ASTORIA – The Hellenic Film Society USA presented a rare New York visit on February 8-9 by Oscar-winning director Costa-Gavras, in town for two special screenings of his films, the digitally restored print of Z, marking the 50th anniversary of its original release, when it won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the New York premiere of Adults in the Room, a drama about the Greek economic crisis. The screenings were held at the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) in Astoria. The famed director attended both screenings and participated in an audience Q&A session following each film.
On February 8, the Hellenic Film Society presented Z, a drama based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos which is a fictionalized account of the 1963 killing of Grigoris Lambrakis, who led the forces opposing the placement of U.S. Polaris missiles in Greece. The film’s mostly French cast includes international stars Yves Montand and Irene Papas, with music by Mikis Theodorakis, won 12 major awards, including the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
The audience for the sold-out screening included many members of the Greek community, MoMI members, and film fans of all ages eager to see the restored film print and hear from the internationally renowned Costa-Gavras.
Jimmy DeMetro, President of the Hellenic Film Society, gave the welcoming remarks and introduced Foster Hirsch, Professor in the Brooklyn College Film Department and author of several books on film and theater. Prof. Hirsch opened his remarks by saying, “Unfortunately, this film about political oppression and a cover-up is timely,” and then spoke about the significance of Z in film history as the first to receive Academy Award nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and for Best Picture. The U.S. government did not want the film to be seen, but after being nominated for the Oscars, Z soon saw wider release and success in the U.S., allowing Gavras to make the films he wanted to make, to a certain point, as he noted in the Q&A which followed the screening, moderated by MoMI Curator of Film Eric Hynes.
About this particular screening, Gavras noted that he was not only watching the film, but also watching the audience reaction to the film, pointing out moments of complete silence, the chuckles at key lines in the film, and the applause at the end which he found very moving.
When asked about attending his first Academy Awards, he recalled that he was sitting behind John Wayne at the ceremony 50 years ago almost to the day and following his win he was congratulated by a short man who turned out to be the legendary director Frank Capra whose films he had watched and loved for years. Gavras also noted that many great film directors never won an Oscar, but it becomes a mythical thing, and there’s no way to fight against it, they always say it first [Oscar winner] when they mention your name.
Among those present was singer-songwriter Pericles Kanaris who asked about the music for the film by the iconic Mikis Theodorakis and how he was able to score the film. Gavras noted that Theodorakis was in exile and when asked to participate told them to pick and choose from all his works. Gavras said that the effort was quite a challenge, and they ended up scoring the film backwards from the end to the beginning.
Based on the book by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who led the tense negotiations between Greece and the European Union to avert bankruptcy, Adults in the Room was written and directed by Costa-Gavras and is seen by the director as a Greek tragedy for our modern times.
“The film is a reflection on real events, recounted via cinematographic logic and constraints of space and time,” he said. “In this story, it is the human adventure that matters most: how these events affected the social, economic and political life of society, and not only that of Greece.”
Christos Loulis and Alexandros Bourdoumis, who star in the film, also attended the screening and post-film Q&A. The screening was part of the Museum’s Always on Sunday monthly Greek film series. The actors had also attended the screening of Z on Saturday.
“We are elated that Costa-Gavras chose the Hellenic Film Society to present the New York premiere of Adults in the Room,” said Jimmy DeMetro, President of the Hellenic Film Society. “It is our honor to host this important director, whose work has had an enormous impact on world cinema.”
Costa-Gavras has directed 24 films since the beginning of his career in 1965, including Missing, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
More information about the Hellenic Film Society USA and upcoming screenings in available online: www.hellenicfilmusa.org or call 646-844-1488 and follow on Facebook and Instagram.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is the lead supporter of the Hellenic Film Society USA. Additional support is provided by Onassis Foundation USA and the Kallinikeion Foundation.