In trying to come up with a decent opening paragraph for an overview of the Greek Film Festival 2009, currently taking place at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, one that might reference some famous Greek movies and make me appear knowledgeable on world cinema, I quickly checked Wikipedia, the lazy journalist’s friend, for well known Greek films. The results weren’t encouraging.
While 1964’s Zorba the Greek is in there, I can’t say that Attack of the Giant Moussaka (1999) or The Last Mission (1950) ring any bells, though 1960’s Oscar winning Never on Sunday probably should.
Still, part of the reason for a film festival is to introduce the cinemagoer to something new and interesting that they may never have encountered before. Luckily the three films I recently watched to give me a taster of the country’s output offer a decent variety of styles that do its cinema justice.
Correction (or Diorthosi) (25 February), a 2007 film from director Thanos Anastropoulos, focuses on Yorgos, a man recently released from prison for an unspecified crime.
Yorgos soon starts following a young woman and her daughter, at the same time getting a job in the restaurant where she works. Keeping an eye on her as much as possible, Yorgos is also hassled by some local men who seem to have a grievance towards him.
With minimal dialogue, Correction is a film that takes its time to build pace, though there’s not too much of that either. With plenty of long shots and a refusal to explain Yorgos’s actions in detail, the viewer is left to piece together the plot, though there is some background given late on.
One issue that the film raises, one that is relevant to modern day Greece, is the influx of Albanians into the country. Tension between Greeks and Albanians is touched upon here, though an in-depth understanding of the political issues isn’t required.
I enjoyed the film, the relaxed pace an antidote to faster films that get too bogged down in exposition.
Cool (or Psyhraimia) (Saturday 28 February) is the antithesis of Correction, a much faster take on modern Greece that twists, turns and intertwines the stories of various characters as they each try to make their mark in society.
Corruption, drugs and danger are at the heart of Cool. Themes of personal identity are also touched upon, characters fighting against their country’s past to shape their own present.
Humour may play a large part of Cool but this isn’t a comedy as such, dark secrets helping to level the tone. With a slightly rough around the edges feel, this is a not-quite-perfect attempt to tell a complicated story.
The final film I’d recommend is Eduart (Sunday 1 March), perhaps my favourite of the three I’ve covered.
Based on a true story and winner of best Greek film at the 2006 Thessaloniki Film Festival, Eduart tells of a young Albanian immigrant who arrives in Athens, only to find himself responsible for the death of a another man.
Fleeing back to Albania, events take a turn for the worse when his father turns him into the police for another crime, sending Eduart to prison where life becomes a fight for survival.
Grim and gritty, Eduart has a memorable central performance from Eshref Durmishi who manages to gain some sympathy from the viewer even after his crime.
Looking more expensive than its undoubtedly small budget, Eduart takes the viewer on a long journey with a genuinely satisfying ending.
Offering three intriguing takes on Greek society today, its relationship with Albania a recurring theme, it’s possible that watching any one of them will give a different angle on some of the issues prevalent there.
Cool seems to offer a bit of everything for the potential novice Greek film fan, though Eduart and Correction are both compact little films that deserve attention.