LOS ANGELES– The tenth anniversary of the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (LAGFF) was celebrated in front of a sold-out crowd at the historic Egyptian theater in Hollywood.
Following the screening of Christopher Papakaliatis’ acclaimed film Worlds Apart, the Honorary Orpheus Award was presented to Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman Jim Gianopulos and to Academy Award Winner J.K. Simmons in a ceremony hosted by Mena Suvari.
Greek Deputy Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura came from Athens to attend the festival and to promote Greece as an ideal production locale for American film companies. New this year was the arrival from Athens of the Gastronomy Days-Athens International Culinary Film Festival that highlights Greek cuisine and presented a live cooking demonstration by Chef Marisa Churchill.
The festival screened a total of 56 films, 24 of those were North American premieres. Opening night started with a live performance from Greek singing star Alexia Vassiliou and Grammy-nominated KCRW DJ Chris Douridas was the closing party DJ.
The opening night film was Tasos Boulmetis’ Mythopathy, Notias is the Greek title, his first film since his groundbreaking Politiki Kouzina.
The movie follows the adventures of a university student during the 1970s and 1980s in Greece after the return of Democracy following the overthrow of the military junta. The film navigates the hero’s coming of age as he embarks in the art of filmmaking, love and politics. Along the way the protagonist loses what he loves most and has to adopt and overcome that reality. Director Boulmetis was very happy with the audience reception at the festival: “the LAGFF is a very important institution. It is vital to have a forum that promotes Greek Cinema in the entertainment capital of the world. We received excellent treatment from everyone involved.”
An Australian/New Zealand co-production, Alex & Eve chronicles the challenges facing a couple with different religious backgrounds. Alex is a handsome and shy Greek Orthodox man who falls in love with Eve, a successful lawyer from a Lebanese Muslim family. Both families furiously oppose the union as their children try to distance themselves by ignoring their feelings. Preceding the film a heartwarming short, Christos and Dimitra. A story of an 8-year-old-boy’s efforts to take his girlfriend to watch a touring theater’s performance of Romeo and Juliet. But when Dimitra is unable to attend, Christos has to make a brave decision.
Athina Tsangari’s much anticipated feature Chevalier presented an ambiguous and inconclusive story of six men competing in a game of superiority during a sailing trip. It was received with mixed reactions by the audience. One of the least appetizing offerings was The Republic. An extremely violent and bloody film about human traffickers and corrupt politicians who intermingle in illegal activities. Unfortunately, the endless barrage of violence overshadows the tragic issue of human trafficking that began since the start of the financial crisis and has skyrocketed with the recent arrivals of thousands of political refugees all over Europe.
Suntan is a film that is set on a beautiful Greek island and follows a middle-aged doctor who falls for an attractive young tourist. The affair is short lived and the obsessed doctor unable to deal with rejection resorts to a violent confrontation that leaves the audience wondering. Perhaps next year we will be treated to a few comedies. The documentary HAIL ARCADIA, a visual and historical journey of Tegea, received very positive feedback from the audience. The closing night film Worlds Apart is Christopher Papakaliatis second directorial effort. Comprised of three separate love stories with one Greek person falling in love with a foreigner in each story that in the end finishes as a single story. The film that has as a backdrop the crisis inflicted city of Athens deals with the loss of human dignity and loss of love but the story is told with pathos, humor and a sense of hope. Music score was the work of Kostas Christides. It received an enthusiastic reception from the audience that propelled the film to winning the Audience Choice Award.
Director Papakaliatis told TNH that “I am very pleased of the positive reception the film has received in the LAGFF, after it was embraced by the audiences in Greece. I am hopeful that the American audiences will have the opportunity to embrace it as well.” Alexander Swart’s short Stagnation received the first Jury prize of the Van Vlahakis Short Film Award. His daughter Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks in an emotional speech said about her late father “I am proud to present this award in honor of my father who was a huge fan of Greek and Greek-American cinema. We are dedicated in supporting the LAGFF and our filmmakers who are spotlighting critical issues affecting Greeks and Cypriots.”
Other awards include Best Fiction Feature Film for Panos Karkanevatos’ Riverbanks and Best Documentary Film Exotica, Erotica, Etc. Maria Kavogianni won the Best Performance award for her excellent portrayal of an unhappy Greek housewife who finds herself attracted to a retired German college professor in Worlds Apart. LAGFF Executive Producer Alex Kalognomos told TNH that “for a decade, LAGFF has been a creative home for a generation of independent Greek filmmakers. When projects that were birthed at LAGFF debut on the silver screen, it helps the festival to attain greater levels of visibility and support. LAGFF also builds and fosters relationships and creative partnerships with filmmakers, businessmen, and talent.”
Preparations for next year are already underway.