Zembekiko dance scene in Head On

Title:
Zembekiko dance scene in Head On
NFSA ID:
403814
Year:
1998
Category:
Access fees

Head On tells the story of a 19-year-old Greek Australian youth, Ari (played by Alex Dimitriades) - who struggles with his sexual identity and his Greek heritage. The film explores through sonic means Ari’s tormented world. The sounds of the inner city and metropolitan Melbourne are omnipresent and often presented as Ari's subjective impression of the chaotic world around him. 

Ari is also a lover of music. His cherished mixtape played through his Walkman, for instance, includes an eclectic list of songs (including Motown and disco) that relate to his dislocated identity in both a diasporic and local community.

In this clip, the clash between Ari’s cultural and sexual identity is conveyed through his traditional dance to the Greek village music known as Zembekiko. Ari’s seemingly traditional performance has secret meanings that the audience are made aware of through events leading up to this scene. But unlike the film’s audience, the characters (i.e. the club’s conservative patrons) are oblivious and believe his dance to be an affirmation of their culture - at least until the arrival of Johnny (Ari’s cross-dressing Greek Australian friend), who makes a spectacular statement shocking onlookers and embarrassing Ari.

Johnny's openness about his sexuality – conveyed through the disjunct between his appearance/performance and the traditional music – is a direct challenge to Ari, who knows he can get away with a lot if he pretends to be heterosexual. Johnny’s bravery cuts through Ari’s unspoken hypocrisy - making Ari run, in panic, lest his own secret life be exposed. This scene demonstrates how music can take on different meanings depending on its placement and context. On the one hand, it symbolises culture and the conservativeness of that culture. Still, when paired with the visual performance, it becomes a device to convey a subversion of and rebellion against that culture.

Production company:
Head On Productions
Director:
Ana Kokkinos
Producer:
Jane Scott
Music:
Ollie Olsen