The Women of the 13th Los Angeles Greek Film Festival – June 3-9, 2019

by Ersi Danou June 3, 2019
Films of the 13th Los Angeles Greek Film Festival

Scenes from Olympia (top), and (bottom, left to right) Her Job, Obscuro Barroco and Meltem.

courtesy LAGFF

The female presence, in front and behind the camera, at this year’s 13th Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (LAGFF) is remarkable. And it is a spontaneous development more than a conscious decision by Artistic Director Aris Katopodis or the programming team – it just… happened. It may rather express a larger context, a global tendency which at times translates in social movements (like Me Too or  Time’s Up Now) and at others, in artistic expressions.

Characteristic of this pattern is Nikos Labôt’s Her Job, a Golden Globe-qualifying film which screens on Sunday, June 9, as part of the closing night festivities. In the film, a 37-year-old woman with two small children and a husband who vacillates between unemployment and the need to maintain his position as head of the family gets a job as a cleaning maid at a mall. But what to most people would seem like a damnation, is a blessing to this heroine: “I would like to grow old in here”, she says, referring to the mall. A subtle, almost imperceptible but real change occurs within her as the difficult conditions of her life unexpectedly afford her a glimpse of independence.

Meltem, by Greek-French director Basile Doganis, which will open the festival on June 5 at the Egyptian Theatre, deals with the refugee crisis in Greece as seen through the eyes of a young woman. Tonia Mishiali’s Pause dares to touch on the taboo theme of menopause as it follows a woman who struggles silently in order to cope with the changes in her body and soul. In the beautiful documentary Obscuro Barroco by another female director, Evangelia Kranioti, tells the story of Brazilian transgender activist Luana Muniz, while Evi Karabatsou’s The Last Daughter, a Chilean production, tackles the unbreakable relationship between mother and daughter.

Women’s issues abound in the short films as well. In only 13 minutes, Patision Avenue by Thanasis Neofotistos exposes the age-long conflict in women between maternity and professionalism. The same can be said about Nikoleta Leousi’s 37 Days, a cry of resistance against the stereotypes about pregnancy and work. Another woman is born through the fall of a man in Flickering Souls Set Alight by Iakovos Panagopoulos, while Artemis Anastasiadou, in her 20-minute film I Am Mackenzie, observes a girl’s transformation into a woman.

The documentaries Olympia and Lambda Pi, about the Greek-American Golden Globe winning actress Olympia Dukakis and the pioneering composer in Greek electronic music Lena Platonos respectively, perhaps belong to a special category in the festival’s program. Nevertheless, both celebrate women who managed to overcome difficulties posed by their gender in a male-dominated society and time. Similarly, in her own way, Greek-American producer Marianne Metropoulos was inspired by the fictional story of a young woman who abandoned her right to love in order to partake in Greece’s struggle for independence against the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.

Aside from the thematic relevance of the films, women in this edition of LAGFF comprise about 50% of the total number of creators.

In addition to films and a program dedicated to animation shorts, local filmmakers and the general public may enjoy two free industry panels about independent film financing and new models of distribution as well as Virtual Reality’s opportunities and challenges. Galas with Greek food & wine, DJ and live entertainment bookend the event in the courtyard of the Egyptian Theatre.

LAGFF’s preview opening event takes place at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater on Monday, June 3, and it officially opens at the Egyptian Theatre on Wednesday, June 5.