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Attended at BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival 2024

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was well aware of the term “Gold Star Lesbian”, a crude boast from gay women who have proudly never slept with a man. When I was introduced to “Lesvia” director Tzeli Hadjidimitriou as a double lesbian I asked myself: how do I attain such a title? As it turns out, it has nothing to do with being an extra special platinum-star lesbian, rather Hadjidimitriou is a woman loving woman from the Greek island of Lesbos. A Lesbian lesbian, if you will. In other words, the most qualified person to make this film.

“Lesvia” is Hadjidimitriou’s first feature film. It documents the historical exodus of lesbians from around the world in the 1970s and 80s to the agricultural village Erresos on the island Lesbos, the home of Sappho (hailed as the world’s first lesbian poet); and the tensions that arise between the lesbians (homosexuals) and the Lesbians (island natives).

Hadjidimitriou describes “Lesvia” as, “a personal film as much as it is collective”. She speaks of her experience as an islander dealing with an influx of tourists to the village, whilst sharing how she found her home amongst them: a unique view that bridges the gap between the opinions of a concerned, gradually gentrified island community, and gay women finding a safe space to be unequivocally themselves in a time before homosexuality was widely accepted. 

Poster for Lesvia film. Swimming to the rock is a favourite activity for those visiting Lesvos.

In doing so, Hadjimidimitriou states, “I use all my experiences to give space and voice to ordinary people, who do not stand out in any way, but who live their lives in simplicity, outside daily headlines.”

The film uses archival footage and photographs as well as ten years worth of freely structured interviews to paint a picture of both sides’ experiences and opinions and a history of the island beyond the Sapphic stereotype. Whilst tensions and tolerance are the main themes of the film – like a walk along Erresos’s gilded three-kilometre long volcanic beach – Hadjidimitriou manages to create a warm, sultry dreamscape through her lyrical cinematography and artistic shots of the female body which are punctuated with quotes from Sappho herself. This, mixed with the honest views of the islanders, gives credence to both factions without creating a harsh juxtaposition. 

“Lesvia” is a beautiful and unique story that only Tzeli Hadjidimitriiou, a double lesbian, could honourably create – and by so discerningly touching on personal testimonies, the issue of gentrification and lesbian history, it makes for a film that extends beyond just Lesbians. Or indeed lesbians.

Lesvia is playing at LGBTQ+ festivals globally: Click here to see the trailer and find out about screenings

Scala Eresos is a mecca for LGBTQ+ women globally all summer:

Click here to find out about Queer Ranch Festival in May

Click here to find out about the International Erresos Women’s Festival in September

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Mel Zbornak

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