A documentary portraying the remarkable story of an experiment in social diplomacy and ethnic harmony at a school in the Cretan village of Patsideros was set off some days ago.
The documentary, entitled “The Other,” is directed by Loukia Rikaki, whose camera captures the precious and simple moments in a unique project. This school project started at the initiative of Yiannis Fragiadakis, the only teacher of the school that had six students in overall: five Albanians and one Greek. Mr. Fragiadakis was enthusiastically supported in his task by Father Manolis, the village priest, at whose instigation and encouragement the five immigrant Albanian children joined the school.
From the beginning, Mr Fragiadakis made it clear that he was running a school with six students and not a school with one Greek and five Albanian students. "We do not enforce the idea of a motherland," he says. The curriculum of this simple school included reading, writing, arithmetic and “harmonious co-existence”, the latter the children not only learned but also managed to teach. Mr Fragiadakis also had a tough challenge on his hands: he had to deal with the rigid notions of the parents who didn’t particularly care about peaceful coexistence.
It took two years for Loukia Rikaki to finish shooting her documentary: filming the daily class routine, visiting the students’ homes, talking to their parents and attempting to capture their unrehearsed emotions and thoughts. Rikaki’s camera exposes the spontaneous interaction of the students among themselves and with their teacher. The children reveal naturally their winsome innocence and unalloyed intelligence.
Although this particular school is no longer in existence, this documentary will for many years testify the remarkable experiment it dared.