Edinburgh Greek Film Festival announces 2017 programme

The Edinburgh Greek Film Festival announces its 2017 programme

Amerika Square

Highlights include Yannis Sakiridis' Amerika Square and a double bill of documentaries from Marianna Economou

Edinburgh's Greek Film Festival is back at the Filmhouse next month, celebrating Greece's remarkable ability to go on making feature films without having any money to speak of. Festival organiser Kevin Anderson points out that the ongoing Greek economic crisis has, to a certain extent, brought about a new clarity of purpose in Greek filmmakers: 'To make a film in Greece now you need some very non-Hollywood, and maybe non-filmic, skills. There will be almost no money. There will be no hotels–last year's Suntan was made with the crew and cast camping. There will be no clear career path visible afterwards. There may not even be efficient Greek distribution.' As a result, Anderson says, 'recent Greek films speak urgently and clearly. They have things to say, have to say them and are usually not being paid to say them.'

Sure enough, the 2017 programme shows an emphasis on the present day and on history, rather than genre exercises or symbolism. As always, some directors will be talking about their work, although times being what they are, some of the Q&As will be conducted via Skype rather than in person.

The opening film, Yannis Sakiridis' Amerika Square (Fri 1 Dec, 8.30pm) is about Billy, a tattoo artist who falls for Tereza, a beautiful nightclub singer, only to incur the wrath of his friend Nakos, who doesn't like immigrants. Playing the racist Nakos is Greek film's versatile, lumpy-faced everyman of the moment, Makis Papadimitriou, who starred in Suntan and also featured in 2016's Chevalier. Writer/director Sakaridis will be present for a Q&A after the screening.

Medea Louder Than My Thoughts (Sat 2 Dec, 8.30pm) is Nikos Grammatikos's meditation on the figure of Medea, one of the iconic figures of Greek drama. Medea received her most influential portrayal in Euripides's eponymous tragedy, in which, having left her home for marriage and family with Jason, he then dumps her for a younger woman, and she obtains revenge by killing both Jason and his mistress, and then her own children. She's a character that the audience is compelled to find sympathetic but also to quarrel with, and Grammatikos just extends the quarrel, inviting experts and ordinary Greeks to give their opinion about one of the most judged characters in classic literature.

Panikos Chrissanthou's The Story of the Green Line (Sun 3 Dec, 8.25pm) is a drama set in Cyprus in 1977, in which young Greek and Turkish Cypriot conscript soldiers have to come to terms with the creation of a border crossing that didn't exist when they were young. The border still exists, and to this day, only Turkey recognises Turkish-speaking Northern Cyprus as a state.

Another historical tale is the documentary Beneath the Olive Tree (Mon 4 Dec, 8.30pm), narrated by veteran Greek-American actress Olympia Dukakis and telling the stories of women who had fought for the Greek resistance in WW2 and had been interned by the prison islands after the war because of their sympathies with the losing side of the Greek Civil War (1946–49). This picked up awards at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the IndieFest Film Awards and the Santa Fe Film Festival and there'll be a Skype Q&A afterwards with Olympia Dukakis and director Stavroula Toska.

The drama Lines (Tue 5 Dec, 8.45pm), by Vasilis Mazomenos, is a set of seven stories focused on a helpline, and looks at the everyday desperation of people trying to get through a normality which has become far from normal.

Finally, there's a double bill of documentaries from Marianna Economou, a filmmaker noted for her self-effacing style; her most recent feature The Longest Run was about Syrian immigrants and has been making the rounds of festivals, but showing here are two shorter works, Food for Love and My Place in the Dance (Wed 6 Dec, time tbc). The former is about the well-documented habit of Greek women of showing affection to overseas family members by sending them food; it can be as ordinary and useful as a packet of local oregano or gigantes (Greek butter beans, hard to obtain elsewhere), or it can go to extremes, such as the mother who shipped an entire suitcase full of moussaka to a son who failed to pick it up at the airport. The latter is about the women of a Greek village who, having been guest workers abroad, returned home again and revived their village's native dances. The double bill is followed by a Skype Q&A with the director.

Greek Film Festival is at Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 1–Wed 6 Dec 2017.