There was a time when Greek cinema seemed to be Theo Angelopolous and not many other people: long films with not a lot of story and endless shots of people staring mournfully at the sea. Then there was a time when articles about Greek cinema always seemed to start with sentences like the previous one, and would then go on to cite Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster) as proof that Greek cinema has moved on a bit.
If the 2016 Edinburgh Greek Film Festival is anything to go by, Greek cinema is more varied than ever. The 2016 festival has a story about a schlubby rural GP whose fling with a sexy young tourist goes disastrously wrong; a frenetic chase thriller; a black comedy about men on a boat; a historical drama about the tragedy of Salonika's Jews during WWII; a documentary about a family of Cretan musicians, and a meditation on Greekness itself. As festival organiser Kevin Anderson puts it, 'Greece has finally got a grip on the action movie and is busy trying to take so much mickey out of it that the action movie skulks off to Hollywood with its stunts between its legs.'
The festival is so compact that this article has room for the whole programme. All screenings are at Filmhouse, Edinburgh.
Suntan (dir. Argyris Papadimitropoulos), Fri 2 Dec Kostis (Makis Papadimitriou) is a podgy, balding, forty-something doctor who's recently moved to a Greek island. He's disgruntled to find that the winter is chilly and wet, but when summer comes, his eye is caught by – and he in turn catches the eye of – sexy 19-year-old Anna (Ellie Tringou), who's fully up for a bit of cheerful, meaningless shagging with this unpromising spud of a man. Unfortunately, Kostis had something in mind that was a bit more long-lasting. Director Papadimitropoulos will take part in a Q&A after the screening.
Short Fuse (dir. Kostas Skiftas, Andreas Lampropoulos), Sat 3 Dec A young courier rubs the wrong people up the wrong way and wakes up in a parking lot with a bomb strapped to his chest. Car chase! This frenetic actioner features much punching, kicking and firing of automatic weapons, not to mention the Greek police doing what they love to do so much, namely dress like ninjas in helmets. Co-screenwriter Kostas Skiftas and Producer/co-screenwriter Konstantinos Moutsinas will take part in a Q&A after the screening.
Cloudy Sunday (dir. Manousos Manousakis), Sun 4 Dec Set in Salonica in 1942 and based on a true story, this film looks at the German occupation of the city through the eyes of rembetiko musician and bar-owner Vasilis Tsitsanis (Andreas Konstantinou), one of whose employees, carpenter Yorgos (Haris Fragoulis) falls in love with a Jewish girl, Estrea (Christina Hilla Fameli). Can their love survive? If you know your history, you know the answer. Seventy years on, the fate of Salonica's Jewish community is still a touchy subject for many Greeks.
A Family Affair (dir. Angeliki Aristomenopolou), Mon 5 Dec A documentary about the Xylouris family of musicians. The eldest of three brothers, Nikos (1936–1980), became the musical voice of the resistance to the military regime that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, but the film focuses on his surviving younger brothers Andonis and Yorgos, and their families.
Chevalier (dir. Athina Rachel Tsangari), Tue 6 Dec Six wealthy men gather on a yacht in the Aegean and after running out of things to do, they decide to compete to see who's best, because that's just what men confined to yacht who have more money than sense will do. As Greek film's evident schlemiel du jour, Makis Papadimitriou is among the cast. Tsangari's last feature Attenberg won a clutch of awards, and while we weren't crazy about it, it one won Best Film at last year's LFF and has been selected as Greece's entry to the Foreign Language Oscars.
ΟΧΙ: An Act of Resistance (dir. Ken McMullen), Wed 7 Dec The Greek word 'οχι' (pron. roughly 'och-ee') means 'no', and it's been a symbol of Greek resistance to oppression ever since Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas legendarily used it in 1940 to reply to Mussolini's demand that the Greeks yield to Axis invasion without a fight. (Metaxas didn't actually say 'no', he said 'Alors, c'est la guerre!', but that would have made him sound like a character in Allo, Allo.) McMullen's film sees Dominique Pinon as a mysterious investigator, and it weaves together fiction and documentary to see what's become of Greece in the age of brutal austerity. There's a Q&A afterwards with Ken McMullen and producer Martin McQuillan.
Edinburgh Greek Film Festival is at Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 2–Wed 7 Dec.
On a remote Greek island, a middle-aged doctor (Papadimitriou) has a fling with a young tourist (Tringou) and then becomes a bit too keen on her for her liking. A poignant mix of midlife meltdown and painful comedy is seriously flummoxed by an ending that’s as subtle as a sledgehammer.