Time for shorts

Part of the 21st Delphi Bank Greek Film Festival, the Greek Australian Short Film Festival will this year feature a session of international shorts from all around the Greek diaspora

It was at the Loop Bar in Melbourne’s CBD that the Greek Australian Short Film Festival (GASFF) began screening films. Local artists Jim Koutsoukos and Ange Arabatzis wanted to provide a platform for Greek Australian filmmakers to show their work.

From Loop Bar, five years later and already with a strong group of followers, the festival is now in its second year of collaborating with the Delphi Bank Greek Film Festival, on from 14 October to 2 November at the Palace Como Cinema in Melbourne, and at Palace Norton Street in Sydney.

Last year’s GASFF encountered success by showcasing Greek Australian filmmakers. This year, the festival has expanded to include, for the first time, international short films from the Greek diaspora.

As Katerina Kotsonis – member of the curatorial trio – tells Neos Kosmos, this inclusion has enhanced interest of the short film medium amongst the industry, engaging in stories from Greeks around the world.

“There is a phenomenal expression of interest when it comes to exchanging stories from a variety of cities. We, the curatorial team 2014, are excited in providing an avenue to view short films from Greeks around the world,” Katerina says.

This year the festival will include two must-see programs – the ‘Australian Shorts’, on Thursday 23 October at 7.00 pm and ‘International Shorts’, to be screened on Saturday 25 October at 4.00 pm.

Katerina explains it was a challenge for the curatorial team – herself, Jim Koutsoukos and Stella Dimadis – to decide on final submissions for both national and international programs due to the high calibre of films. “Films were correlated through Withoutabox, the Greek Film Centre in Athens, other national and international festivals, Greek Film Festival director Penny Kyprianou and, of course, word of mouth,” Katerina says.

The same difficulty appears when an attempt is made to shortlist highlights of the festival.

“It’s very difficult to highlight any specific film because I think every single film has something amazing to offer the audience. Due to having one session for the national and one session for the international, our mix is quite varied.

“In the Aussie section, for example, the program includes an animation from last year’s best film winner Christopher Kezelos, three documentaries, an experimental/spoken word piece, a comedy and a couple of dramas. Quite an eclectic mix that will make it difficult for the judges.”

Speaking of judges, this year the festival welcomes back a true supporter of the GASFF, George Donikian, as part of its 2014 judging panel, alongside Dora Kitinas, Ange Arabatzis, Olivia Nikou, George Makris, Odette Joannidis and Paul Capsis.

This year, ten films will be featured as part of the festival’s Australian program: Shabd directed by Tony Nikolakopoulos, ROR by Natalie Cunningham, Let Go by Colin Budds, Maiden by Stephen Kanaris, Allure by Christopher Kezelos, By This River by Melissa Anastasi, Who is He? by Costa Athanasiou, Love According to Wogs directed by Koraly Dimitriadis and Nathan Little, Dope to Dalai Lama by Jason Raftopoulos and Two Devils by Jonathan auf der Heide.

In the inaugural GASFF International program, the screenings will be: A Single Body (French/Australian) directed by Sotiris Dounoukos, Man in a Box (Greece) by Elias Papastamatiou, Anna (Cyprus) by Spiros Charalambous, The Immortalizer (Cyprus) by Marios Piperides, Nicoleta (Greece/UK) by Sonia Liza Kenterman, Afterwardness (Greece/UK) by Rafika Chawishe, 5 Ways to Die (Greece) by Daina Papadaki, and Percephone (USA) by Louis Mandylor.

Preceding the GASFF International program, a Funding Panel Discussion will be hosted on Saturday 25 October at 2.00 pm, at the Palace Cinema Como. Open to filmmakers and the general public, the forum will focus on the funding trends in the industry.

“Filmmaker Jason Raftopoulos, distributor Tony Ianiro and a representative from POZIBLE will sit on the panel to discuss the wonderful world of funding. I encourage interested people to attend, as it something that is extremely relevant in our current climate. It is a free event and we plan to expand on such events in the future,” Katerina tells.

