May 2012, arsenal cinema

New Greek Cinema

ALPEIS, 2011

Greece has become a talking point – with innovations of cinematic nature. A young generation of filmmakers has been counteracting economic misery with immense artistic capital in the form of new aesthetic approaches. Its inventive, unconventional and often disturbing images have provided new impulses for international auteur cinema and caused a stir at major festivals.
Our selection of 13 current Greek features and documentaries from 2009 to 2012 put together by Arsenal, most of which can be seen in Berlin for the first time, presents a cinema of huge aesthetic variety, which clearly sets itself apart from the “New Greek Cinema" of the 70s. It can be seen as a veritable sea change, a shift away from classical formats and conventions that has brought about a revitalization of the Greek film landscape. Contemporary Greek cinema is daring, funny, awkward, crazy, visionary and heterogeneous. It is individual, non-conformist and radically offbeat. It experiments with different artistic forms and defies easy categorization. It looks beyond state funding for means of financing. It is neither the result of a political or economic initiative, nor can one speak of a movement or school, although the filmmakers do form a network of sorts, frequently working together or supporting each other's projects. Produced at a time of political, economic and moral collapse, most of the films do not depict Greece’s social crisis in order to convey some sort of political message, yet nearly all of them recount more or less the same problems: economic crisis, speechlessness, family dysfunction, violent propensities, xenophobia, lethargy and a lack of vision. A skeptical treatment of language, a sense of the grotesque and above all strong criticism of the role and state of the family characterize many current Greek films, as does their extraordinary artistic diversity.
We are particularly glad to be able to welcome the two most prominent representatives of new Greek cinema thanks to the support of the Greek Cultural Foundation Berlin: we are expecting filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos for both the opening of the series on May 4 with a preview of ALPEIS (before the regular cinema release via Rapid Eye Movies in mid June) as well as for the screening of DOGTOOTH on May 5, while on May 10, Athina Rachel Tsangari will be presenting and discussing her multi-award winning ATTENBERG to coincide with its general release.

We also look forward to an exciting project set up by the Goethe Institute Athens which we were able to include in our program: on May 9, LabA (Laboratory Athens) and LaborBerlin present 19 "hand made" Super8 und 16mm short films from 2011 about the Greek capital with many of the filmmakers in attendance. 

ALPEIS (Alps, Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece 2011, May 4 attended by Yorgos Lanthimos & May 7) A nurse, a paramedic, a gymnast and her trainer provide a most unusual service, charging a fee to take on the role of the recently deceased, temporarily filling the gap they have left in the lives of the bereaved. Their secret society is called the "Alps"; their leader calls himself "Mont Blanc" and leads the group with an iron fist. Yet the nurse still seems unable to stick to the rules... Absurdist humor alternates with moments of despair and loneliness. Deliberately fragmented scenes keep the boundary between reality and role-play hanging in the balance. A bewildering, disconcerting reflection on death, loss and replacement, as well as on cinematic realism.

KYNODONTAS (Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece 2009, May 5 attended by Yorgos Lanthimos & May 19.) A disturbing, nightmarish and grotesque family drama: a married couple live with their two daughters and son in a villa with a large garden that is surrounded by a high fence. Only the father ever leaves the estate – the nearly adult children are cut-off from the world. Their training follows strict rules, with behavior instructions provided by an audiocassette. Emotions do not exist. In the vocabulary of the family, salt is called "telephone", "zombie" means "buttercup" and a leather chair is the sea. A VHS cassette of Rocky eventually causes the first cracks to appear in the facade of this hermetic microcosm.

MACHEROVGALTIS (Knifer, Yannis Economides, Greece 2010, May 5 & 17) Nikos is a lethargic character without ambition. When his father dies, his uncle brings him to live with him in a Athens suburb and forces him to care for his pedigree dogs, which his Albanian neighbors allegedly have their eye on. In the suffocating, dreary atmosphere of one of the many uneventful days, Niko begins a relationship with his aunt. Dissatisfaction, silence and stagnation gradually turn into fury and destruction. The magnificently shot images in sumptuous black and white and the film’s calm rhythm form a stark contrast to the sudden outbreaks of violence. 

ADIKOS KOSMOS (Unfair World, Filippos Tsitos, Greece/Germany 2011, May 6 & 26) One day, an Athens detective decides once and for all to stop being unjust and from now on only to judge whether someone should go to prison or go unpunished based on his own sense of justice. When he kills a corrupt security guard in order to prove a prisoner’s innocence, cleaning lady Dora is the only witness. While he falls in love with the opportunistic Dora, he fails to notice that his superior suspects him of having committed the murder. A laconic tragicomedy which recalls Aki Kaurismäki in its blend of stylized minimalism and black humor.

WASTED YOUTH (Argyris Papadimitropoulos, Jan Vogel, Greece 2011, May 8 & 16) A hot summer's day in Athens. A 16-year-old skater and his friends drift through the city without a care in the world. A middle-aged father comes home from the nightshift exhausted, increasingly frustrated by his job as a policeman. The economic crisis has led him to put off his original retirement plans however. During the next despised nightshift, he fatefully crosses paths with the group of youths... An atmosphere of nervous tension is created by the mobile, dynamic camera’s images and the pulsating music, the portrait of a city and a society in crisis.

