The 19th annual Greek Film Festival (GFF) opens in Melbourne on Wednesday 17 October with a program that will see more than 30 films screen at Palace Cinema Como over two weeks. The festival opens with the larger-than-life comedy Nisos 2 (The Island 2: The Hunt for the Lost Treasure), the sequel to the 2010 Greek Film Festival’s Opening Night film. With the picture-perfect Greek island as its backdrop, Nisos 2 offers plenty of laughs as it follows the island’s lovable crims out of jail and on an epic and speculative treasure hunt. The 2012 program presents one of the strongest selections of contemporary Greek cinema the Festival has seen in recent years. Along with films from the edgy Greek Weird Wave are striking features direct from other international film festivals: a tribute to the late Theo Angelopoulos with a screening of Landscape in the Mist, and Tony Krawitz’ exacting and highly accomplished adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’novel Dead Europe, which will close the Festival on Sunday 4 November after screenings at the Sydney, Melbourne and Toronto International Film Festivals. “We are incredibly proud to be presenting this year’s program; a collection of some of the most honest films to be seen from Greece in recent years. Our gratitude however lies with the filmmakers themselves, who are enduring the financial turmoil of their country but are refusing to bury their ideas,” says Festival Director Penny Kyprianou. The Festival pays its respects to the talented Anna Kannava, a Cypriot-born actor, writer and director who migrated to Australia in 1974 and died in May 2011 after a courageous battle with cancer. The festival will screen her films The Butler (1997), Ten Years After, Ten Years Older (1986) and Kannava You Can’av’er (1980). The GFF will also co-host the launch of Kannava’s novel Stefanos of Limassol, posthumously completed by her publishers this year. From the Greek Weird Wave the Festival screens Yorgos Lanthimos’ Alps (Dogtooth, GFF ’10), an inventive, deadpan story about loss and grief that won the Official Competition at the 2012 Sydney Film Festival. Alongside Lanthimos’ stylised absurdism, the grim realities of contemporary Greek society are strongly reflected in the Festival’s dramatic highlights. Most anticipated is Ektoras Lyzigos’ harrowing account of a young man living on the brink of starvation in Boy Eating the Bird’s Food, which recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Discovery section. Those realist tones continue through the program in George Siouga’s melodrama Burning Heads, about a young Georgian immigrant forced to confront his painful family history; Giorgos Georgopoulos’s taut psychological thriller Tungsten, a multiple award-winner at last year’s Cyprus International Film Festival; Stelios Kammitsis’ Jerks which focuses on the frustrations of three young alienated men preparing to leave Greece for a new life in Berlin; and Yorgos Gkikapeppas’s award-winning The City of Children which follows a day-in-the-life of four pregnant couples in modern Athens, offering a harrowing perspective on the dawning of new life against an Athens gripped by despondency. Other highlights of the Festival include the autobiographical documentary Fortunate Son, in which Greek-Canadian filmmaker Tony Asimakopoulos turns his gaze on his dysfunctional relationship with his ageing parents; the comedy Poker Face, about a former gambler who is given the opportunity to redeem a lucky charm stolen from her during her more fortunate days; and Wild and Precious, directed by Melbourne born Bill Mousoulis, who examines personal and public politics on Italian and Greek soil through this fictional documentary. The full program is now online at www.greekfilmfestival.com.au and tickets are now on sale. Tickets can be purchased direct from the Festival website. The 2012 Greek Film Festival dates are Sydney 16 October – 4 November; Melbourne 17 October – 4 November; Adelaide 1 – 4 November; and Brisbane 1 – 4 November.