The Los Angeles Greek Film Festival showcases new films from Greek filmmakers worldwide. Their foremost goal is to promote Greek Cinema and cultural exchange while bridging the gap between Greek filmmakers and Hollywood. Orpheus Awards are given to the most outstanding new films in the dramatic, documentary and short film categories.
To provide our readers with more information about 2011 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival we spoke to Angeliki Giannakopoulos, who co-founded the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival with Ersi Danou.
Bijan Tehrani: What’s new at this year’s Los Angeles Greek Film Festival?
Angeliki Giannakopoulos: Well this year is our fifth year, and it is very significant in the sense that we actually lasted five years in this economy—which is tremendous. This year we are having a fabulous opening night; we received a great documentary called Pelican’s Watch from Greece about the creation of Santorini wine. This documentary filmmaker, Lea Binzer, went in and interviewed many different growers who produce this wine, which is one of the best in Greece, and did a wonderful story about their lives, about how the earth has changed them, and how wine translates into their culture and their lives. The Santorini wine commission is attending the screening.
BT: How many films will be at the festival this year?
AG: We have an estimate of about twenty films—It is packed and we tried to do as many as we could. I think there has been a whole new wave of filmmakers coming out of Greece. This new wave has been trained in film schools outside of the country, and they have been able to go and interact with other filmmakers around the world. They are going back to their country and making wonderful films. This new wave has sparked Greek cinema and shows a promising future as well. Dogtooth was nominated for an Oscar last year, which has not happened in thirty-two years for Greece. Greek filmmakers are excited to put their voice on a new movement in the international plateau.
BT: How can audiences see these films?
AG: Audiences can find information about the films and screening times at our website, LAGFF.org. Potential attendees can buy tickets online or in person at the box office.
BT: Do you have any guest filmmakers attending the festival this year?
AG: We have over ten filmmakers who are coming from Greece, including officials from the Greek film commission, and I know that we have a representative from the Ministry of Culture. The representatives want to attract productions and encourage filmmakers to shoot in Greece. I think we might have a big announcement coming up this year at the festival. You can watch interviews with all of our filmmakers on our Facebook, our website, and on our YouTube channel. Links can be found at LAGFF.org.
BT: Are there any special events at the festival besides the screening of he films?
AG: The opening night and closing night events will both hold a screening of a wonderful film, our opening night film is Pelican’s Watch, and closing night film is Burning Heads.
Burning Heads tells a great story about a mother and her two sons who emigrate from Russia to Greece to find a better life. It’s based on a very successful play that toured all around the Balca. We are also going to be at the Writers Guild on closing night, which is Sunday, June 12, and then we have our Orpheus Awards ceremony. Jury awards will be given to the best feature, best documentary, and best short film, plus the audience award—voted by the members of the audience, of course—and then a fabulous reception afterwards. The festival will also host Crossing Borders: Foreign Films in Hollywood, sponsored by ELMA. This industry panel will be moderated by Variety’s Deputy Editor, Peter Caranicas, and will be held on Saturday, June 11 at 10:30 a.m. at the Laemmle’s Sunset 5. This is going to be a very significant event because the reps from Greece will be attending, as well as representatives from Lionsgate, ICM, and other distributors here in the U.S. that acquire foreign films. We are inviting over 140 distributors from all over town; our goal is to start a dialog so we can figure out how we can help them and how they can help us in introducing the American public to more foreign films. How can we get these fabulous films out in regular, mainstream movie theatres where the public can expose themselves to foreign cinema? We have invited the festival directors of all the festivals in town, and I think it is going to be a wonderful event.
BT: What movie would you recommend that and audience should see?
AG: Well, there are so many different ones! If the audience wants something fun and they love documentaries and wine, they should come to opening night! If they want serious drama, they should come to our closing night and see Burning Heads. On Saturday, we have a film called Strella, which is an edgy film that has done well all over Europe and that is definitely something that the public would love. We have another film called The Death I Dreamed Of, it is an entertaining horror film based on a true story, so the young people can come and go get scared watching that film. I think the best way to learn about the films is to go to our wonderful website.
BT: Any unique films for serious film fans?
AG: As I mentioned, the closing night film is a wonderful film, and the film Knifer (screening on Saturday) is a very film-noir, black-and-white film that is beautifully shot with a unique story; I’m sure that serious film fans would appreciate every bit of it. Another is the documentary Mikis Theodorakis, Composer. We are also presenting Mikis Theodorakis with an honorary Orpheus Award on Sunday night in recognition of his body of work, which includes scores for milestone films such as Z, State of Siege, and Zorba the Greek.
Therefore we are doing a tribute to him and there is a great documentary on his life. He wrote great music during the depression and dictatorship of Greece, so his story is definitely one that is enjoyable on film.
BT: How has the festival grown over the past few years?
AG: Every year we get a little bigger we see more attendees. I think five years is definitely a huge accomplishment in the film festival world, especially with an ethnic festival. We get a lot of support from the Greek community in the U.S. and also people in Greece. Every year is great and we appreciate every person that comes to see these films.