Throughout history, people have looked towards the arts to gain a better understanding of major events. Whether it be war or natural disasters, artists have a unique way of grasping the reality and human side of the social, economic and political happenings through their plays, films and music. And now, with Greece under the spotlight, thousands of Australians are set to take part in the 19th Greek Film Festival to get a better understanding of the political and economic unrest and the reality of life for Greek citizens. And with the media’s portrayal of the current crisis leaving a negative view through print and television reports, Australians are hoping Greek films in this year’s festival will shed some light on the human element of the situation.
Nia Karteris, chair of the Greek Festival of Sydney, says the Greek Film Festival is taking the negative portrayal of Greece and turning it into a positive by promoting cinema to the masses. She says that the Australian public – not just the Greek community but non-Greeks – are interested in seeing the human side of the crisis and the reality of life in Greece. “[The Greek Film Festival] shows the reality of what is really happening because what they are reading and what they are seeing on mainstream media is not true to the facts,” explains Karteris adding it “gives [the public] the opportunity through the eyes of the camera to see the reality of the life of people of their age in Greece and how the crisis is impacting their life”.
Penny Kyprianou, director of the Greek Film Festival in Melbourne echoes this sentiment. “People are interested to see how these filmmakers are interpreting what’s going on in Greece,” she says. “We are seeing the current situation making its way into a lot of filmmakers’ scripts and we’ve even got a couple of documentaries that are talking specifically about the situation at the moment, the rioting and those aspects of the crisis.” The documentary Children of the Riots is one such example. Directed by Christos Georgiou; the documentary centres on the death of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos.
He was killed by police while on a seemingly safe pedestrian street with his friends on a Saturday night. His death prompted thousands of young people to take to the streets in riots that lasted three weeks, setting Athens ablaze and consuming a nation in violence and chaos. Three years later, the children who witnessed his murder and took part in the riots, reflect on their lives, and the changes following their close involvement in the social conflict.
Whereas the feature length documentary Krisis, is a time capsule of Greek life during the IMF crisis through the perspective of 14 of Greece’s leading journalists and photojournalists who all take different angles to highlight Greece’s most crippling financial crisis. Mainstream interest in Greece has seen audiences at the Greek Film Festival grow in numbers over the past two years. But not only with Greece at the forefront of everyone’s consciousness, the calibre of movies being delivered by Greek directors and the sudden increase in Greek Weird Wave cinema, has seen an interest in Greek cinema by aficionado’s worldwide.
Both Karteris and Kyprianou agree that the quality and calibre of films that are coming out of Greece has definitely increased. “There are far more dramas and stronger documentaries and there’s a shift from the traditional comedies that people may have remembered from previous years, and what they have coined as the new Greek Weird Wave is in my opinion breaking the convention of what people may expect from Greek cinema and it’s far more exciting,” Kyprianou tells Neos Kosmos.
“It’s not representing a stereotype or this perfect representation of Greece. “19 years ago you would see the same directors, now you are seeing younger people who are really identifying with the camera and the subject,” says Karteris, “films that aren’t scared to tackle the hard issues, or aren’t mainstream blockbusters.”
And the fact that traditional funding in Greece has dried up for artists due to the economic crisis has forced filmmakers to opt for an independent route to explore their art. Without the boundaries of production houses they have become more free to express their opinions and views. The audience at the Greek Film Festival have also shifted, and Karteris – who has worked on the Greek Film Festival as a volunteer for 19 years – says when it started the medium age for the audience was 60 plus, and was made up of first generation Greeks; now it’s the younger second, third and even fourth generation Greeks taking part.
“The younger Greeks in Australia understand their culture and the motherland and they want to be involved,” says Karteris, adding the younger generation choose to travel to Greece to stay connected with their heritage. And this connection between Greece and its diaspora can be seen by looking at the program itself. When the film Dogtooth first screened at the Greek Film Festival in Australia, it hadn’t premiered in Greece.
The same with the film Jerks this year, which will be premiered in Australia before it is viewed by Greek audiences showing the relationship between the two countries. But it’s not only Greek films that are getting a nod at the festival, the Australian movie Dead Europe – based on the Christos Tsiolkas novel – will feature as the closing night film of the program at all four Greek Film Festival’s around Australia.
The Greek Film Festival in Melbourne will also pay homage to the late filmmaker Anna Kannava on Thursday 1 November by launching her novel Stefanos of Limassol. This book has been released posthumously in honour of Anna’s unwavering commitment to life and creativity. The book will be launched prior to the film session and will be available to purchase at the cinema.
A tribute to Theo Angelopoulos will be part of the festival with the screening of Landscape in the Midst. Another highlight of the festival is the Student Film Festival open to all students of Greek in Australia. Now in its third year, students learning Greek from primary, secondary and a university level will showcase their four minute shorts on 4 November. They will be screened and awarded that day.
The 19th annual Greek Film Festival will kick off in Sydney on Tuesday 16 October and Melbourne Wednesday 17 October with a program to tantalise and whet the appetite of all film goers. The festival will also venture to Adelaide and Brisbane to make sure no film lover in Australia misses out on what is sure to be the best line up of film from Greece, and Cyprus and from Greek Australian’s who are making their mark in the film industry. From writers to producers, to actors, everyone gets a nod in this annual love affair with all things Greek and film.
For more information and programs for Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane and to purchase tickets visit www.greekfilmfestival.com.au/index.php