CULTURE

Lost and found: The first-ever Greek mega-hit movie rediscovered, restored

About a year ago, staff members of the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris came across an unhoped-for treasure. It was a copy of «Astero,» the Greek film industry’s first-ever commercial and artistic hit. The great news soon reached the Greek Film Library. Initially thought of as lost, the romantic, pastoral drama directed by Dimitris Gaziadis has now been found and restored and is scheduled to be screened at the Apollon Renault-Filmcenter cinema tonight. Organized by the Greek Film Center in collaboration with the Orchestra of Colors, the screening features original, live music composed by Michalis Grigoriou. Nearly 90 percent of the small, yet historically significant, local film production had been lost by the beginning of World War II. In the last 15 years, however, the Greek Film Library has put forward an ambitious plan to seek out, discover, and restore a substantial number of films. Another search mechanism aiming at the recovery of lost copies through a network of worldwide archives began in 1992, as part of the European Union’s «Projecto Lumiere» program. Eleven years later, an unknown, forgotten copy of «Astero» resurfaced at the Cinematheque Francaise archives. To a large extent, «Astero» was a family affair. Dimitris and Costas Gaziadis were already collaborating with Fox and other production companies in developing documentaries and advertisements, when they decided to turn their company, Dag Films, into a feature film production company. Joining forces with their Greece-based sibling, Michalis Gaziadis, they purchased equipment and set up a studio. Their first project was the filming of Aeschylus’ «Prometheus Desmotis» (Prometheus Bound), a performance shot in Delphi and based on the play presented at the first Delphic Festival by Eva Palmer and Angelos Sikelianos. This was followed by their first fiction film, «Eros kai Kimata» (Love and Waves), followed by «Limani ton Dakryon» (Port of Tears) in 1928. Directed by Dimitris Gaziadis, «Astero» was shot a year later, featuring a cast led by Aliki Theodoridou, Aimilios Veakis, Costas Moussouris and Dimitris Tsakiris. Written by Pavlos Nirvanas, the script was based on a blockbusting film, «Ramona.» Nowadays «Astero» is considered a forerunner of the so-called «fustanella» genre, which subsequently became very popular. What kind of music will accompany tonight’s special screening? According to the score’s composer, besides the film’s theme song, which is based on a much-loved Greek folk song, the rest of the musical elements will be more or less improvised on the spot. Apollon Renault-Filmcenter, 19 Stadiou, tel 210.323.6811, 8.30 p.m.