ATHENS – A ban on the BBC shooting scenes from a highly-anticipated miniseries at the ancient Cape Sounion site by Greece’s powerful Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has ired the culture minister, government officials and critics who said it’s sending the message Greece is keeping up a reputation for being film-unfriendly.
A slim majority of the KAS board, which wanted to put up obstacles to the $8 billion development of the former Hellenikon International Airport, said a 12-hour shoot involving 120 people with equipment on the rocky site would disrupt normal tourist visits on April 12, four days after Easter.
Culture Minister Lydia Koniordou said, “We must create the right conditions, to harmonize (Greek laws) with those of other countries so as to make our country film-friendly,” the former actress told a meeting of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, many of whose members don’t want any foreign businesses or investors in the country.
KAS will meet April 3 to discuss a revised proposal by the BBC that would limit the hours of filming at the site. Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas was also said to be angry over the barring of the planned shoot.
Acclaimed South Korean director Park Chan-wook is putting together spy novelist John le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl but once again, scenes that would have been shot in Greece that likely could have drawn even more tourists will not be included.
The BBC was working in conjunction with the US-based cable network AMC, which has produced lauded series such as Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and and Better Call Saul, while the British company has experience working on ancient sites but now won’t be able to use the 2500-year-old Greek temple south of Athens along the coastline.
The site, however, has been closed previously due to strikes without any complaints from the government or agencies.
The decision triggered a furious reaction from the Greece’s government, which launched a campaign just days before ago to attract film productions to Greece with a series of incentives. The government says overseas productions could be a key growth area in the country that is emerging from eight years of crippling financial crisis.
“We have declared that Greece is now film-friendly. A few days later, another institution is contradicting this, not us but the hopes and ambitions of artists, technicians and thousands of professionals that are a part of this industry. It is an international embarrassment,” Lefteris Kretsos, General Secretary at the government’s media and communication department, said. The decision, he said, “once again highlights the issues we have as a country.”
Filming at Greek archaeological sites, whether for commercial productions or news reporting, requires a permit from archaeologists that is often near impossible and very costly to obtain although actress Nia Vardalos, who put together My Big Fat Greek Wedding, was able to use the Acropolis for her film My Life in Ruins.
The six-part BBC series is due for global release next year and stars Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard and Britain’s Florence Pugh, with Chan-wook, director of Old Boy and other noted films, will make his television debut with the project.
In the 1983 novel, an Israeli spy chief hunts a Palestinian bomber around Europe, recruiting a young English actress to try and expose him.
Ten of Le Carre’s novels have been adapted to movies. His work is also widely known from the BBC TV series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People, starring Alec Guinness as Cold War intelligence officer George Smiley.