Greek film survives the blues

And yet, the doldrums haven’t set in. Despite adverse financial conditions and lack of support from the National Film Center over an extended period of time, Greek film production has not declined. Some 20 films have either been finished this year or are nearing completion, with chances of participating in Thessaloniki’s International Film Festival in November. This, however, is where the good news ends. In all honesty, the aforementioned figures are misleading or exaggerated by the inclusion of delayed projects that had lagged for years. For example, three of the films, all highly anticipated («Edward» by Angeliki Antoniou, «Ores Koinis Isichias» by Katerina Evangelakou, and «Parees» by Sotiris Goritsas) took three presidential tenures at the National Film Center to be completed. Observing the new batch of 20 or so Greek productions, similarities can be detected among them. Almost half of the films were shot in provincial parts of Greece. Also, the overwhelming majority were filmed with their producers in attendance. «The [type of] producer whose role is not simply limited to the management of funds but also stretches into a personal investment in film had been absent for a long time,» said Evangelakou. «We directors need this. It’s important for there to be a market that, supported either by love, vested interests, or calculation, provides flesh and bone to a domain that, until now, was covered by the directors themselves,» she said. Besides offering support, a committed producer also injects hope, directors collectively agree. Support offered by the National Film Center certainly helps to bolster artistic creativity, but a producer must stand by the director throughout a film’s journey. The producer is always there to solve practical matters, respond to the director’s uncertainties and help maximize a film’s appeal to audiences. Film distributors, such as Odeon, a firm that has been extremely active in marketing Greek productions over the past three years, as well as Prooptiki and Rosebud, contribute significantly to a film’s commercial success. The domestic film circuit is changing with regard to procedural matters and results. Audiences, however, will have to wait until November to judge the outcome. For the time being, a quick rundown of domestic production, by established and emerging directors, follows: Antoniou is the director behind the domestic film industry’s most ambitious project, «Edward,» a Greek-German production featuring Kosovar, Albanian, German and Greek actors, as well as a well-known director of photography, Juergens Juergen. Its plot revolves around an illegal immigrant from Kosovo who commits a murder in Athens and then returns home. «’Edward’ is the adventure of a man who goes through hell, purgatory and then to heaven,» said the director. »Matters concerning families or sexual relationships have been more than covered by television, while sociopolitical matters are tackled mostly by film.» In «Ores Koinis Isichias,» director Katerina Evangelakou observes the tenants of an apartment block in central Athens from sunset to dawn in six different stories played out by 19 characters, males and female, of all ages and professions. All are unknown, quiet working-class people who hide the beast within them. Sotiris Goritsas, the director behind local hit films such as «Brasileiro» and «Valkanisateur,» is currently finishing off work on his latest film, «Parees,» in Pelion, central Greece. A corpse lying in the garden of a house in Pelion bewilders a group of visiting Athenians. Athenians, locals, and immigrants become involved with the mystery, which the director avoids pigeonholing. «It’s about different characters who belong to different groups or classes. I explore whether they’re in harmony with those around them, and, especially themselves,» noted Goritsas. The young director Yiannis Economidis, whose second feature film «Soul Kicking» represented Greece at the recent Cannes Film Festival in its Critics’ Week section, can also be considered among the seminal local film directors. Economidis’s incisive look at Greek society and his raw and relentless realism came across as a comprehensive effort. The film has been selected to launch the upcoming Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Feature debut Dimitris Koutsiabasakos, who has been distinctly productive in the short-film domain over the past 15 years or so, makes his feature film debut with «Yios tou Fylaka.» Shot at one of the abandoned villages in the Pindos region, it stars a journalist working for a local TV station who gets entangled in a complex story of secrets, legends, and memories. The maker of «Veteran,» an award-winning short film, Vassilis Douvlis, who works for the Greek Parliament’s television station, began filming his new project less than a month ago in a provincial part of the country. It tells the tale of a Greek emigrant who returns to his homeland from Germany with his young wife, and an illegal Albanian immigrant. The wife and immigrant get involved in a desperate affair that ends tragically. Daily inspiration With «Sta Oria,» Savvas Karydas has made a film about a young taxi driver whose life is nurtured by the stories of his clients. One day, the cab driver meets a good-looking mystery woman who leads him to a life-or-death challenge. Both children of the prominent Greek film director Pantelis Voulgaris will present new films later this year. Alexandros Voulgaris, who made a successful debut with «Klais,» is set to return with a second feature film, «Rose,» shot in Athens and Berlin with the help of friends. Inspired by «Alice in Wonderland,» it tells a story of a 25-year-old man and a 10-year-old girl. Constantina Voulgari’s «Sodade» (nostalgia, melancholy in Portuguese) follows the daily life of a young couple living in the student Exarchia district in downtown Athens. Plagued by low self-esteem, the pair has destructive tendencies. Costas Zappas sparked considerable discussion when he presented his first experimental video, «Uncut Family,» in 2004. He returns with a more conventional film, «The Last Porno.» Burdened with poor finances, a former pornographic film star who is getting on in years tries to return to his former line of work, this time as a producer.