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.

greekpassage

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

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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.

presenttense

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

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

Call For Young Media Artists

Istanbul Digital is looking for young Greek and Turkish media artists in their twenties to early thirties to produce short films that explore what unites and divides the two neighbor countries. The deadline to register online is Sunday 12 February 2012. The main project partner is the Center For Research And Action On Peace, based in Athens.

Associate partners include European Cultural Foundation, Aeolis, The University Of The Aegean, Centre Of Education and Intercultural Communication, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Yildiz Technical University, and Anadolu University.

The overall theme of the North Aegean Narratives project is Rethinking Closeness and Apartness– Reconnecting with the Other Side. The ultimate goal is to foster mutual cultural understanding through open dialogue between Greeks and Turks. The project is co-funded by the European Union and the Government of the Republic of Turkey.

The eight Turkish and eight Greek filmmakers chosen to participate will first attend a documentary workshop before teaming up to work collaboratively on 16 short films that will later be screened in Adatepe, Athens, Çanakkale, Anadolu University in Eskişehir, Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, and Mytilene. Finally a closing conference will be held in Istanbul to evaluate the project and share the results with a wider audience.

For more information click on one of the red words above.

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