CULTURE

Deluxe edition traces history of Greek film

history of cinema in Greece from its infancy in 1905 to the present is the subject of an extensive, deluxe film encyclopedia published recently by Ellinika Grammata on the centennial anniversary of film’s introduction to the country. The brainchild of animator Angelos Rouvas and Greek film memorabilia collector Christos Stathakopoulos, the Greek-language «Greek Cinema: History – Filmography – Biographies,» is in two volumes, covering 1905-1970 and 1971-2005, respectively. The 1,268 pages present 2,650 films and documentaries, together with the 400 biographies of significant artists in the field and more than 5,000 photographs, many of them comprising extremely rare archival material. The introduction is written by former Thessaloniki International Film Festival director Michel Demopoulos, while there are also notes by Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis and Andriani Loule, president of the Athens Cultural Center – sponsors of the publication. Each year presented is separated into sub-categories according to genre; there are the comedies, political dramas, romantic dramas, documentaries, experimental films, and even erotic films, among others. Furthermore, the authors have created a key of symbols that are placed alongside the title of the film, indicating first appearances by significant directors or actors, awards the film has received, first appearances by screenplay writers or composers and other interesting miscellaneous facts. What is also of interest is the detailed cast and crew lists, the brief synopses, references to the number of tickets sold and the occasional comments offered by the authors, all of which together paint a very clear picture of the nature and success, or lack of it, that each film had. Dotted throughout the two volumes are biographical notes on actors, directors, composers and screenplay writers, showing their individual contributions to their respective genres and to Greek cinema as a whole. The book’s greatest strength, however, lies in the historical presentation of each era. Through the manner in which the authors describe how the first projection machines came to Greece, the first filmmakers tried their hand at a variety of cameras, the first film theaters were built and, most importantly, how cinema gradually infiltrated the daily lives of Greeks, the book also explores the historical developments that were taking place in the country at each given time. The historical commentary also touches upon the impact certain films, and documentaries especially, had on events, how they were subject to censorship, how the politics of the film industry played on cinematic output and who the players were, both in politics and the arts. The encyclopedia provides an excellent guide to the course of the Greek film industry, highlighting its golden years in the 1960s and 1970s, the all-time lows of the 1980s, and its gradual rebirth from the 1990s to the present, while also mentioning foreign films that were filmed in Greece. However, priced at 140 euros and weighing around 8 kilos (or 16 pounds), this is only for die-hard film buffs.