The Greek Film Festival has kicked off in Melbourne featuring an interesting, extensive and well curated line up of films.

It’s just like the good old days when the Greek Film Festival (GFF) was a key Greek cultural event in Melbourne.

Box office successes, art-house, short films, documentaries and special features make up this year’s GFF program.

Recently appointed director Penny Kyprianou has taken on the challenge of restoring the Festival’s brand with firm professionalism and a solid grasp of the complex operation of securing films from different sources, and of diverse genres.

The program this year also includes a mix of local productions and films from the Greek Diaspora, like the opening night’s Bang Bang Wedding by Greek-American director Christine Crokos.

Kyprianou exhibits deft curatorial and entrepreneurial acumen in the selection of films this year. For example, the GFF will feature; Dogtooth, the winner of the prestigious Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival; A Woman’s Way: Strella which was screened in the Berlin Film Festival which will provoke as it pushes sexual and social boundaries; and multi-award winning PVC-1 from Greek-Colombian director Spiros Stathoulopoulos.

Local film makers are also making a strong presence this year. Adelaide based director, Anthony Maras with the AFI award -winning short film Spike Up, Stefanidi’s acclaimed doco Pontos, two films by newcomer Sotiris Dounoukos and Bombshell by Kim Farell are set to leave film-goers asking for more.

Now at its 16th year, the GFF which appeared in different forms in the past two years which almost destroyed the Festival’s appeal in the Greek community and its significant inroads in the wider community.

The opening night’s screening, of the romantic comedy, Bang Bang Wedding delivered humour and had popular appeal.

Kyprianou says that striking a balance between the blockbusters and independent films was one of the primary aims in preparing this year’s program which makes the sourcing process a lot more complex than it already is.

“Many films screen in film festivals around the world in a fairly short period of time which makes sending out proper invitations to film makers even more important to let them know that we are selecting their films for a specific reason” Kyprianou says.

The Greek Film Festival is not an exclusively Melbourne event. Audiences in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide also have the opportunity to have a taste of modern Greek cinema annually, albeit for a few days only .

It is this point that has become vexing among young Greek Australians many of whom take their annual holidays in Greece, have access to satellite TV and are technology savvy.

Questions as to lack of regular screenings of Greek films are raised continually around the time of the Greek Film Festival, Greeks become more vocal.

However, they are still asking why the mainstream cinema distributors are ignoring Greek film?

The host of the Greek Film Festival, Palace, has theatres all around Melbourne, yet screens these great Greek films only in one, the Como, in South Yarra!

The significant Greek markets of Oakleigh and Northcote are totally ignored yet Palace owns Balwyn and Westgarth cinemas in these areas.

One would need to ask, who makes these business decisions?

In Melbourne, it makes perfect sense to have more than one opportunity each year to watch Greek films on the big screen.

Venues abound in Melbourne, from ACMI, to the outdoor big screen at Federation Square, to the suburban cinemas and theatres, and there are increasingly strong indications to suggest that the thousands of Melbournians of Greek heritage will respond given the chance.

Penny Kyprianou agrees there’s a lot of potential “It would be fantastic to be able to pick up a few movies for general release during the year. There’s definitely a market for Greek cinema outside the Festival dates,” she says unequivocally.

The Greek Film Festival provides marketing and promotion opportunities to Greek film makers interested in exposing their films to diverse audiences.

“One of the biggest incentives specially for independent film makers is to have their work shown as much as possible and their films might be picked up by a local distributor for general release or a DVD release,” adds Kyprianou.

Greek cinema has a limited profile in Australia with the exception of Theo Angelopoulos and Costa Gavra who are absent from this year’s festival.

Still there are many good reasons to go to this year’s festival. There are authentic Greek stories which transcend cultural boundaries.

Greeks are natural story-tellers and most films are in Greek with English subtitles.

Kyprianou understands the importance of language “Greek-Australians do want to see films in the Greek language up on the screen,” she says, “but also we provide an extra avenue for local short film-makers to screen their films like Pontos for example who was screened at a short film corner at Cannes last year, hasn’t had many screenings since that time.”

It looks like it’s going to be a good season to be a Greek cinemaphile.