The 2018 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) program launched this week, filling the city’s movie buffs with anticipation. As usual, it features some of the finest works of cinematic art to emerge around the world recently – but also some old, beloved gems, waiting to be rediscovered by newer audiences.
Looking through the program, many Greek names stand out, either coming from Greece, or from the diaspora, with two Greek Australian filmmakers featured with their latest output.
Greece has recently become one of the favourite countries for the film festival circuit around the world, due to the popularity of Yiorgos Lanthimos, who spearheaded the so-called ‘Greek Weird Wave’. This new school of Greek cinema is represented at MIFF by Pity, a dark comedy directed by Babis Makridis and co-written by Efthimis Filippou (Lanthimos’ regular screenwriter). Starring Yannis Drakopoulos, the film – which premiered at Sundance Festival, the mecca of independent, arthouse cinema – narrates the story of a rigid lawyer who becomes addicted to misery and sadness, after his wife falls in a coma, going to great lengths to evoke pity from others, in order to feel content.
Local Greek film artistry is represented by Renee Marie Petropoulos and Jason Raftopoulos. The former is featuring with her film Tangles and Knots, a film about the fragile relationship between a mother and her daughter, that was shown in both the 2018 Berlinale, and the South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
Raftopoulos’ West of Sunshine is an expansion of his acclaimed short film Father’s Day. It stars Damien Hill as a rundown courier trying to stick to his routine, look after his son, and pay his debt to a loan shark, all in one day.
If Petropoulos and Raftopoulos represent the next generation of Greek Australian filmmakers, Alex Proyas is a name well-known to movie buffs, who will rejoice in the opportunity to see his 1989 film debut Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds, a one-of-a-kind post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure.
As far as familiar cinematic Greek names go, few can beat the surnames Cosmatos and Gavras. Both are featured in the 2018 MIFF program, representing film royalty.
Peter Cosmatos is the son of legendary action-adventure-blockbuster filmmaker George P Cosmatos; in fact, royalties from his father’s successful 1993 western Tombstone allowed him to fund his own career as a director in 2010. Now, he has his sophomore effort out Mandy. It is a psychedelic, blood-soaked horror film, starring Nicolas Cage in what is believed to be his most bizarre performance; as a man trying to save the woman he loves from the hands of a telekinetic cult leader.
The other film royalty represents a completely different kind of cinema tradition; Romain Gavras, son of Costa-Gavras, one of the most significant European filmmakers. If his father is synonymous with serious, political cinema, Romain – who has been mostly active in the music video industry – is the embodiment of modern Parisian cool. He is featured in the festival with his latest film, The World is Yours, a stylish and sexy caper comedy featuring French superstars Vincent Cassel and Isabelle Adjani.
After a filmmaker from Greece, two Greek Australians, one Greek Italian Canadian and one Greek French, the Hellenic diaspora palette broadens with the inclusion of a Greek from South Africa, Etienne Kallos, whose film The Harvesters has gained praise for being a “taboo-busting dissection of an Afrikaner culture in free fall”.
Equally political, dramatic and impactful is Yorgos Zois’ short film 8th Continent, a silent docu-drama following a man who works at a landfill in Lesvos, where the thousands of life jackets of the asylum seekers coming to the island have formed a small hill. The film made its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last year and has been featured in many festivals since.
Last but not least is another short film, part of an anthology. What Ever Happened to Panagas the Pagan? is Yannis Veslemes’ contribution to the Field Guide to Evil anthology of short horror films inspired by folklore from all over the world. Starring Vaggelis Mourikis, the short comes after Norway Veslemes’ widely acclaimed 2014 vampire film that marked his transition from indie electropop musician (under the moniker Felizol) to filmmaker.
- The 2018 Melbourne International Film Festival takes place from 2 – 19 August at various venues across Melbourne. For the full program and tickets, visit miff.com.au