In a mediocre year, least provocative film gets prize

THESSALONIKI – If we ignore the fact that the most well-balanced Greek film of this past year, Constantinos Giannaris’s «Hostage,» came in third with the 50-member jury of the State Awards at the 46th Thessaloniki International Film Festival, and that the awards for best new director and screenplay went to Makis Papadimitratos’s «Tsiou…» (an amateurish, overly playful effort), the prizes, as they were meted out, come as little surprise. The surreal comedy «Chariton’s Choir,» the first full-length feature film by Grigoris Karantinakis, received first prize for a fiction feature at Monday’s ceremony, along with a 58,700-euro purse, while the second prize, worth 44,025 euros, went to Nikos Grammatikos’s «The Wake,» in which a crooked cop who has killed his wife seeks the help of a priest and a friend. Vangelis Mourikis, who plays the policeman, won the Best Actor award. Giannaris ended up with the third prize for a feature film and 29,350 euros, while the majority of the remaining prizes went to Yiannis Diamantopoulos’s provocative «Blue Dress.» The film earned awards for Best Actress for Rania Economidou, Photography for Andreas Sinanos, Editing for Yiannis Tsitsopoulos, Costumes for Philippos Papageorgiou, Panos Papadopoulos and Erica Evangelidou, and Makeup for Fani Alexaki. Kyriakos Katzourakis’s «Sweet Memory» walked away with the Best Supporting Actress award for Maria Zorba and Costume Design for Nikos Politis (shared with Marie-Louise Bartholomew in Nikos Nikos Nikolaidis’s «Zero Years»). Eleni Alexandrakis’s «The Woman Who Missed Home» had to settle for the Best Soundtrack award, for music by Nikos Papazoglou, while «Liubi,» by Layia Yourgou, received the Best Supporting Actor award for the performance given by Nikos Georgakis. Mediocre to bad is the only way to describe the season for Greek productions and the line followed by the jury was (more or less) unsurprising. As many reasons as we can find for why the jury voted as it did, it is still difficult to avoid thinking that giving the very decent «Chariton’s Choir» the first prize was the easy way out, instead of awarding Giannaris’s bold «Hostage,» which raised so much controversy when shown at mainstream theaters last spring. «The Wake» by Grammatikos, a director who is known for his vibrancy and immediacy, had many shortcomings in terms of plot development, pace and the manner in which the story was handled. Diamantopoulos’s «Blue Dress,» a film that could easily succumb to tasteless cliches, unfortunately, did. The director was unable to avoid using ploys in the story and aesthetics that allowed him to stay a step ahead instead of a step back. Despite the director’s professionalism and reputation, his latest film is a disappointing return to a kind of cinema that was, thankfully, long forgotten. Other prizes In the documentary film category of the competition, the first prize (worth 17,610 euros) went to Spyros Taraviras’s «Buzz,» which tells the story of Albert I. Bezzerides, a forgotten Greek Hollywood screenwriter. The second prize for a documentary film (11,740 euros) was awarded to Theodoros Marangos’s «Black Baaa…,» while the awards for short films went to Christos Nikoleris’s «Protection,» Theodoros Papadoulakis’s «Samoure» and Irina Boiko’s «Thief.»

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