Athens Beat

Two films reflect the current social and economic crises in Greece. Kipseli directed by Yannis Katsaboulas (Greece 2011) is a short about a young couple’s search for a stolen mobile phone in a busy Athens neighborhood.

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What If… directed by Christoforos Papakaliatis (Greece) 2012, is a box office hit in Greece but may get little exposure abroad aside from festival screenings. It deserves a much wider audience. It’s a love story that follows the fate of a man, a woman, and a dog.

It begins one night with Dimitris and his canine companion, Lonesome. Will he or will he not take the dog for a walk? The film follows two possible consequences of that single decision. Romance, laughter, tears, and other more difficult situations reveal themselves over time as the characters move forward on two parallel tracks.

It was the perfect closing-night narrative feature for the 2013 San Francisco Greek Film Festival. The director, who also wrote the screenplay and played Dimitris, answered a few questions during the short Q and A following the screening.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

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Hidden Moments

Kisses To The Children directed by Vassilis Loules (Greece) 2011 reveals the personal stories of five Jewish children who were hidden in Christian homes during the WWII German occupation of Greece. They and some members of their family survived the death camps where millions of others died.

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The film is a testimony to the bravery and compassion of a few who risked their own safety to save the less fortunate among them. Most of the Jewish population perished. While Kisses To The Children is a powerful work, it contains redundancy and unnecessary repetition of testimony and image.

It’s difficult to watch because of all the suffering these five people and the others who managed to endure during that monstrous time. Anti-Semitism still remains a problem in many countries including Greece. I don’t know what it will take to improve the situation for Jews and other persecuted minorities.

The San Francisco Greek Film Festival continues through Sunday 19 May 2013. More info at www.grfilm.com

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Village Laughs

Counting Happiness directed by Venetia Evripiotou (Greece/India) 2012 was the first of three short works on the opening night of the San Francisco Greek Film Festival. Most of it was shot outdoors somewhere in urban India. It follows a young child who spends most days trying to sell wind-up chicks on the street.

Rosmarinus Officinalis directed by Andreas Siadimas (Greece) 2008 is about an unexpected encounter between a couple lost on their way to a scientific conference in Chania and a mythic Cretan well-versed in the medicinal properties of plants. It set the comic tone for the films that followed.

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The Foreigner directed by Alethea Avramis (US/Greece) 2011, unlisted in the festival program, was a wonderful surprise and definitely a highlight of the evening. After the mayor of a remote Greek village receives notice that government services are to be cut at the end of the month because the population fell below 35, he seizes the opportunity to rectify the situation by encouraging a British tourist who stumbles on the village to settle there. During the Q & A that followed, the director revealed that a feature-length narrative with a Swedish producer is now in development.

Small Crime directed by Christos Georgiou (Greece) 2009 is a full-length feature about a young ambitious policemen stranded on a backwater island who tries his best to distinguish himself so he’ll receive a promotion and transfer to a more interesting post. When he recovers the body of a man at the bottom of a cliff, he launches a full investigation despite the hostility of nearly everyone around him.

The San Francisco Greek Film Festival continues nightly at the Delancey Street Screening Room, 600 Embarcadero (near Brannan Street) through Sunday 19 May 2013. For more information and tickets see www.grfilm.com

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Greek Decade

The tenth annual San Francisco Greek Film Festival runs from 13 – 19 May 2013 at the Delancey Street Screening Room, 600 Embarcadero, San Francisco. The event is sponsored by the Greek Studies Foundation and benefits the Center for Modern Geek Studies and the Nikos Kazantzakis Chair at San Francisco State University.

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The opening night program includes two shorts, Counting Happiness directed by Venetia Evripiotou (Greece, India) 2012 and Rosmarinus Officianalis directed by Andreas Siadimas (Greece) 2008, and the full-length narrative feature, Small Crime directed by Christos Georgiou (Cyprus, Greece, Germany) 2009.

More information and tickets available at www.grfilm.com

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Reading Test

Present Tense directed by Belmin Söylemez (Turkey 2012) gives a glimpse of present day Istanbul. Mina is a young woman adrift in the city, dreaming of escaping to America. When other job prospects fail she applies to become a fortuneteller in a café. She has no professional experience at reading coffee cups but is hired on a trial basis by Tayfun, the handsome café owner.

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Mina is attractive but reserved, however over time she and Fazi, the more assertive and experienced reader, become friends and share some of the problems each of them faces. Her perceptive interpretations of the coffee grounds frequently reveal the emotional difficulties of the women who come to her. And as she continues with her job, changing Turkish liras for American dollars regularly, the readings for her clients mirror her own circumstance.

This film won the New Directors Prize. The director will attend its final screening at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas this week as the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival wraps up. See San Francisco Film Society for more information and tickets.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Waiting For Romuald

A young woman is invited to her lover’s house in the south of France but no one answers the doorbell when she arrives. A workman lets her in and shows her to the guest room, informing her that her host was suddenly called away but his children will soon return from the beach. Merle’s encounter with the teenage son, Felix, and his younger sister, Emma, is initially cold but improves over the next couple of days.

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Merle manages to occupy herself while she waits for Romauld to return. Interacts with his son and daughter, lies in the sun, reads, works on a book she’s writing, takes walks, and explores the commercial part of the town below. And when she tries to reach him she gets a recorded message asking her to leave a message. Unsure how long he’ll be away or when he’ll reappear.

Everyday Objects is directed by Nicolas Wacherbarth (Germany/France 2013), who describes his film as a thriller abut uneventful days. It screens two more times at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas during the 56 San Francisco International Film Festival. Tickets and info at San Francisco Film Society.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

French Teens

Youth directed by Justine Malle (France 2012) is a cinematic gem. The story is based on the relationship between the director and her famous father during the final year of his life. She struggles to find her own place in the world, dealing with the loss that looms unexpectedly near, preparing for final exams, and opening herself to romance. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is portrayed with quiet subtlety. This is a personal, moving film that touches the heart.

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There are two more opportunities to see Youth at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas during the 2013 San Francisco International Film Festival. Details at the San Francisco Film Society web site.

May Fools (Milou En Mai) directed by Louis Malle (France 1990) explored the impact of the revolutionary fervor of the Sixties on a French village.

Something In The Air (Apres Mai) directed by Olivier Assayas (France 2012) follows a group of young students in the aftermath of the 1968 Paris riots as they attempt to reconcile art and politics. It screens a final time during the festival at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. Info and tickets available at the San Francisco Film Society.

copyright © 2013 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved