16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival: Alexandra Anthony’s ‘Lost In the Bewilderness’ Review

Filmed over 30 years, Alexandra Anthony’s ‘Lost In the Bewilderness’ is one of the finest documentaries you will ever see about adolescence, memory, and the importance of returning ‘home’, using Greece’s ancient and modern mythologies as inspiration.

It might be difficult to convince you that a documentary about a boy that was kidnapped by his mother when he was five, only to return to his father in Greece at the age of 16, is one of the most entertaining, moving and revealing films we’ve seen recently.

But we will try to do just that, since ‘Lost in the Bewilderness’, despite its handmade logic – or perhaps because of it – is an important documentary, of the kind that almost come together by chance, because they are directed by life itself. An Unexpected twist of fate introduces a filmmaker to footage she filmed years ago, before it became the starting point for a fascinating journey no one knew how would end.

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The story begins in the 1970’s, when her cousin Lukas is born, long before Alexandra Anthony begins filming her family’s life. Lukas becomes his grandparents’ favorite grandchild, and the most loved member of the Psychopaidopoulos family, residing in Nea Smyrni. Lukas’ parents separate and at the age of five he disappears with his mother, leaving the family in a state of desperation and mourning. Even Interpol gets involved in the search, but eleven years will pass before the boy’s mother contacts his father from Maryland in the US, asking him to take the boy back. Lukas doesn’t speak a word of Greek. He only finds out about his heritage two months before returning to the family that has for years been living in hope of seeing him again. We see him return to his father’s house to start life anew.

This true story would have been enough to provide the basis for a compelling film that balances between police intrigue and a violent coming of age chronicle for Lukas and his family. But the footage used is of its time. It starts with Super 8 film, and ends in today’s digital age. The 30-year narration makes the passing of time more tangible, multiplying the excitement and anxiety, while highlighting the experience of seeing something with your own eyes as opposed to reading about it in an interview with photographic materials.

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The disarming and hilarious way the older relatives welcome the teenage Lukas when he returns home, the sadness in his eyes while trying to remember something from his childhood in Greece, the anxiety about whether or not he is alive, which reaches a fever pitch shortly before his arrival, and his relatives’ concern about whether he’ll manage to acclimatize himself to his life’s new circumstances, the way Lukas lights up with a smile when he realizes his love for heavy metal corresponds to his father’s favorite pastime of making electric guitars: these are just some of the scenes that make ‘Lost In the Bewilderness’ a truly revealing experiential study on memory.

The film’s director provides a light and entertaining voice-over, which connects her family’s story with ancient Greek myths and classical tragedies and modern Greece. Anthony doesn’t focus as much on the story’s inherent drama, but rather picks up on the instances where people’s feelings, fears and anxieties are communicated with their gazes, as they face the unknown, willing and prepared to fill the void of a life interrupted.

This funny, restless and deeply moving film is lovingly dedicated to everyone that once felt or still feels lost in… ‘the bewilderness’. It seems impossible to watch without stirring one’s memories in a positively liberating way.

Read more about 16th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival here