Eleftheria Astrinaki Talks to TNH about Greek Film Series

The A. S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at NYU Greek Cinema Today Spring 2017 Film Series poster.

By Eleni Sakellis

NEW YORK – The A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at New York University Greek Cinema Today Spring 2017 film series began on February 16 and continues through May 4. Curated by Visiting Assistant Professor Eleftheria Astrinaki, the series presents the unique vision of contemporary Greek filmmakers. The screenings are free and open to the public. Astrinaki, who is originally from Heraklion in Crete, spoke with The National Herald about the film series, contemporary Greek film, and upcoming projects.

TNH: How has the response been to the film series this spring?

EA: There has been a positive response from students of the A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies, the New York University community, but also the Greek American community. Interest and attendance continues to rise by word of mouth and we are looking forward to welcoming more new people to our final screenings.

TNH: How do you choose the films for the series?

EA: Curating a films series is such a fun process, but takes time and requires a lot or research, depending on the theme of the series. Maybe the spring film series of 2017, Greek Cinema Today, was an easy one for me as I am familiar with Greek films and I follow the oeuvre of pretty much all the Greek filmmakers.

Only very few Greek films find distribution in the US, so in New York City we get to watch either mainstream big productions or artful big productions, what international film critics like to call the new weird wave, a term I could not disagree more (as it “exoticizes” Greek cinema in a different but yet similar way to Zorba the Greek). This time, I wanted to present the very latest films of the Greek film industry beyond mainstream TV movies and new weird wave films, films with social edge, and not just allegories. I have chosen to screen the latest films by devoted filmmakers that I follow and respect like F. Koutsaftis and C. Giannaris, but also works by aspiring newcomers.  I am excited to host the NYC premiere of the documentary Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair by Angelique Kourounis, a must -see for anyone interested in the wave of Neo-Nazi parties across Europe, and The Park by Sophia Exarchou, the first Sundance Script Lab Greek film that had already a solid run in world film festivals; a film with a remarkable cinematography taking place in the now deserted spaces of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

The previous film series I curated for the A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at NYU with the support of Professor Liana Theodoratou, the Director of the program, was a bit harder, I have to admit. I had to research for at least 6 months and watch 40 to 50 films, before we presented The Refugee Crisis: Films from the Borders of Europe in the fall of 2016 or the Fight the Power: Films from the P.I.G.S. (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) in the fall of 2015.

TNH: Who are your favorite Greek filmmakers working today?

EA: I love Panos Koutras films and the way he approaches suppressed social groups and challenges the norms of Greek society in both Strella (2009) and Xenia (2014). Yannis Economides is one of my favorites, too. I like his distinct style and atmosphere, with his mannered visual and narrative repetitions from his debut film Matchbox (2003) to his last one Stratos (2014).

TNH: What upcoming projects can we look forward to?

EA: In the fall of 2017 we will present Fascism in World Cinema. Fascism has written the darkest pages in the history of the 20th century; scholars have been trying to distil its essence by focusing upon its economic roots and its political origins, but we will present the cinematic responses to fascism.

At times in which economic policy appears to drive political decisions and the gap between representatives and represented is enlarging more and more, in an attempt to approach and understand the ideology of fascism, we will screen fifteen films from all over the world; the USA, Europe, but also South America and Japan.