In its fourth year running, the New York City Greek Film Festival is “getting better and better every year” states Stamatis Ghikas, its festival manager. This year the opening night held in Astoria, Queens will be October 23rd and opening night in Manhattan will be October 26th.
The NYC Greek Film Festival is presented annually by the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce. Last year’s festival, which was supported by grants from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Southern Star Shipping, and other donations from the business and private sectors, surpassed all expectations. 3,748 people came to watch the films over the festival’s two week run. The planning has already started and the festival is scheduled to open in late October.
This year the festival presented eleven new films from Greece, three modern classic selections, and two American independent films directed by Greek Americans. The surprise hit of the festival was “Small Crime”, a.k.a. Mikro Englima. It is a character driven comedy about a young policeman looking for a case to solve on the quiet Greek island where he is assigned. Directed by London born Greek Cypriot Christos Georgiou, it features a star performance by Aris Servetalis. The film drew more viewers than any other during the festival’s regular run.
This year’s films are:
In 1654, a wounded soldier seeking refuge in a remote cloister is nursed back to health by a young nun. The relationship between the two deepens, causing discontent in the convent. The two escape into the Greek countryside where the nun’s shocking revelation will become the catalyst for an encounter of raw sexuality. Stunningly photographed, this film won the Hellenic Film Academy’s award for best cinematography earlier this year.
THE BUILDING MANAGER (O DIAHIRISTIS)
Direction by Periklis Hoursoglou (Adults only)
A family man assumes more responsibilities than he can handle when he takes over the management of his mother’s apartment building. But it is his affair with a woman half his age that precipitates his mid-life crisis and threatens the sanctity of his marriage and his family.
Direction by Yorgos Lanthimos (Adults only)
This controversial film that is finding audiences everywhere it plays focuses on a dysfunctional family, its three teenagers kept completely cut off from the world by their parents in an alternately nightmarish and surreal experiment of manipulation and suppression. Winner of the UnCertain regard prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, this film was named Best Picture of the Year by the Hellenic Film Academy. It is Greece’s entry for Best Foreign Film Academy Award consideration this year.
FOUR BLACK SUITS (TESSERA MAVRA KOUSTOUMIA)
Direction by Renos Haralambidis
Four desperate undertakers accept an odd assignment for the money. They are to carry the body of a deceased immigrant on foot, from Athens to the village of his birth. Everything goes wrong along the way in this sometimes surreal comedy, but the men get more out of the misadventure than they bargained for.
The death of a prominent citizen reveals the corruption that festers behind closed doors on a seemingly serene Greek island. No one escapes being tainted—not the local politician, nor the teacher, nor the priest! This film broke box office records in its commercial release in Greece earlier this year.
PLATO’S ACADEMY (AKADIMIA PLATONOS)
Direction by Filippos Tsitos
In the quiet Plato’s Academy neighborhood of Athens, four ethnocentric Greek slackers spend their days watching industrious immigrants working all around them. When one of the four discovers his Albanian heritage, their smug outlook, not to mention their friendship, is severely challenged. This film won the Ecumenical Jury Prize at the Locarno Film Festival in 2009, and its male lead, ,Antonis Kafetzopoulos, was named best actor. The film was shown at the Venice Film Festival last month.
STRELLA: A WOMAN’S WAY (STRELLA)
Direction by Panos Koutras (Adults only)
Released from prison after serving a long sentence, a man begins an affair with a pre-op transsexual, never imagining how much they actually have in common. This film premiered at the Berlin Film festival in 2009 and has since been shown at more than twenty festivals around the world. It won four Hellenic Film Academy Awards earlier this year, including the best actress award for Mina Orfanou, who plays Strella.
Two brothers, seventeen and fifteen year old shepherds from the mountains of western Macedonia, find themselves on opposite sides of the brutal Greek Civil War. Master filmmaker Pandelis Voulgaris has dedicated his epic film to the thousands of victims who lost their lives on both sides of the conflict that no one won but that Greece lost.
COLOSSI OF LOVE
Direction by Nikos Mystriotis
This funny and revealing documentary goes to Rhodes, the island of Aphrodite, to relive the days of the kamaki (Greek for harpoon) suitors, men who perfected the art of seducing foreign tourists visiting Greece in the 1970s and 80s.
One of the most stunningly poetic and powerful immigration sagas ever filmed, this epic tale is loosely based upon the life of Kazan’s uncle Stavros. Leaving his impoverished village in Turkish Anatolia for Constantinople, the young man eventually fulfills his obsessive dream of coming to America, but not before he faces cruelties and betrayals along the way.
Shot mostly in Washington Heights in the 1950s, this early American independent film tells the gripping story of a Greek sailor, played by Athan Karras, who jumps ship in New York Harbor and goes looking for the man who assaulted his sister. When he falls in love with a compassionate Greek American girl, the sailor finds himself torn between love and machismo. This film is being shown as a tribute to actor and dance historian Athan Karras , who died earlier this year.