Film Festival Brings Greek Outlook to the Egyptian

by HFPA June 3, 2014

Ersi Danou/HFPA

Film can be and invaluable tool to capture the mood of a country and an entire culture. It’s no surprise then that Greek cinema has been informed by the deep crisis that has hit Greece in the last years. The selection of films that will be presented at the upcoming annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival Film makers express the deep seated trauma of their country in ways both harsh and poetic. The HFPA’s Ersi Danou, co-founder and Director of Development for the festival, gives us a preview.

The eight years of existence of the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (LAGFF) have coincided with remarkable developments in Greece. The country, torn apart by an unprecedented crisis, seems to wade through relentless difficulty toward an uncertain future; yet the people, and especially a young generation of artists and filmmakers, have found new voice amidst the chaos; a voice of raw perception and plain honesty.

In the short film PIETÀ by Alexandros Tsadilas, which will screen at the 8th Annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (June 4-8 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood), a young man falls on the pavement, shrieking. He tries to rise but his limbs are too weak. The drug that runs through his veins wastes him. He fights the pain several times before succumbing to it. His eyes stare vaguely toward the night sky, he could be dead were it not for the navel faintly undulating with the breath. No one is around, no one hears or sees his nameless body. Is this the new face of my jubilant country and my jubilant people? Is this the fate, the fall, the end? The film does not answer the question. But it witnesses. The empty stare of the man’s eyes is met with the stare of the camera, probably mounted on the balcony of some crowded Athenian apartment building. The camera, in the simple act of dedicated watching, affords what the man called for: The sweet solace of forgiveness.

Whether by harsh allegories as in Miss Violence, the stark realism of Standing Aside, Watching and To the Wolf, the caustic humor of The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas, or the exploration of the human condition in all shapes and colors, I can safely say the new generation of Greek film makers is determined to get to the bottom of things. Pain, desperation and the breaking down of everything have pushed these watchful creators beyond the safe and the conventional. Their willingness to take creative risks is what is recognized and celebrated in LAGFF.

Moreover, LAGFF recognizes that its own mission in Los Angeles is to bring two worlds together: The adventurous sensibility of Greek/Balkan culture and the long-established tradition of American independent film. To this end, an extensive industry program has been created this year, including free roundtables and workshops with several participants from such prestigious organizations as Sundance, Slamdance, San Francisco Film Society and more. Plus the 2nd International Project Discovery Forum (IPDF), a 4-day pitching and development program for feature film projects from Greek and Balkan filmmakers that provides a venue where dialogue is encouraged and aspirational, creative and productive collaborations are formed.

But we never forget the love of life! The Festival opens and closes with fun events, Greek wine tasting, after-party entertainment with a mix of dj and live music, Mediterranean food, and delicious Greek yogurt and dessert sampling. Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO Jim Gianopulos will present an honorary Orpheus Award to award-winning Greek-American Producer Anthony Katagas, while actors Tracy Spiridakos, Simon Kassianides, and Gia Carides will offer the Best Feature, Documentary and Short Film Orpheus Awards respectively. The ceremony will be hosted by actors Christos Vasilopoulos and Chrissa Loukas, on Sunday, June 8, 8 pm, at the Egyptian Theatre.

The Los Angeles Greek Film Festival would not have been possible without the generous support of the Greek National Tourist Organization (GNTO), Pabst Brewing Company, Hostess Brands & the Metropoulos Family, the Kolovos Family, and Earth Friendly Products.

Ersi Danou