NEW YORK – Opening night of the Greek Film Expo presented by the Hellenic Film Society USA (HFS) took place on April 27 with the U.S. premiere screening of Jamaica at the Directors Guild Theater in Midtown Manhattan. The charming and moving film, directed by Andreas Morfonios, is a bittersweet comedy about two estranged brothers at very different places in their lives.
Actors Nikoleta Kotsailidou and Spiros Papadopoulos- host of the popular TV musical revue, Stin Ygeia Mas Re Paidia, attended the screening, much to the delight of the audience, and are expected to attend all the screenings of the film during the showcase of films which runs through May 3.
Fanis Mouratidis received a Hellenic Film Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his role as Timos, a successful television personality whose brother, Akis, played by Papadopulos, is a cab driver struggling to pay his bills. The brothers come together at a crucial time in their lives as they deal with resentments and long-time disappointments while the clash of lifestyles and personalities offers comic relief. The comedy is highlighted by poignant moments, as the power of brotherly love helps them overcome their differences and teaches them valuable life lessons.
Papadopoulos demonstrates impressive range in his role, balancing the depth and powerful emotion with subtlety while he struggles to keep things together as his life seems to be unraveling. The financial aspect is only part of the problem, and his scenes with Kotsailidou, who plays his wife Popi, honestly reflect the emotions and the frustration so relatable in this day and age. The comic timing and chemistry of the entire cast, but especially between Mouratidis, Papadopoulos, and Anna-Maria Papaharalambous who plays Nina, is wonderful.
The comedy is delivered flawlessly by Mouratidis’ cheeky Timos and Papadopoulos’ serious Akis, recalling classic double acts of the past with the comic/straight man dynamic. Writer Giorgos Feidas has created a fine balance between the comedy and the touching moments in the film.
Flashbacks offer insight into the relationship between the brothers with the bonus of gorgeous Greek beach footage as well. Audience members were moved by the film and applauded as the credits rolled. They also gave a standing ovation to the actors when they stepped forward for a Q&A session which followed the film. Everyone expressed their enthusiasm for the film and congratulated the actors. When asked where is Timos, Papadopoulos replied that his co-star Mouratidis was performing in a play in Thessaloniki. Papadopoulos also noted the difficulties facing Greek films and the lack of resources, but Jamaica was very well-received in Greece, and is now “taking a stroll” outside the country to hopefully reach a wider audience. The film is based on a true story, he said, adding that it was made “between laughter and tears.”
Jimmy DeMetro, Hellenic Film Society USA Director, introduced the film and the actors Kotsailidou and Papadopoulos and thanked his “partners in crime,” the Associate Directors of the Hellenic Film Society, George Balafoutis, Eva Mallis, Maria Psomiades, and Vickie Rekoutis. He also thanked the benefactors of the HFS, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and Nikos and Carol Mouyiaris, the patron Onassis Foundation USA, and all the sponsors, supporters, friends, and volunteers. The Mouyiaris’ donation, DeMetro noted, was made in memory of their son Alexis Mouyiaris, “a charismatic young actor, who died unexpectedly just as work on his first feature film was nearing completion. That his parents have chosen to honor his memory by supporting the work of a film society is both touching and inspiring.”
Many members of the audience shared their appreciation for the film, noting its hopeful and optimistic aspects, the wit and heartfelt emotions.
Among those present at the screening were Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras and his wife Popita Pavli, Executive Director and Cultural Director of the Onassis Foundation USA Amalia Cosmetatou, Dr. George Liakeas- President of the Hellenic Medical Society of New York and his wife, Nicole, and vocalist Aphrodite Daniel, among many film fans and members of the community.
A reception was held after the film screening at Ousia on Manhattan’s West Side, where the film’s newly-minted fans had the opportunity to speak with the actors and share how much they enjoyed the film.
Tickets and more information are available online at: hellenicfilmusa.org.