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Culture

NYC Greek Film Festival 2017:  Romance, Mystery, and Mercouri

September 25, 2017
Penelope Karageorge

Celebrating its 11th year, New York City’s eagerly awaited Greek Film Festival opens September 28 at the Director’s Guild Theatre with a comedy, Perfect Strangers, a film emblematic of our digital age.

Friends at a dinner party put their cell phones on the table to share messages and calls and  chaos ensues. Thodoris Atheridis, director and lead actor, and costar Smaragda Karidi will attend the screening as well as the gala that follows at Kellari Taverna.

Says festival director James Demetro: “this year’s films are exceptionally strong and varied in their subject matter. Romantic dramas, comedies,  mysteries and documentaries explore contemporary Greece and pay homage to the past. We discovered some brilliant short films that will screen throughout the festival and have an evening of their own.”

Amerika Square, Greece’s entry for Best Foreign Film Oscar 2017,  is widely acknowledged as the best European film on the subject of immigration. A desperate father turns to a human trafficker to get himself and his daughter out of Greece. Set in a troubled Athens neighborhood,  it focuses on the lives of a hipster bar owner,  a Syrian refugee, and a xenophobic nationalist.

Son of Sofia, Tribeca Film Festival Winner for Best International Narrative Feature, dramatizes a young boy’s coming to Greece from Russia to join his mother and  new stepfather.

One of Melina Mercouri’s rarely seen films, Phaedra, the brilliant 1962 classic directed by Jules Dassin, stars Mercouri, Anthony Perkins, and Raf Vallone, and features music by Mikis Theodorakis. Set in Paris, London, and the Greek island of Hydra, the film uses an ancient story updated to a family of ultrarich shipping tycoons. A showcase for Mercouri, it captures the actress at her passionate, emotional peak in a doomed love affair.

A forbidden love also  inspires Roza of Smyrna. In The Other Me, a professor uses Pythagorean theory to track down a serial killer. A youngster finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation in The Boy on the Bridge.  Afterlov offers a quirky post-romantic comedy. Life of Significant Soil focuses on two young people struggling through a failing relationship.

Artful surprises include  the newest film from Vassilis Loules, the poetic documentarian who uses his lens to capture the  soul of Greece. Loules’ new film, In the Mountain Pastures, offers a truly beautiful trip into the mountains near Olympus to hear nomadic shepherds talk about their lives and flocks. This is an extraordinary look at a disappearing occupation that was once at the heart of Greece.

Border Souls tells the story of the Halkidiki monastery that feeds refugees. Dogs of Democracy focuses on Athenians who care for the city’s stray dogs. The Patriarch’s Room reopens the case of the first patriarch of Jerusalem in 2000 years to be relieved of his duties.

As a special bonus to film aficionados, the festival will offer four nights of free screenings at the Wells Fargo Center in Midtown Manhattan. October 2 will feature Istoria, a documentary about an expatriate with Alzheimer’s returning to Greece. On October 3, Christos Godas premieres his documentary about the island of Paros, Apocalypse Again. On October 4, Life of Significant Soil starring Alexis Mouyiaris, will have an encore presentation. And on October 5, a program of short subjects, Bread and Olives and Other Delectables, promises to be a special treat.

A note should be made of two success stories that emerged from last year’s Festival: New Yorker George Stephanopoulos’s  entertaining Swing Away will be distributed nationally opening in New York at Cinema Village on October 13. The film features a young Greek-American woman, a golf champion who goes to Greece to find inspiration and purpose. Alex and Eve, a heart-warming romantic comedy from Australia, focuses on two star-crossed lovers, a Greek and a Lebanese Muslim. It will have U.S. distribution.

The festival closes October 15. More information is available at nycgreekfilmfestival.com.

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