Second Chances

Worlds Apart written and directed by Christopher Papakaliatis (Greece) 2015 is both disturbing and hopeful.

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The film deals with issues that impact not only Greece and other European countries but also many nations around the world. Immigration, economic justice, austerity, racism, violence, and the power of love.

Three heterosexual couples, each pair made up of a Greek and a foreigner, overcome initial cultural barriers before finding common ground. A young college student and a Syrian refugee, two business professionals, a mature housewife and a retired German scholar.

The film had theatrical runs in New York and Los Angeles before it’s recent, one-night screening sponsored by the San Francisco Greek Film Festival.

More information including availability at www.worldsapartfilm.us

copyright © 2017 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Greek Hospitality

Philoxenia, generous hospitality toward strangers, is a traditional Greek value too often lacking today. Immigrants are seldom welcomed and Albanians especially are the usual scapegoats for crimes and any bad behavior.

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Xenia directed by Panos Koutras (Greece/France/Belgium) 2014 boldly overturns common perceptions. The two main characters of the film are teenage brothers, one gay and the other straight, born in Crete to an Albanian mother and a Greek father who abandoned them early on.

Their mother recently died so the young men go in search of their father hoping he will acknowledge them so they can establish legal status.

This journey takes them through some of the darker aspects of the country but they are survivors unwilling to abandon hope for a better future

The film played to a packed house during the 12th San Francisco Greek Film Festival that concludes Sunday. For more information and tickets for the remaining screening contact San Francisco Greek Film Festival.

copyright © 2015 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Luna Park

Magic Hour directed by Costas Kapakas (Greece) 2011 is a black comedy inspired by the current economic crises.

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An unlikely pair of guys embark on a road trip through the countryside in a hearse with a wooden casket containing many surprises.

The driver is someone who cleverly managed to exploit the system time and again before it collapsed. His companion is a rather conventional man reeling from the loss of his job and discovering his wife is unfaithful.

The targets for humor are numerous including politicians, clergy, xenophobes, and Germans. And at one point the main character blames Jews, Masons, and gays for his personal predicament.

The eleventh annual San Francisco Greek Film Festival closes tonight with two shorts and a feature-length comedy from Cyprus. For more information see the San Francisco Greek Film Festival.

copyright © 2014 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Greek Passage

The Two Faces Of January directed by Hossein Aminia (UK/USA/France) 2014 was the opening night film of the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival.

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The noir Sixties thriller predominantly takes place in Athens, with scenes on Crete, and a climactic sequence in Istanbul. It’s based on the Patricia Highsmith novel by the same name.

It screened to a packed crowd at the Castro Theatre and was followed by a brief conversation with the director.

The festival continues with 167 films to be shown over the next two weeks in three Bay Area venues: the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, New People Cinema, and Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive.

Contact the San Francisco Film Society for more information and tickets.

copyright © 2014 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Sweet Sixteen

New Italian Cinema 2012 will celebrate sixteen years in San Francisco with eleven dramatic features and one documentary. The majority of the films were released in either 2011 or 2012. The exception are three works that are part of the Valeria Golino tribute. All screenings will be at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema 11 to 18 November 2012.

Tickets and information available on the San Francisco Film Society website.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Roza Sings

My Sweet Canary, a documentary directed by Roy Sher, 2011 was a highlight of the ninth annual San Francisco Greek Film Festival. It not only traces the life of singer Roza Eshkanazi but also follows an international ensemble of musicians that publicly performs many of her songs in Turkish, Greek, and Ladino.

Roza Eshkanazi, born Sarah Skinazi around 1895 in the Ottoman capital, Constantinople, to a poor Sephardic Jewish family. Her father was a rag picker and her mother worked as a maid for a wealthy family. Roza never learned to read or write but enjoyed a long career as a singer and dancer of Rebetiko and other traditional music styles popular a century ago.

She can be compared to such legendary female singers as Uum Kalthum (Egypt), Edith Piaf (France), and Billie Holiday (USA). Rebetiko (often called Greek blues) was the urban, popular music of the underclass in Constantinople and most of the musicians who played it were from marginalized ethnic minorities.

Early on her family moved to Salonika, the second largest city in the Ottoman Empire. It became part of Greece in 1912. Before World War II, Sephardic Jews were the predominate population in the city. Less then five percent escaped deportation to Auschwitz.

A German military officer protected her and others during the Nazi Occupation. She narrowly escaped extermination after being reported by a Greek. She made a brief musical comeback before her death in 1980.

Even though I’m not a fan of Rebetiko, I thoroughly enjoyed My Sweet Canary, especially the contemporary renditions performed by Mehtap Demir, a Turkish singer and musician; Martha D. Lewis, a British-born Greek Cypriot; and Tomer Katz, an Israeli oud and bouzouki player. Their tour began in Istanbul and then moved to Thessaloniki before ending in Athens.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Greek Comedies

The ninth annual San Francisco Greek Film Festival opened with a couple of comedies set in Twenty-first Century Athens. RF, written and directed by Stavros Liokalos, 2010, is a fast-paced short narrative. The titles show flashes of working-class apartment complexes built in the Sixties throughout the Greek capital.

RF begins with a middle-aged slob standing on the roof of a multi-unit condo building. He twists and turns a rusty TV antenna he believes is his. Then he pulls out a cell phone and calls his wife to find out if the reception is better and is rewarded by insults. A second attempt at repositioning the antenna results in still another tirade from his spouse. He responds by yanking the entire antenna off and disconnecting the wires.

One of the other tenants suddenly looses TV reception and goes up the roof to determine the cause. The two men hurl insults at one another before taking their dispute to the indifferent building manager. As the film progresses more and more of the condo tenants are drawn into the hilarious melodrama. Within this short work Liokalos presents a cross-section of isolated individuals momentarily brought together by unexpected circumstances.

The Guide is a narrative feature directed by Zacharias Mavroedis, 2011. Its main character is Iasonas, a young man from Thessaloniki that comes to Athens to lead an architectural tour for foreign-exchange students. One of the first obstacles he faces is a picket line at the Parthenon. This is followed by a mini rebellion in the group he’s leading. The city can be brutally hot during the summer, so it’s no surprise that they suggest lounging in a café or laying on a beach instead of his carefully prepared tour.

Iasonas takes his new job quite seriously. He’s determined to stick to the plan and also open to suggestions from those he’s leading and makes adjustments each day to accommodate them. He’s a handsome, clean-cut guy. Several of the women find him sexually attractive, as does the gay Frenchman that joins the tour. The guide keeps his distance from all of them but the pressure mounts over time.

Iasonas hangs out with his ex-girlfriend and her current partner Angelos during his off time. Also he must deal with constant telephone calls from his mother. The violent demonstrations, the ongoing economic crises and the current political turmoil are nowhere to be seen but some of the pressing issues of the time rise to the surface in the remarks that pepper the conversation throughout the film.

The short is a modern update of old-fashioned Greek comedy filled with stereotypes that appeals to a wide audience. The feature is smart, nuanced, and poignant but the use of architectural models in the titles seems contrived and the cutaway scenes an awkward editing device.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved