Mourning Rock (Agelastos Petra), dir. Filippos Koutsaftis, 2000, digital (with English commentary), 87 minutes.


Presented in collaboration with the 2016 Essay Film Festival, as part of the BIRMAC Ruin/s theme

Friday 11 March, 6pm – 9pm

Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, WC1.

Film screening, in conversation with Gabriel Koureas (History of Art; chair), Eleni Liarou (Film, Media and Cultural Studies) and Maria Aristodemou (Law), with introductions from Janet McCabe and Silke Arnold-de Simine (BIRMAC). 
Tickets £6 or £4 on sale here

“A documentary about Eleusina. The past and the present, in complete antithesis, coexist in a place spoiled by modern industry but which long ago hosted the Eleusinian Mysteries, the secret ceremonies that initiated the ancient Greeks into the miracles of life, death, and the afterlife. […] Since ancient times Eleusis has been linked to the myth of Demeter, goddess of earth, agriculture and fertility, and of her daughter Persephone, whose descent to and reappearance from the underworld symbolises the miracle of nature and the eternal cycle of life. The Eleusinian Mysteries, to which only a privileged few had access, were annual ceremonies centred around the secrets of life, death and the major mystery of regeneration. Since the nineteenth century, however, Eleusis has gradually become a grey industrial town; following the expulsion of Greeks from Asia Minor in 1922, it received scores of destitute refugees. Industrialisation and economic imperatives overshadowed the ancient heritage and turned Eleusis into a model of cultural decline and environmental disaster.” (Greek Film Centre)

“The documentary records a number of rescue excavations in the area in the course of ten years, from the late 1980s to the late 1990s, it also collects the stories of the people from the area with most prominent the figure of Panagiotis Farmakis, a homeless man who helped the Archaeological Service with the collection of discarded and dumped antiquities from landfills and other dump sites. With a sensitive and insightful voice over, the director pays homage to the unseen individuals of Eleusis, linking past and present in artful visual metaphors,’ from Museums of Greece

“The film was shot over the course of ten years. It documents the destruction of the archaeological sites, the political goings-on, the rescue excavations, and the people of Eleusis who still remember those parts of history. The only constant ‘hero’ of this film is a homeless man who has been retrieving antiquities for the archaeological service from dump sites and construction landfills- where they were dumped by building companies so that the archaeological service couldn’t interfere with the building process. Agelastos Petra (the ‘mourning rock’ of the film’s title) was where Demeter first came to mourn the loss of her daughter Persephone. The symbolism behind this loss has acquired a new meaning with the destruction of Eleusis; that of a destroyed and lost past,’ from Museums of Greece

Notes on the director | Philippos Koutsaftis


Born in Zagora, Volos, Koutsaftis studied film in AthensHe worked as a cinematographer on 14 feature films, as well as on several films for television, mainly series and documentaries.


1987. Modest Goddesses (short)
1988. A Day with Minos (short)
2000.  Mourning Rock
2007. To. Ra. Ke. (short archaeological film)
2015. Hail Arcadia (Arkadia Haire) (documentary)

Further reading |

Franklin L. Hess, excerpted from ‘Interiority and Contemporary Greek Culture: Rap, Television, and Film

La Pierre Triste,

Georges Didi-Huberman, Sortir de la terre, 18 October 2013

Forum : Agelastos Petra (Mourning Rock), Filippos Koutsaftis (2000), reviewed by Artemis Yagou, in Design and Culture: The Journal of the Design Studies, 1 (2) 2009


This event is held in collaboration with the Essay Film Festival, 17-24 March 2016. 

Other events as part of the Essay Film Festival which deal with similar issues of ruin/s, materiality and memory, include:

UK premiere followed by a Q&A with Kidlat Tahimik
Thursday 24 March 2016, 8pm, ICA Cinema 1 [Map]
Tickets £7.00 to £11.00, book here

Wednesday 23 March 5.00pm, ICA Cinema 1 [Map]
Tickets £7.00 to £11.00, book here

Film screening introduced by José Manuel Costa, Director of the Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museu do Cinema

Friday 18 March 2016, 8.30pm, ICA Cinema 1 [Map]
£7.00 to £11.00, book here


Saturday 19 March 2016, 8.30pm, ICA Cinema 1 [Map]
Tickets £7.00 to £11.00, book here