Manaki brothers’ busts (Avdella)
Miltos (1881-1964) and Giannakis (1879-1954) Manakis or Manakas, the pioneering filmmakers of the Balkans, were born in the Turkish-occupied Avdella. Their personal interest in cinematography quickly developed into a passion, ensuring a wealth of recordings regarding the most significant facts in modern history and ethnography of the Balkans.
Their first professional relationship with the art of photography begins in 1898 in Ioannina where they maintained a photo studio until 1904, the year they run away to the Monastery (today Bitola) chased by the Ottomans. After a journey around the major European capitals (Vienna, Paris, London) and the acquisition of the “Bioscope 300” camera, they got fascinated by the world of cinema, which they faithfully served until their death. Their homeland plays a great role in their artwork and that can be based to the fact that their first movie, “Weavers”, was filmed in 1905 in Avdella. It is a silent film with a fixed machine which shows a few women of the village as well as their grandmother, Loukia Manaki, 117 years old, spining wool and weaving on a loom. Avdella also becomes the setting for their second film “The open-air school in Pindus” (1907), the only evidence regarding Greek Orthodox education in Turkish-occupied Macedonia. The film presents the teaching of lessons in the schoolyard in Avdella. Τhe way it was filmed is convincing for the great professional experience of the two creators in the cinema world while at the same time it marks the new period for the documentary film presentation. Then follow the classic films “Vlach Wedding” and “Trade Fair”. All these films show the creators’ intention to immortalize the life of the Vlach cattle breeds of Pindus, mainly inhabitants of the Grevenian villages of Avdella, Perivoli and Smixi.
Their photographs and films now represent a main material of historical and ethnological significance upon the leading events of the early 20th century in the Balkans, such as the Ilinden Uprising (1903), the Neo-Turkish movement in 1908, the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. In addition, the brothers were the personal photographers of King Charles I of Romania. In 1911 they recorded the visit of Sultan Mehmet V in Thessaloniki, his trip and stay in the Monastery, and they photographed the kings of Bulgaria and Serbia, Ferdinando and Karađorđević, and the marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, too.
The rising of the two brothers followed different paths as Giannakis died at the age of 76 in Thessaloniki in 1954, exhausted by family and financial misfortunes, while Miltos passed the rest of his life in the Yugoslav Monastery enjoying honors and awards. In the last years of his life, Miltos classified the tremendous photograph and film material he made with his brother. The archive of the Manakis brothers – now worldwide known – including more than 12,000 photographs and 67 short films of a total length of 1,500 meters, today remains in the Historical Archive of Bitola.
Writer: Κωνσταντινιά Αντωνίου