The sixth annual New York City Greek Film Festival is underway, featuring 13 films that include a throwback to Greece’s Golden Age of film, pieces that touch on recent societal upheavals and some that explore the grittier side of Athens.
Festival director Jimmy Demetro said that despite the country's economic crisis and lack of traditional government support for the arts, independent Greek filmmakers are still producing high-quality work.
"They're working on a barter system," Demetro said. "You know, ‘I'll do the sound on your film, you do the makeup on my film,’ that sort of thing. They work without pay on each others' projects and they get the films done."
It's quite a shift for the industry in Greece, where many of the films produced each year had been substantially financed by the national government through its Ministry of Culture. That is no longer possible, with the economic crisis forcing the government to deeply slash budgets to receive emergency aid.
Films to Watch Out For:
- Among the films being screened this year is "Magic Hour," director Kostas Kapakas' satirical road movie that takes a critical look at contemporary Greek society. Another film that pulls from the headlines is "Wasted Youth," a drama inspired by the fatal police shooting of a teenager in Athens in 2008 that sparked weeks of rioting.
- The Greek-Russian-French co-production "God Loves Caviar" will have its U.S. premiere during the festival. The film follows the real-life story of Ioannis Varvakis, an 18th century Greek pirate, who finds favor at the court of Catherine the Great and goes on to become a caviar mogul.
- This year's festival also includes two documentaries: "Smyrna: The Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City, 1900-1922," by director Maria Iliou, uses interviews and rarely seen archival footage to present the largely unknown story of the devastation of what has been called the most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire. "100" by director Gerasimos Rigas takes viewers into the Athens Police Department's emergency call center, revealing a grittier side of modern day Athens.
- And, in a nod to the Golden Age of the Greek film, Nikos Koundouros' 1956 classic "The Fiend of Athens" will be screened. Interest in the film has been reignited since author Jonathan Franzen credited the film with influencing his 2010 novel Freedom.
The 2012 New York City Greek Film Festival runs through October 17, with films showing at venues in Manhattan and Queens.