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Sacred Deers and Big Steals

From Yorgos Lanthimos to Ana Kokkinos, the 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival features some major Greek names

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Still from Ana Kokkinos' film Blessed.

24 July 2017

If you want to see The Killing of the Sacred Deer, you may have to hurry. Tickets are selling fast for Yorgos Lanthimos' latest film, which won the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes International Film Festival and is featured in the Headliners programme of the 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival, running from 3 to 20 August. To say that the festival has invested in the director would be an understatement. After his breakthrough success with Dogtooth, which made him the de facto leader of the Greek Weird Wave film movement, all his films have been part of the MIFF programmes: in 2012 it was Alps, in 2015 Lobster and now The Killing of a Sacred Deer, again starring Colin Farrell, this time teaming up with Nicole Kidman and Alicia Silverstone. Loosely inspired by Euripides' Iphigenia, with a nod to the cinema of Stanley Kubrick, the film is a dark, undecipherable horror-comedy-drama about a heart surgeon responsible for the death of a patient, whose teenage son seeks revenge. Establishing a peculiar relationship with the surgeon he insists he choose a member of his dysfunctional family to kill or they will all suffer an excruciating death.

Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell in Yorgos Lanthimos' 'The Killing of the Sacred Deer'.

Despite having a Greek director and Greek writers (Lanthimos once again shares credit with the brilliant Efthimis Filippou), Deer is officially a UK-Irish co-production, while Lobster did have some Greek money behind it, having been co-produced by Faliro House Films - the company behind most of the Weird Wave and other acclaimed Greek films, such as Attenberg, Suntan, Norway, but also Richard Linklater's Before Midnight (filmed in the southern Peloponese) and Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive. The latest Faliro House venture, produced by Christos Konstantakopoulos, is featured in the MIFF programme, making Alex Ross Perry's Golden Exits qualify as a US-Greek co-production, despite being as Brooklynite as it may get. The film is one of Sundance Festival's success stories, a compelling ensemble drama with a star-studded cast led by Emily Browning, Chloë Sevigny, Jason Schwartzman and Adam Horovitz (of Beastie Boys fame), all engaged in a plot of oppressed emotions and romantic tensions.

Jason Schwartzman stars in 'Golden Exits', produced by Christos Konstantakopoulos.

Another Greek name comes from Canda, via the US. Toronto-based Sandy Chronopoulos has made a name for herself working on shows such as Project Runway and is now making her debut as a documentary director with The House of Z, a film about the rise and fall (and re-emergence) of acclaimed fashion designer Zac Posen. The film premiered at the Tribeca Festival to wide acclaim, and not only by those who follow what's going on in the world of fashion.

Still from 'The House of Z', Sandy Chronopoulos' documentary on Zac Pozen.

Sandy Chronopoulos is not the only highly acclaimed female director of Greek descent to be featured at MIFF. Two of our most important Australian filmmakers, Nadia Tass and Ana Kokkinos, feature in The Pioneering Women programme. Audiences will have the chance to revisit films such as The Big Steal, Nadia Tass' highly successful, award-winning and delightful 1990 teen caper comedy starring Ben Mendelsohn, Claudia Karvan, and Steve Bisley. The film tells the story of a young man's revenge on the shoddy car dealer who conned him into trading his car for a defected Jaguar to impress his date. A few years later, in 1994, Ana Kokkinos made a name for herself with her mid-length drama Only the Brave a story of two Greek Australian girls from working class background engaging in acts of delinquency and pyromania. Kokkinos' latest film is Blessed, a critically acclaimed drama narrating the story of seven children wandering the streets in an urban odyssey, and the parallel story of their mothers looking for them. The film is re-screening at the festival in 2017 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the MIFF Premiere Fund – a decade of supporting new Australian theatrical films and feature-length documentaries.

Claudia Karvan and Ben Mendelsohn in Nadia Tass' 'The Big Steal'.

Both Kokkinos and Tass are taking part in the MIFF Talks programme, sharing their insights on what it means to be a female film director in Australia. As for male Greek Australian directors revisiting their story, they are represented by Alex Proyas who is featured in MIFF with Dark City: Director's Cut. This is a rare chance to see the futuristic dystopian film noir on the big screen the way it was intended to be seen, with 11 minutes of footage restored and extraneous voice-over narration removed.

See the full MIFF programme, book session tickets and buy festival passes here.

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