concluded fourth Los Angeles Greek Film Festival
(LAGFF) offered an eclectic--and sometimes controversial--slate of films.
Seventeen new works were were screened over a three-day period which included
an Industry Program featuring one-on-ones with such film execs as Matthew
Buzzell, Terry Dougas, John D. Eraklis and Lynette Howell. The Festival
Founders, Angeliki Giannakopoulos and Ersi Danou, presented the Career
Achievement Award to Phedon Papamichael, the Greek-born cinematographer
whose many credits include Walk the Line, Sideways, 3.10 to Yuma and Knight
and Day, starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.
Papamichael was also represented in the festival with ARCADIA LOST, a
feature which he directed and shot, working from a script by David Arinello.
Shot largely in Greece, the film mixed realism, surrealism and flashes
of poetry in telling the story of two American teenagers, the Lolita-like
Charlotte (Haley Bennett) and Sye (Carter Jenkins), who seemingly survive
a car crash which kills their parents and are left to wander on their
own, without water or food, across a bleak, unforgiving landscape, like
the young heroes of Nicholas Roeg's 1971 film, Walkabout. (It's more likely
that they didn't really survive the crash and that the entire story takes
place in the after-life).
A confusing, maddeningly incoherent and portentous script marred ARCADIA
LOST and wasted good performances by Bennett and Jenkins, and by Nick
Nolte and Dato Bakhtadze, who respectively played A Wandering Sage and
The Devil. Papamichael shot the film capably but couldn't save it from
The festival jury named 4 Black Suits as best feature, with Plato's Academy
taking the audience-favorite award. Both were comedies, the former (written,
directed and starring Renos Haralambidis) on the goofy, slapstick side,
the latter a bitter-sweet look at identity issues in modern Athens (the
hero, a proud and zenophobic Greek, is shaken to his roots when he learns
that he might be part Albanian).
The other two main features, Black Field and Dogtooth, received no prizes
but stirred up the most fuss. Black Field, written and directed by Vardis
Marinakis (a graduate of London's National Film School), was set in 1650
and told a dark, powerful story about a young nun (the remarkable Sofia
Georgovassili) and a Jannissary (the equally talented Hristos Passalis)
on the run from his Turkish overlords. Their love affair, which begins
in a bleak, inhuman, mountaintop nunnery and concludes in a dreamscape-like
forest, is noteworthy for its many startling, passionate and original
moments. Marinakis is a young filmmaker to watch out for.
Dogtooth, which won the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2009 Cannes Film
Festival, was directed and co-written by Yorgos Lanthimos. A bold, uncompromising
but deeply unsettling fable, it goes behind the fortress-like walls of
a suburban home ruled by tyrannical parents who have kept their three
children cut off from the world. It's a microcosm of a totalitarian society
replete with sadomasochistic sex, torture and mind-control. Some audience
members at LAGFF walked out of Dogtooth's screening, others applauded
it for its courage. It will be interesting to see what the general public's
reaction will be when Kino International releases Dogtooth on the art-film
circuit this summer.
LAGGF's best-documentary prize went to COLOSSI OF LOVE, Nikkos Mistriotis'
cheeky and hilarious look at the kamakis (Greek for harpoons)--a sub-class
of young Greek studs who gained a measure of fame in the 70s and 80s when
they began to sexually service the foreign women who flocked to tourist
centers like Rhodes and Mykonos on package-holidays. Mistriotis interviewed
lots of surviving kamakis and a few of the women they had slept with,
nearly all of whom had fond memories of their happy days in sunny, swinging,
For more Festival details go to lagreekfilmfestival.org.