Emerging with diverse artistic visions, Greek filmmakers have managed to mold the chaotic and uncertain situation of their county into cinematic statements ranging from the utterly realist to the most audacious. This weekend several of these unique perspectives were screened at the 8th Edition of the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival with a program that included documentary features, shorts, and some of the most daring narratives to come out of the Hellenic nation recently. More prolific than ever, Greek Cinema voices the experiences of those affected by the economic crisis, those trying to make amends between tradition and fast-paced modernity, and above all it is fertile ground for exploration and reinvention.
Dir. Alexandros Avranas
Any film that opens with a girl committing suicide on her 11th birthday announces itself as something out of the ordinary. Alexandros Avranas’ “ Miss Violence” can easily be considered a new addition to the unofficially named Greek Weird Wave movement. Its closest reference is the Oscar-nominated “Dogtooth”. Much like Lanthimos film, “Miss Violence” focuses on a family in which a controlling patriarch ruthlessly decides over its members’ lives. While “Dogtooth” deals with a distorted perception of reality created by the monstrous father, Avranas’ film is darker, more puzzling, and at times unbearably unnerving. Conformed by a mother, two daughters, and two grandchildren, the family mechanics are never easily presented. Dozens of theories can be at play in the viewer’s mind as one tries to decipher what is the evil truth behind it all. A shattering must-see, “Miss Violence” is a twisted tale of submission and perversion cleverly concealed by apparent righteousness. Full review coming soon.
Dir. Giorgos Servetas
When an educated and self-sufficient woman, Antigone (Marina Symeou), decides to return to her small town, she soon realizes that things haven’t improved much from what she remembers. After finding a job as a teacher and reconnecting with her old friend Eleni ( Marianthi Pantelopoulou), Antogone finds a younger boyfriend who makes things in the sleepy community more exciting. Sadly for this independent woman, that relationship will unearth the viciousness of the town’s bully. Reveling in their archaic ideologies, people here uphold male chauvinist values that condone violence against women. Those protected by the corrupt local authorities enjoy impunity. Furthermore, the film points at indifference as the source of injustice. Outspoken about the outrageous gender inequality that still exists, this effective thriller is infuriating and poignant until its culminating sequence. Servetas film is an extraordinarily brave and important statement not only for Greece, but anywhere where women still need to struggle for the most elemental respect.
Dir. Elina Psikou
Delusions of grandeur take on a new form when famed talk-show host Antonis Paraskeva ( Christos Stergioglou)
decides to orchestrate his own kidnapping as a publicity stunt. Hidden
remote hotel out of service for the winter, he spends his days
reading what the media says about his disappearance and endlessly
practicing a recipe for
molecular pasta all in hopes of a triumphal return. Subtly comedic
and occasional unsettling, Psikou’s film makes blunt observations about a
obsession with his own image and status. Aware that his antics to
turn himself into a legendary figure are failing, Antonis’ arrogance
will drive him to
carry out increasingly more deranged tactics in order to recover his
position and keep his fans interested. Embellished by a couple magical
episodes, “The Eternal Return” peculiarly depicts the cult of celebrity and instant glorification, which is something that rings true now
more than ever.
While watching Tsemberopoulos film, another thematically similar work quickly comes to mind: "To Kill a Man" by Chilean director Alejandro Fernández Almendras. Both
stories are concerned with events that drive normal family men to
kill with the purpose of avenging their loved ones. While the South American director
focuses on what leads to the act
itself, in the suspenseful Greek tale the
filmmaker decides to go further and deal with the consequences of getting even. A performance brimming with tremendous
vulnerability and heartbreaking powerlessness by Manolis Mavromatakis
as Kostas, the father, is at the center
of this provocative feature. As the family begins to fall apart, Kostas hateful thirst for retribution is transformed into a strange form of forgiveness towards those who ravaged his life. "The Enemy Within" is intense, intelligent, and forces its characters to make decisions that place them in the grayer side of morality.
Dir. Stelana Kliris
This English-language road trip romantic comedy set in Cyprus is an entertaining work that relies heavily on its two protagonists’ ability to be engaging. Driving around the island to clear his head after a fight with his girlfriend, George ( Orestes Sophocleous Orestes Sophocleous), an engineer of Greek origin who studied in England, runs across a bride (Melia Kreiling), wedding dress and all, who is walking alone on a deserted road running away from something or someone. He offers her a ride and what ensues are a series of conversations about love, the boredom of conventions, and of course, fear of commitment. Even if the performances appear overdone and rather generic at times, there is still a lighthearted chemistry between the two actors that makes the journey simplistic, but enjoyable. It would come as no surprise if the concept is adapted and remade with an American cast. This is the type of story that Hollywood craves, especially with the added bonus of a somewhat intriguing twist.