The 22nd Greek Film Festival welcomed the faithful with the world premiere of the Alex & Eve gangbuster
The Delphi Bank 22nd Greek Film Festival, a core component of the cultural offerings of the Greek Community, kicked off on Wednesday with the much anticipated premiere of Alex and Eve.
The Festival turned the lights off simultaneously across Australia’s major cities attracting thousands of cinephiles.
Festival chair, Nia Karteris said she’s, “Proud to showcase the latest and greatest of Greek cinema, that is bound to capture the hearts of Greeks and Australians alike.”
The queue outside the Astor Theater was over 1000 people long, before Melbourne’s Greek community president Bill Papastergiadis welcomed the audience into the screening hall with his ‘cool to be Greek’ motto.
“It is interesting to note that historically our Film Festival was derived largely from our collaboration with the Greek Film Centre in Greece,” he said highlighting that the Greek organisation largely funded film production.
“In recent times, films produced by the Greek Film Centre are largely not existent. Most films are now co-produced or co-funded with other countries.”
Mr Papastergiadis went on to raise the core issue which we witness in our films, where creatives always feature a commentary on the current economic and social predicament confronting Greece.
“Greek Film makers prefer to focus on the now rather than escape into the blue skies and shores of a Mykonos set,” he said introducing one of this year’s film selection which touches upon the current refugee crises and the smuggling of human souls across the river Evros which separates Turkey from Greece.
“The stories before us tells about the complex social and economic difficulties which Greeks encounter on a daily basis; a comment on the Greek crisis.”
“In my view, the redefinition of what it is like to be a Greek and to live in Greece has had in the last five years, its most radical transformation in recent modern history,” he noted.
Although we don’t get the postcard glamour pictures of Mykonos in this year’s Film Festival, these films presented are worth the journey as they provide us with a window to look into a Greece which is ever changing and redefining itself before our very eyes.
The documentary submissions are equally compelling and include the highly praised Agora: From Democracy to the Market, which delves into contemporary Greece, unravelling the rage and despair felt by the entire nation.
“I also encourage you to follow the Short Film program which now includes both a local and international component, each competing for the Top Short Film Award,” Mr Papastergiadis added.
“We also have our Student Film Festival with some remarkable new talent on offering. Many of the Greek Schools in Melbourne have participated and I too became a part of this journey when I drove my two children to a film location as part of the Toorak Primary School production.”
Finally and on a more positive note, Mr Papastergiadis finished his welcoming speech by remarking that the Greek Community of Melbourne’s Cultural Centre, the 15 storey building on Lonsdale Street, in the heart of Melbourne is now complete and fully operational.
“It is a vibrant centre worth a visit from all of you and demonstrates we are entering at least in Australia a renaissance period for being Greek,” he said.
“I implore you all to become a member of the Greek Community of Melbourne and to be a part of this renaissance.”
Film protagonists Richard Brancatiscano, Tony Nikolakopoulos and George Kapiniaris were present and eager for a meet and greet with the crowd over a glass of wine Greek accompanied by a rich buffet of delicacies.
Famous Greek pop singer Yorgos Tsalikis was also spotted amongst the in demand socialites, enjoying a Melbourne night-out in between rehearsals for his concerts.
Sydney on the other hand, was imbued into Greek filmography with the help of director Peter Andrikidis, writer Alex Lykos and leading star Andrea Demetriades, who took some time off her busy schedule to speak to Neos Kosmos about the film.
“I’m extremely excited to be part of such a great beautiful love story unraveling on screen,” she said.
“I think it’s going to have universal appeal as it is one of those stories we don’t get to tell a lot in Australia.”
Being a child of immigrant parents herself, she instantly fell in love with the script and the endorsing nature of the film which reminded her of Romeo and Juliet in a more contemporary and less stereotypical sense.
“It’s not very usual to see a Greek Orthodox man with a Lebanese Muslim woman, but it can happen since we live in a world where Australia is the epitome of multiculturalism.”
“The characters that we got really portrayed the modern children of immigrants who were born here,” she stressed.
Demetriades, whose parents hail from Cyprus and Kastellorizo identifies as an Australian citizen but strongly empathises with the first and second generations of migrants in Australia who had to work hard to prove themselves.
“Coming from an immigrant background you have to acknowledge the sacrifices your parents made to offer you all these opportunities in life.
“Anyone who has come from another country to Australia has had their struggles,” Demetriades mused.
“I can’t believe how lucky we are in this country when I see this awful social climate that prevails in other parts of the world.”
The actress believes the film will also appeal to Greek audiences outside Australia as it explores the identity of second and third generation diasporans.
“In this case we see how it feels being Australian on the one hand and having that beautiful background you cherish on the other, which sometimes might constrict you.”
“This hasn’t happened to me, as I was lucky to have very modern and liberal minded parents who have never stopped me from chasing my dreams and doing what I wanted. I do know, however, a lot of people who have gone through a similar situation,” she admitted.
“You want to do right for your family but when you fall in love you fall in love and that’s it.”
Even though she knew absolutely nothing about the Muslim faith, Andrea felt challenged and intrigued by Eve’s character.
“It was really nice to be able to delve into that world… A misconception prevails about Muslims being extremists. The Koran is such a beautiful religious book in itself,” she explained.
“We had a whole team of people helping mas on set with the language and how to adopt a more realistic approach.”
Demetriades has put several of her own characteristics into her role, as she and Eve have quite a bit in common, both being career driven and independent women in their thirties.
“It’s not just the age and migrant heritage,” she said. “You find yourself to this pint where you’ve had relationships which did not work out.”
“You do want to have a baby, you do want to get married… but then you’ve got your career goals to pursue and focus on which is very demanding and you feel that time is running out.”
“I too am very maternal, but women unfortunately have a different biological clock,” she continued.
The Greek Australian star confessed that she has often wondered if she will ever meet the right person to realise all the above; however, at the moment, she is mainly focused on her career.
Demetriades is about to start shooting the second Janet King for ABC and is also starring in a new play called Arms and the Man with a fellow Athenian actor, William Zappa.
As for future goals and dreams?
Apart from preparing for Sydney production, titled Arcadia bearing classical Greek elements, she did give us another hint…
“I would love to play the role of Antigone, which might be happening.”