Based on a true story, The Tree and The Swing, recounts how three characters of the same family, after being separated for years (by force, desire or necessity), come together during an Easter holiday, in a homecoming that to each means something different. Homecoming has been in the centre of Greek thought and culture from the times of Homer. This is the country of Ulysses, the centre of a diaspora nation - ever migrating and ever returning.
The film takes a modern view on this ancient theme exploring the notion of home, in the broader sense of the place to which we always return, whether in reality or in our dreams - our homeland, our family, our childhood. In this contemporary family tale, the roles of the exile (usually man) and the person awaiting his return (usually wife) are consciously inverted to convey the new realities of a world marked by high and diverse mobility. But reality itself is inverted; Greece from a country of a diaspora nation becomes a country hosting other diasporas. For the last twenty years, the changes in Eastern Europe, the conflicts that raged the Balkans in the 1990’s, and the more recent wars in the Middle East have forced people to move West. These new migrations, diasporas, and homecomings renegotiate the relation between mobility and the need of belonging.
Accepting dislocation as major part of the human experience The Tree and the Swing, which takes place over five days, transcends in essence six decades of Balkan and Greek history, during which people have seen the borders of their countries, as well as the borders of their lives being constantly redrawn.
I grew up in the seventies, at a time of little movement (migration had stopped and the borders of the world seemed fixed), and a lot of suspicion. People traveled only for tourism, a few for studies, and that in the West. In the East they were not allowed to travel at all. This ended abruptly in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall (which we had believed would stand till the end of time). Since then Western Europe, and Greece in particular, have seen a tremendous influx of Eastern people who have profoundly altered the character of native populations.
Now twenty years on, we realize that what at the time seemed to us momentous is just the permanent state of things, a state as old as history. People have always been moving whether by force, need or desire. What has been changing every time is the circumstance. The film sets out to explore how traditional notions of home and belonging are affected by the new circumstance of people’s movement, how the cultural heritage of our own diaspora can propagate a transnational perception of ourselves and the others.
In our efforts to realize this project we had had the good fortune to come across a Serbian team looking for an opportunity to collaborate with Greek film-makers, and initiate a long term creative relationship. In my mind, this prospective collaboration of Greek and Serbian production companies is more than business. It embodies the idea of the film, the belief that we can construct new alliances and community, and that we can live and work together in a truly pluralist world.
Maria Douza May 2012