This year, the movies taking part in the Greek Australian Short Film Festival will be competing for the top short film award. An award of $1,000 will be given to Best Film in both the GASFF Australian and international programs. The award will be announced and presented on the night of the 23 October for the Australian program, and the night of 25 October for the international session, after their respective screenings.

The festival, this year sponsored by PWK and Icon Insurance Advisers, is hoping to see more sponsors come their way in the years to come and to become part of the bigger picture of Hellenic unity in Australia, as Katerina puts it.

“I hope to continue working in collaboration with the Greek Film Festival. Myself, Stella and Jim have a productive and enjoyable relationship with Melbourne festival director Penny Kyprianou and producer Aleena Glentis. They have been extremely supportive, as has the Greek Centre, too. We aim to be part of the bigger, exciting picture of Hellenic strength and unity that is currently absorbing into the community. We aim to expand, express, engage and promote the amazing talent of creators at all levels and keep providing a platform for their work to be showcased.

“My aim is to collaborate with other curators in international cities and create an exchange program, whereby we can exchange short film packages with our sister cities. So perhaps next year we will have an Australian, an international and a ‘Greek Australian/Greek South African’ or a ‘New York’ exchange!”

Those interested in sponsoring the Greek Australian Short Film Festival can contact the GASFF on greekaustshortfilmfestival@gmail.com or find them on Facebook www.facebook.com/GreekAustralianShortFilmFestival

The 5th Greek Australian Short Film Festival will screen in Melbourne and Sydney on Thursday 23 October at 7.00 pm and on Saturday 25 October at 4.00 pm. For more information about the festival program, visit http://greekfilmfestival.com.au/

GASFF highlights, chosen by Katerina Kotsonis

The Immortalizer, directed by Marios Piperides
The period when the Ottoman Empire ruled Cyprus was one of intense religious and class disparity. It is against this backdrop in the 1870s that The Immortalizer sets its powerful drama. A man mourning the tragic fate of his young daughter travels right through the night. His search is for the person he believes will be able to keep her alive.
“Great cinematic journey. It’s worth every moment. Great stuff,” Katerina says.

5 Ways to Die, directed by Daina Papadaki
Corruption is inevitable when the rules and laws do nothing to prevent it. Makis (Michalis Marinos) is a well-to-do, 40-something depressive in the throes of an existential crisis. His household is one based on lies and pretentious appearances, so he’s more than determined to formulate his own escape plan. The film is the tragi-comic, socio-political tale of Makis’ search for eternal peace.
“Gotta have one film that encompasses that Athenian comedy of the now,” Katerina says.

By This River, directed by Melissa Anastasi
Based on the Christos Tsiolkas’ short story, Disco at the End of Communism, is this absorbing meditation on grief, ritual and mythology. A grief-stricken young boy (Zac Ynfante) builds a raft in a touchingly innocent attempt to reunite with his deceased mother. He believes she now lives in the mythical Land of the Dead, which lies at the end of the river flowing alongside his family’s property.
According to Katerina Kotsonis, the movie is “engaging and beautiful”.

Dope to Dalai Lama, directed by Jason Raftopoulos
A chance reconnection with a high school classmate triggered student filmmaker Jason Raftopoulos’ decision to document an astonishing personal journey of extremes. This is the believe-it-or-not story of Anthony Markwell. His life adventure has taken 20 years to tell, not to mention three near-death experiences and 10 years of monkhood.
“Great storytelling. Unconventional story told with wit and ease.”

Maiden, directed by Stephen Kanaris:
Welcome to a place where machismo still flourishes, and the accepted ideas of what it is to be a man are harsh and unforgiving. Set in Brisbane’s outer suburbs in the late ’70s, Maiden is the story of battling greyhound trainer Mick (Russel Dykstra), desperate to give his family a better life. Convinced his latest charge is a champion in the making, Mick is prepared to gamble everything on a lowly race at a small country track that could have disastrous consequences.
“Greyhounds, ’70s Brisbane. I’m sure everyone had an uncle like Mick. Loved it.”