Hand Over Cinema: LabA (Laboratory Athens) and LaborBerlin present 19 "hand made" Super8 and 16-mm short films about the Greek capital produced as part of a workshop that took place at the Goethe Institute Athens in 2011. Filmmakers, artists, students and amateurs from Germany and Greece as well as from Egypt, Serbia and the USA shot the films and developed, edited and projected the material with their own hands. We will be welcoming Vassily Bourikas (curator), Katerina Evangelakou, Alexandros Kontos and Yannis Yaxas from Athens, as well as Clara Bausch, Guillaume Cailleau, Matthias Fritsch and Philip Widmann from Berlin. (May 9)

ATTENBERG (Athina Rachel Tsangari, Greece 2010, May 10 attended by Athina Rachel Tsangari) Marina lives with her sick father in an industrial town by the sea. Humans are more foreign to her than apes. She tries to learn what love is both via the animal documentaries made by her idol Sir David Attenborough ("Attenberg", as she calls him) and the instructions of her friend Bella, who teaches her how to kiss with tongues. As Marina's interest in the interpersonal gradually awakens, her father's life is reaching an end. A story about the mysteries of love and death, with surprising twists and bizarre moments; an amusing study of human behavioral tropes with music by Françoise Hardy and US No Wave band Suicide as well as slapstick angular dance sequences à la Monty Python.

L (Babis Makridis, Greece 2012, May 12 & 18) On the road again. A man, forty years of age, is more than just a passionate driver: he actually lives in his car. It is his home. His job consists of obtaining the best possible honey for his boss. He spends his fleeting moments of free time with his wife and children at a car park. When a new driver comes into play and he is fired, he decides to run his car into the ground and change his life: he switches to driving a motorbike. A stoical protagonist, absurd dialogue, striking images of grey concrete, green fields and empty car parks and a song about bears come together to form an absurdist existential drama. Car and street cinema at its best. 

HORA PROELEFSIS (Homeland, Syllas Tzoumerkas, Greece 2011, May 13 & 29) A family in the process of falling apart: jealousy and (un-)fulfilled love between three grown-up siblings, arguments with their parents about how to care for the sick family patriarch and latent tensions due to an internal family adoption twenty years before. The situation on the streets is equally explosive: unrest due to the economic crisis. Scenes from the history of the family and archive footage from the history of the country following the end of the military dictatorship are edited into the images of the here and now. A family drama full of intensity, a parable about a country in a state of emergency, underlaid with an analysis of the Greek national anthem. 

KHAIMA (Tent, Athanasios Karanikolas, Greece/Germany 2010, May 14 attended by Athanasios Karanikolas & May 30) 600 Afghan refugees from 12 to 60 years of age live in a self-erected refugee camp in the Greek harbor town of Patras. Their provisional accommodation consists of cardboard boxes, plastic sheeting, wood and other materials they've found. The documentary contains piercing portrait shots and shows the day-to-day life of the refugees and the situation in the town in long, static camera shots – until the camp is cleared and destroyed without replacement in July 2009 by order of the Greek government.

MAVRO LIVADI (Black Field, Vardis Marinakis, Greece 2010, May 15 & 20) In the 17th Century, when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire, a young, severely injured Janissary recruited against his will finds refuge in a nunnery. The Greek orthodox nuns bring the deserter back to health, but a strong attraction develops between the wild, longhaired man and the novice Anthi, a forbidden passion which ends with their fleeing the nunnery together. Anthi reveals her big, agonizing secret, which frees the way for her finding both her identity and internal freedom. A queer history film of great visual power, with breathtaking landscape shots as well as brilliant camera work and light direction.

STRELLA (Panos H. Koutras, Greece 2009, May 15 & 25) After being in prison for 14 years for murder, Yorgos spends his first night in freedom in a cheap hotel in Athens. There he meets Strella, a transsexual nightclub singer and prostitute. They sleep together and started a relationship, very much in love with one another. Everything points towards a successful new start, but Yorgos’ search for his lost son, from whom he has not heard anything for a very long time, ends in tragedy. Ancient drama goes postmodern: a touching, trashy reinterpretation of Greek mythology with big emotions in bright colors.

THE PALACE (Ioannis Roumeliotis, Greece/Germany 2010, May 21 & 27) Six men from Pakistan have been living for seven years now far away from society on a lonely Greek island. They work on a fish farm and long for the moment when they have earned enough money to enable them and their family to have a better life back home. The documentary creates a detailed impression of the men’s living situation; paying particular attention to objects and their materiality, the film’s carefully framed images starts by showing them in their cramped accommodation before moving outside to observe them working out in the open. 

TUNGSTEN (Yorgos Georgopoulos, Greece 2011, May 23 & 28) Blackout. Over the course of a single day punctuated by frequent electricity blackouts, the paths of a ticket controller heavily in debt, a man who works for a security firm and two teenagers drifting through Athens cross. Financial scarcity, unemployment, marital conflicts, dependances, and shattered dreams characterize the crisis-laden situation. The atmosphere is threatening, aggressive and without mercy. Victims quickly become perpetrators and vice versa. A black and white episodic film narrated in non-linear fashion which shows a society at a dead end. Blackout.

An event in collaboration with the Greek Cultural Foundation Berlin. With the friendly support of the Greek Film Centre and Rapid Eye Movies film distribution. The Hand-Over-Cinema evening is a collaboration with the Goethe Institute, LaborBerlin and LabA. With thanks to Eleftherios Ikonomou, Kostas Kosmas, Iliana Zakopolou, Marina Ludemann, Sofia Michailidou, Juliane Stegner, Vassily Bourikas, Philip Widmann and Thorsten Peters.

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