The 2012 Greek film festival looks set to be a ripper, so we decided to ask its director Penny Kyprianou a few questions about it over a virtual cup of coffee and baklava…
How did you get involved with the Festival?
I first volunteered with the Greek Film Festival back in 2001, when the Festival was still screening films at Treasury Theatre in East Melbourne. Back then the Festival was run entirely by a passionate group of volunteers, two of those being Costas Markos and Eleni Bertes. Costas is very much still entrenched in the Greek Film Festival. I admired the love that this group of people had for the Festival, and the desire they had to share Greek films with Melbourne. After working on seven Melbourne International Film Festivals I took a break, albeit a short one, from film, and then an opportunity came up in 2009 to put together the Greek Film Festival. I jumped at the opportunity, programming the Greek Film Festival part-time, and in 2011 I took a full-time position with the Greek Community of Melbourne (the organising behind the Greek Film Festival), which also includes overseeing a year-long program of cultural activities.
How do you go about choosing the films that are included in the program?
Searching for films is a year round job, and we keep a close eye on International Film Festivals and we also stay in regular contact with directors and producers. In past years, many films were sourced from the Greek Film Centre (Greece’s equivalent to Screen Australia), however with funding dwindling, lower budget films are being picked up by European distributors, so it’s important we stay in regular contact with companies such as Match Factory. For example, we’re screening a film called Boy Eating the Bird’s Food (Dir. Ektoras Lygizos) which just screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, and we’re lucky enough to be screening this film before it even has its premiere in Greece at the Thessaloniki Film Festival in November.
What films are you looking forward to watching and or have you already had the pleasure of seeing?
Part of my job includes watching all of the films that we’ve programmed this year, but I do love watching our films on the big screen with audiences during the Festival, and I’m really looking forward to sitting back and enjoying Jerks (Dir. Stelios Kammitsis) which follows three friends as they roam the streets of Exarcheia in Athens before they plan to leave for Berlin, and one of our most powerful dramas, The City of Children (Dir. Yorgos Gikapeppas), a day-in-the-life of four pregnant couples in modern Athens, but with stories that differ drastically to the usual ones of hope and joy. I’m also looking forward to seeing Theo Angelopoulos’ Landcape in the Mist, from 1988, on the big screen, when we’ll be paying tribute to this truly amazing filmmaker.
How much effect has the economic crisis in Greece had on the local funding in the Greek film industry, and have they had to turn elsewhere for funds?
The economic situation has had a dramatic effect on local funding within the Greek film industry, and when I had to chance to talk with Babis Makridis, director of L (which screened at MIFF this year, and is also part of our program this year), he explained that filmmakers are getting around this problem by sharing resources and reducing their drastically reducing their budgets. It’s not an ideal way to be making films, but it does mean that their films can be made. There is a strong sense of camaraderie among this new breed of inventive filmmakers.
Yorgos Lanthimos has his next film (after the magnificent dogtooth) in this year’s festival “Alps”, can we expect another challenging film?
The Greek Film Festival screened Lanthimos’ Dogtooth in 2009, following its win at the Cannes Film Festival that year, and we are fortunate to be screening Alps after its Best Film win at the Sydney International Film Festival this year and sell-out sessions at the Melbourne International Film Festival. I remember watching Dogtooth for the first time and instantly wanting to know how this new director ignited his creativity and originality. It was a film that has stayed with me, and Alps will leave a very similar impression on those who see it. In Alps we encounter a group of ‘stand-ins’, hired by people that have lost ones, as a way to grieve the loss of their loved on. The step in and take on mannerisms, speech and even sexual behaviour, in order to fill the void the passing of a loved one has left. It’s very hard not to be seduced by the originality of Lanthimos’ films.
The closing night film “Dead Europe” is based on a Christos Tsiolkas novel (writer of the slap) will there be characters we can fall in love with, or ones we can only see the things we dislike in ourselves and despise?
Christos Tsiolkas is brilliant at forcing us to confront our own darkness, and Tony Krawitz’s adaptation translates that darkness with such intensity, that it’s difficult not to fall in love the film, but maybe not the characters themselves! It’s as though Tsiolkas predicted the current situation in Europe when he wrote Dead Europe, and the film portrays a gritty, dirty and somewhat damaged Europe. Thematically, it’s the perfect closing night film for the Greek Film Festival, and we are really lucky to have it this year.
And finally, why should people come and see a film at the Greek Film Festival?
It’s an incredible year for Greek cinema, and we’re so proud to have such strong films in our program this year. Audiences should come along to gain a new perspective on Greek cinema, experience an intense new breed of filmmakers, and see how these filmmakers are interpreting the current climate in Greece. We’re right behind these filmmakers, and Melbourne audiences should be too. As Babis Makridis said to me earlier this year, “We (Greeks) are in suddenly in fashion, and I hope the fashion doesn’t end.”