THE MANAKIA BROTHERS: EARLY BALKAN CINEMATOGRAPHERS


"Na taljia ka njelji ka earamu ku Elada ka di daima"

("They were slaughtering us like sheep because we always sided with Greece")

This is how the Macedonian Vlachs (Rumanian-speaking, but largely of Greek persuasion) described their experiences during the "Bulgaromacedonian" revolt of July 1903 (Iliden)--quoted from "The Manakia brothers, cinema pioneers in the Balkans and the Vlach question" (in Greek), by Yioryis Exarchos, 1991; this quotation and article is submitted here to dispel the notion that the Manakia brothers, Vlachs from the mountainous village of Avdella (in southernmost (Greek) Macedonia) were pure-bred "Macedonians".

Yannakis (John) Manakias was born in Avdella in 1879 and died in Thessaloniki in 1954, while Miltos (Miltiadis) Manakias was born in Avdella in 1881 and died in Bitola in 1964; they both went to Rumanian, rather than Greek, schools. They opened their first photography shop in Ioannina in 1898 (moved to Bitola in 1905), made their first movie ("Spinning women") in Avdella in 1907 and opened the movie theater "Manakia" in Bitola in 1921 (destroyed by a projector-generated fire in 1939). In their career they recorded many "daily life" events (weddings, fairs, etc) as well as historical events that shaped the Balkans.

What was the nationality of the Manakia brothers? This is a tough question, as they could best be classified as "Balkan citizens". Yannakis had been a supporter of Apostolos Margaritis' Rumanian movement, but ended up spending his last years in Greece, rather than Rumania; Miltos was not political at all, but there exists a testimony of him wishing that the Manakia archives would go to Greece, rather than to the Serbs--they ended up in Skopje, after all. It should be stressed that the two brothers spent many years in Bitola because of better professional opportunities and that city's domination by its Vlach community, not because they were "Macedonians".

The two brothers faced all kinds of difficulties during their turbulent career. For example, Yannakis was arrested by the Bulgarians in 1916 and was exiled to Plovdiv, where he opened another photography shop. In their movie theater, they had to "wear" many pins, taylor-style, for that was their only way to reconnect broken film. Some customers were not prompt in their payments, and would pay only when convinced that, somehow, it was possible for their photographer to make them appear in their photos ... without clothes; I submit a short poem on that--recited in Vlach/Rumanian by a certain Cula tsal Mitri al Meranu to Mr. Exarchos, who provided a Greek translation--in both Rumanian and Greek, with an English summary :-)


Disaga al Manakia nu are

nitsi meare, nitsi peare;

de una parte oamini tu cadru ndrepsitsi

shi de alanta kilibetisitsi.

Datsi-lji paradzilji al Melti di Iana

s-nu va videtsi curlu fara zmeana.

Datsi-lji paradzilji al Melti di Avdela

s-nu va videtsi curlu ca tabela.

Paltitsi cadrulu ntrepsitlu,

shi Melti arde kilibetisitlu.


Tou Mavakia ta dicakia

dixws mhla ki axladakia;

an' th mia vtumevoi oloi

ki an' thv allh gumvokwloi.

Cto Giavviwth Melth ta lefta va dwcte,

giati alloiws cas lew, kwlous kamapwcte.

Ta lefta tou 8elei o Melths ano Abdella

giati allews bgazei tov kwlo cas tamnela.

5lhpwcte kadpo gia tous vtumevous

ki o Miltos kaiei tous 3egumvwmevous.


[Miltos has both dressed and naked versions of your photo. Pay him or you will see your bare behind posted. Pay for the dressed one framed, so that Miltos will burn the naked one.]

I could finish the article here, but ...here are two more items of Balkan interest, unrelated to Manakia brothers, always from the book mentioned above:

(I) While advancing towards Sofia in mid-July 1913, the Greek Army suffered a potentially devastating defeat near Petsovo. The news was cabled to Bucharest, where tough negotiations were going on and the Bulgarians were about to surrender. To strengthen Greece's negotiating position, Rumania's State Department director, a *Vlach of Greek persuasion* named Missiu, witheld the news from the Rumanian authorities for several hours: the course of the negotiations went on unchanged, and Bulgaria did surrender.

(II) The Vlachs did apparently distinguish between Slav-Macedonians and Bulgarians, calling the former "Vurgari" (... "Bulgarians") speaking "Vurgareshti" ("Bulgarian") and the latter "Zdanganji" ("big-headed"), speaking a language similar to that of the "Vurgari" (?)

[Posted on soc.culture.greek -- c.1995]

Back to the "garden"