Greece under the FOG

in 50th Thessaloniki International Film Festival

by Demosthenes Xifilinos

Only eight films participated in this year’s Greek Panorama. The Thessaloniki International Film Festival was celebrating its 50th year of existence (by the way, there wasn’t always an international competitive section… in fact it all started as a week of Greek films in 1960 and took its present world character in 1992), but only eight directors decided to bring their movies to Thessaloniki.

For many years now, the law that deals with cinematic issues seemed out of date. Directors kept raising their voices demanding something new and suitable to the needs of our time. This year a sort of strike took place. Three quarters of the Greek filmmakers (naming themselves FOG, which means Filmmakers of Greece) did not send their films to the festival as a kind of boycott to the State’s inaction all this time.

Only eight directors, agreeing with the demands of their colleagues, but having different opinions (against the boycott of the festival) appeared with their movies this year. The Greek Association of Film Critics decided not to award any film, but FIPRESC? did not have that choice, because of its regulation. So, the FIPRESCI Jury awarded The Building Manager by Periklis Hoursoglou, the story of a married man with two kids, who faces his middle-age crisis. A well written screenplay is the main quality of a film that presents its own director as the main lead. It is worth mentioning that his wife (who is an actor) and his children also appear in the movie, although -as Periklis Hoursoglou assures us- it isn’t in any way autobiographical. What doesn’t work so much is the sexual relationship that begins between “The building manager” and a young woman, but at least the film is more or less the best in the competition, winning us over with its realistic approach to its subject.

The other seven Greek films can be divided in the following categories:

There were three comedies, Biloba by Sophia Papahristou, Canteen by Stavros Kaplanidis and A Matter of Luck by Vassilis Nemeas. The first one was a sweet description of the life in a Greek island and a study of the (pure) relationships between its inhabitants, which changes even the protagonist of the movie, a mechanic who comes just to do his job there, at first not having the slightest interest for the environmental catastrophe it might cause. The second one, written by Stavros Tsiolis, a well-known (here in Greece) director, is another very Greek comedy (which means that its humor can be appreciated mainly by Greeks), while the third one is a farce, similar to any farce in any place of the world. There are jokes; you can laugh easily with them, but nothing more…

The two films that entered also the International Competition were not any better. Dancing on Ice follows the adventures of three women trying to cross the borders in order to achieve the… Greek dream, but (although the director’s intention to show the drama of the economical emigrants is welcomed) the director Stavros Ioannou, who used to specialize in documentaries, does not succeed in his dramatization of the events. The film Small Revolts comes from a director (Kiriakos Katzourakis) who is really a pictorial artist, so it is logical to concentrate to the visual part of its movie. The problems with the script are obvious, and the directorial effort to narrate a love story between a woman with a failed marriage and a past that hounds her, and a younger man who is willing to give her all the love that she needs, finishes badly.

Dimitris Kollatos and Erricos Andreou were the older participants in this year’s small Panorama. They both did not add anything positive in their long history (which starts in the 1960s!). At least, Kollatos with The Will of Father Jean Melies remains faithful to his long tradition of criticizing the church and its priests… Finally, in what is probably the worst film of his career, Erricos Andreou’s Fatal Relationship is sort of a TV soap opera, with similar aesthetics.

Hoping for a much better Greek Panorama the next year…

Edited by Steven Yates