The writings of Bill Mousoulis
Greek films on European stage
resurgence of Greek art cinema continues this year, with two films receiving
their international premieres (outside of Greece) at the prestigious Karlovy
Vary International Film Festival, which unspooled between
July 2 – 10.
Last year, 2009, there was a breakthrough for Greek cinema when Dogtooth (director: Yorgos Lanthimos) was selected for (and awarded at) Cannes, Strella (dir: Panos H. Koutras) selected for
Berlin, Plato’s Academy (dir: Fillipos Tsitos) for Locarno, the
films then travelling the world to various festivals, promising a new era for
This year things have been a little slower, but Karlovy Vary is actually
the No.1 festival of Eastern Europe (it is located in the Czech Republic), and
only a step or two behind such glamour events as Cannes or Venice. To give you an idea of Karlovy Vary’s size, I was one of 600 journalists in attendance.
The two Greek films selected for Karlovy Vary were Mavro Livadi (Black Field, dir: Vardis Marinakis) and O Diahiristis (The
Building Manager, dir: Periklis Hoursoglou). Both
films had several sold-out screenings, the films being received well, with the
directors, producers and lead actors all attending the festival.
Mavro Livadi is an
atmospheric piece about a group of nuns in the 17th century, and how
a seemingly dangerous, savage man intrudes into their world. Whilst the first half is a little too smooth
(with its slick “moody” design), the second half is full of surprises and some
genuinely raw passion, with standout performances by relative newcomers Sofia Georgovassili and Hristos Passalis.
O Diahiristis, on the other hand, is set in the all-too-recognisably real and contemporary world of apartment
buildings, touchy people, mixed emotions. The director Periklis Hoursoglou himself plays the lead role, and his
real-life wife (the experienced actress Vangelio Andreadaki) plays his on-screen wife, and … you guessed it,
their real-life kids play their on-screen kids. It’s a quirky little film, about human foibles, about things going out
of control. It has a beautiful grasp on
reality and that’s why it’s a slight shame that it has too many sub-plots.
For Hoursoglou, his instinct for cinema
started early: “From a small child I
liked to observe people, and imagine them in different circumstances. So I started writing little stories. How they would take their shoes off when
returning home at night, how they would eat, if they prayed before sleep ...”
I ask the director if Greek films at the moment should reflect the
troubled times of the country. He
confuses me by simply stating the film’s plot: “The film is about an apartment block where the sewerage system is
broken, someone undertakes to repair it, he tries and tries, but it never gets
fixed.” He then delivers the
punch-line: “Does that remind one of
the success of last year’s films at the major film festivals, Hoursoglou opines: “The issue of how ready Greek cinema is
to “break out” from Greek borders is complex. In the past, it was never a matter of how good or bad a film was. The films of Damianos,
or of Koundouros, barely travelled the world, while Cacoyannis with Zorba the Greek reached the Oscars. Angelopoulos is
well-known by cinephiles, while Voulgaris who is a very good director, is much less
known. In any case, it makes no sense to
make films with the sole critieria of whether they
will travel the world or be liked by foreigners – it is better that they are
turn to his wife, the actress Vangelio Andreadaki, and ask her if she is confident more roles will
come her way. “I will have many offers,
for better films, and I will take the Best Actress Award at Cannes Film
Festival and Meryl Streep will present me with an
Oscar!” It’s a joke, but … who’s to say
it can’t happen? For that’s the kind of
energy Greek cinema has at the moment.
© Bill Mousoulis July 2010.
This report first appeared in Neos Kosmos.