8th Greek Film Festival in LA

By Johanna Voutounou

Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater is no stranger to film festivals and many stars have graced its screens over the years. And from June 4-9, the famous Theater opened its doors to the 8th Annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival. This year, emerging Greek filmmakers were invited to walk amongst the handprints of some of Hollywood’s greatest stars during the Festivals’ annual Orpheus Awards Ceremony and Gala Reception.

The evening began with a screening of Yorgos Tsemberopoulos’ award-winning The Enemy Within, a lively thriller that follows an ambitious Greek man out of his quiet mountain village into the chaotic “city jungle” of Athens.

Festival Co-Founder Ersi Danou and Director Aris Katopodis then took the stage to announce that this year has been the most successful in the history of the festival with a record 23 filmmakers attending the 5 days of films, forums, and fun.

This year’s films reflect the continued search for answers and solutions while pointing out the absurdity of the status quo. Social, personal, identities, borders, morals, values, are all entities that were explored in this year’s line up. The strong participation of female filmmakers and the many submissions of first time-directors; make this year’s festival program a real example of Greece’s bright future.

A 5-member jury that consists of Variety Deputy Editor Peter Caranicas; award-winning writer and co-founder & CEO Emerald Peak Entertainment Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood); Producer Christopher Kikis; International Sales & Acquisitions at Arclight Films Athena Nash; and Loyola Marymount’s Professor of Classics Dr. Katerina Zacharia, judged 28 Feature films, documentaries and shorts to select this year’s winners.

Miss Violence (Directed by Alexandros Avranas) took home the Best Feature Orpheus Award. This mesmerizing psychological thriller takes the audience on a frightening ride through a hidden and hellish world, well-protected from the outside world. At last year’s Venice Film Festival, Avranas said he was seeking to give domestic abuse victims a voice in the movie, the Associated Press reported. He said the film was based on a true story in Germany about a grandfather who prostituted his daughter and his granddaughters to his friends. The director said he was driven to make a film to “speak all about these children who have no voice, AP said. As the actors grew depressed due to the movie’s subject matter, Avranas continued, AP reported, “they had the feeling that they are helping other persons to stop doing this, to see a way to make a revolution. That was our hope, our motive.”

The award for Best Documentary went to Crossed Lives (Directed by Spyros Teskos). This powerful film sheds light on the lives and tragic deaths of George Crocus and Dimitris Christoulas and makes an intriguing connection between these two men and the Modern Greek crisis.

The Best Short Film was awarded to Red Hulk (Directed by Asimina Proedrou) a sci-fi fantasy film that follows Giorgos as he discovers his alter ego.

More awards were handed out to noteworthy films Special Jury Orpheus Award – The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas (Directed by Elina Psykou), Audience Choice Orpheus Award, Crossed Lives (Directed by Spyros Teskos) and Special Jury Mention, Travel Express (Directed by Natassa Xydi).

The Los Angeles Greek Film Festival’s foremost goal is to promote Greek cinema and cultural exchange while bridging the gap between Greek filmmakers and Hollywood. This year Greek producers, directors, and actors that are currently working in Hollywood were excited to participate in the festival to inspire young filmmakers to continue to peruse their dreams.

Some of the guests included Fox head Jim Gianopulos and director James Gray. 12 Years a Slave Oscar-winning producer Anthony Katagas and When Harry Met Sally producer Steve Nicolaides.

This memorable evening was followed by a dinner reception in the Egyptian Courtyard with performances by Boston’s The Tripping Souls.

Grauman’s Egyptian Theater, less famous than the Chinese Theater, also built by Sid Grauman, actually preceded its better-known sibling by five years (1922, 1927) and was the site of Hollywood’s first film premiere, Robin Hood, in 1922, starring Douglas Fairbanks and Wallace Beery. The price of admission for opening night was $5 (about $65 in today’s dollars).