Panos Koutras, the earliest representative of Greece’s new generation of convention-smashing socially-minded directors, earned critical acclaim at Cannes after his fourth feature, “Xenia,” was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the prestigious international film event on Monday night.
“Xenia” follows the journey of two Albanian brothers in Athens and their sojourn at the rundown hotel the film has been named after as they search for their Greek father following the death of their unsuitable mother.
It comes in the wake of “The Attack of the Giant Mousaka,” “Real Life” and “Strella,” and is described by critics as Koutras’s “best and most mature film.”
In “Xenia,” Ody, 18, and Danny 16, seek their estranged father in Athens as they rehearse for a talent show that they hope will open the door to a better life. But flamboyantly gay Danny and bashful Ody, who tries to keep a low profile in a society increasingly hostile to foreigners, will face challenges that reflect the impact of the crisis not just on the Greek economy, but also on the fabric of society.
“There’s a decidedly campy side to the proceedings that Koutras effectively juxtaposes with the hard-edged realities of contemporary Greece, a beautiful but hostile nation wrecked by the ongoing economic crisis and a place in which xenophobia, racism and homophobia seem to fester freely,” writes Boyd van Hoeij for the Hollywood Reporter.
“Alternating between a fable lulled by a playful spirit and the youthful get-up-and-go of the two heroes, and a raw analysis of the thorny societal issues that are shaking up the political debate in Greece and, indeed, in Europe (nationality and jus soli/jus sanguinis, and the rise in extremist movements masquerading as patriotism), Xenia (a Greek word meaning ‘hospitality’) is above all a very successful portrait of brotherhood,” says Fabien Lemercier in Cineuropa.