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Film Fest Reflects Societal Changes in Greece

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The fifth annual New York City Greek Film Festival gets underway in full force this weekend, featuring nine films over 16 days at theaters in Manhattan and Queens. 

This year's festival offerings are a bit more somber than those of the past, which is a cultural reflection of Greece's financial woes that are affecting people on a very personal level.

"There's a new seriousness in the films, a social awareness," said the director of the fest, Jim DeMetro. "They're not the easygoing gentle comedies and musicals that seem to be very popular in Greece. They are cutting edge in a very real sense."

The film industry in the small Mediterranean country has seen a resurgence over the past several years, with filmmakers producing critically acclaimed works by filmmakers largely unknown to American audiences.

"It's an industry that is ready to be discovered," said DeMetro. "And you know, all over the world, Greek films are finding audiences, they're winning major prizes and major international film festivals. The United States remains the one market that they have not broken into."

Festival highlights include "Knifer," a gritty film noir that director Yannis Economides claims shows the "modern face" of Greece. Critics see the film as a metaphor of the decline of the middle class in Greece.

"Attenberg," by director Athina Rachel Tsangari, follows a 23-year old named Marina as she tries to come to terms with her sexuality, and as her father nears the end of his life. The film, which is Greece's entry in the foreign film category for next year's Academy Awards, can be seen as symbolic of the change Greece has been going through, as it works through losing old ways and faces something new and unknown.

But the festival's offerings are not all about the economy.

"Nobody," by director Christos Nikoleris, is a "Romeo and Juliet" update, with shades of Homer, that reveals the personal challenges facing immigrants in modern day Athens. "Strella: A Woman's Way," by director Panos Koutras, tells the powerful, heartbreaking story of Strella, a pre-op transexual sex worker, and the accommodations people make in the name of love.

The NYC Greek Film Festival runs through Nov. 6 with screenings at the American Museum of the Moving Image, the SVA Theater Chelsea and the NYIT Auditorium on Broadway. To see a schedule, click here.

Watch the trailer for "Knifer" below.

Watch the trailer for "Attenberg" here.

Watch the trailer for "Nobody (Kanenas)" below.

And finally, check out the trailer for "Strella: A Woman's Way" here.