BY BUSTER SOUTHERLEY
Our cinema screens are monopolised by Hollywood spectaculars made with budgets equivalent to the annual GDPs of small Third World countries. Yet there are still films being made that concern themselves with themes other than violence and the ideology of the hyper-power. Were it not for film festivals, access to such valuable works would be closed off to us.
A season of Greek films, screening in many part of Australia in September, addresses issues that range from the plight of refugees to political struggles.
Roadblocks deals with Kurdish refugee Ali's perilous and desperate journey to Athens in search of his missing brother. Shot with digital camera, in documentary fashion, this fictional portrayal of the marginalised existence of "illegals" in Greece resonates deeply in Australia, in the light of Canberra's atrocious policies towards refugees.
Dancing with Raidel — The Cuban Neighbour is a documentary that highlights the fusion of cultures, language and music in Athens, where more than 200 Cuban families have migrated. The influence of Cuban culture on Greece is not well known, so it is an insightful example of multiculturalism abroad.
Heraklis, Acheloos and My Granny is the story of 80-year-old Dimitra's struggle against the construction of a dam in the Pindus Mountains of Thessaly by Heraklis corporation. The director's grandmother takes centre stage as she resists the depopulation and flooding of her small village of Armatoliko. There are shades of the Mapuche Indians' fight to halt dam construction in Chile in the late 1990s and mythic references abound in this tale of struggle against corporate might.
The re-release of Zorba the Greek comes at an appropriate time. This iconic representation of a Greek ideal, the passionate earthy Zorba and the stiff-shirted and repressed Anglo writer, features two great performances from Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates respectively. Attempts to essentialise any race or nation is bound to create controversy.
Finally, Screamin' Jay Hawkins' last performances in Athens prior to his death in 2000 are the subject of I Put a Spell on Me. Exiled in Paris, this 70-year-old blues great tells of the exploitation and racism he encountered in his career.
The Greek Film Festival screens in:
Melbourne — Until September 7 at the Cinema Como, South Yarra;
Sydney — Until September 9 at the Palace Norton Street Cinemas, Leichhardt;
Brisbane — September 11-14 at the Palace Centro Cinemas, Fortitude Valley;
Canberra — September 11-17 at the Electric Shades Cinema; and
Adelaide — September 17-21 at the Palace/Nova East End Cinemas, Rundle Street;
Check for screening times, ticket details and film synopses at <http://www.greekfilmfestival.com.au> and <http://www.antipodesfesival.com.au/greekfilmfestival>.
From Green Left Weekly, September 3, 2003.
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