Swiss filmmaker, Olivier Zuchuat, directed a documentary called Like Stone Lions at the Gateway into Night, on the Greek island of Makronissos in the Aegean Sea, where communist intellectuals were detained under degrading conditions from 1947 – 1951.
The documentary shows the detention conditions of the prisoners who managed to keep their human dignity despite the destitution and torture. It also describes the courage and mental strength needed to survive under these adverse conditions.
Between 1947 and 1950, more than 80, 000 Greek citizens were imprisoned on the isle of Makronisos in reeducation camps created to ‘fight the spread of communism’. Among these exiles were a number of writers and poets, including Yannis Ritsos and Tassos Livaditis. Despite the deprivation and torture, these prisoners succeeded in composing poems, which describe their struggle for survival in this world of internment. Long tracking shots take us on a trance-like journey through the camp ruins, interrupted along the way by segments from photographic archives. A cinematic essay, which revives the memory of forgotten ruins and a battle lost.
The island is uninhabited. However, from the time of the Greek Civil War up until the restoration of democracy following the collapse of the Regime of the Colonels, it was used as a place of imprisonment for Greek communists, hosting hundreds of prisoners. Because of its history, it is considered as a monument of the civil war era. The island itself and the original structures on it are protected from alterations.