/soundtrack would you prefer, what kind of dilemmas would your heroes face?
Turn your camera on – lights, camera, action!

Making a storyboard

No. of Scene               No. of Shot:










Association: 2nd Grade of Senior High School: Language/Composition

Focus: Career orientation for students

Create your own documentary short (approx. 10΄ minutes long) with the title Xenos Is

  1. Split into three groups: interviewees, cameramen, directors.
  2. Choose three different locations and recording times. For example, in the beginning the interviewees respond while they are seated in the classroom. Several days later, the shooting takes place in one of your favorite hangouts (in a park, a square, etc.), but the question remains the same.

Production Title                                              Producer                                  Director

Day of Shooting

Indoor / Outdoor Shooting

Location (tripod, crane, dolly)

Sound (dialogues, narration)

Shot (establishing, close-up, etc.)

Camera Movement






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