Hit comedies, zombie horror flicks, documentaries and epic features from Greek cinema heavyweights Theo Angelopoulos and Pantelis Voulgaris are amongst the eclectic selections for this year’s Greek Film Festival.

The things that help attract non-Greek speaking people are films that are going to have a broader appeal, whether that’s having a Greek zombie film or big director like Theo Angelopoulos, who people outside of the Greek world know.

Festival director Penny Kyprianou says there’s something for everyone in the festival, which will run over three weeks in October.

“We have tried to combine Greek box office hits with some of the more independent films, new releases and documentaries,” says Kyprianou, now in her second year at the helm of the festival.

This year’s opening night film will be the light-hearted comedy Nisos, directed by Christos Dimas, who is tipped to attend the event along with producer Yiannis Iakovidis.

“It’s shot on an island and delves into what happens when town secrets are let out of the bag and all the ramifications of that,” says Kyprianou.

“We are confident it’s going to be a strong opening night film.”

Nisos made US$5.6 million at the Greek box office in 2009, ranking third behind Avatar and 2012.

Other special guests include Sydney-based Victoria Haralambidou, who will attend the screening of Pantelis Voulgaris’ civil war film With Heart and Soul (Psyhi Vathia) and Athens costume/set designer Kiki Miliou, who worked on A Tell-tale Garden (Sto Vathos Kipos).

The 2010 program of 17 features, four documentaries and two short films has been expanded to three weeks.

For cinefiles, the festival will screen Dust of Time, starring William Defoe and Bruno Ganz, the second of the Angelopoulos trilogy that began with The Weeping Meadow (2004).

Recent releases include the comedies I Love Karditsa and 180 Degrees, and Periklis Hoursoglou’s The Building Manager, which screened at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Georges Corraface, who starred in the mouth-watering Touch of Spice (Politiki Kouzina) goes back to the kitchen in Dangerous Cooking, a menage a trois between two cooks and the beautiful Nana (Katia Zygouli), based on the novel Les Liaisons Culinaires by Andreas Staikos (directed by Vasilis Tselemegos).

Sticking with the food theme, those who missed the widely-acclaimed Soul Kitchen will have another chance to see the film by Turkish-German Fatih Akin about two Greek-German brothers running a restaurant in Hamburg.

Nikos Perakis’ documentary ArTherapy examines four artists, including Alexandros Vasmoulakis, whose installation features in this year’s festival poster image, while Colossi of Love (Ta Kamakia), delves into the seedier side of Greek island life.

No one can accuse the festival of not catering to diverse tastes. Greek zombie horror films, Evil (To Kako) and its sequel Evil in the Time of Heroes, which recently screened at the Edinburgh International Film festival, offer more than the novelty value.

The original 2005 low-budget flick became a hit among lovers of the genre and got an American release.

Described as the Greek Shaun of the Dead, director Yorgos Nousias’ sequel appears to have the right splattering of humour, blood and gore, as well as a cameo by Billy Zane.

“We thought it would be a good way to bring in a new audience to the festival, as there is quite a big zombie following here,” says Kyprianou.

“That should be a bit of fun as they will run back to back as a double feature.”

Kyprianou, 31, has brought a fresh approach and industry expertise to the festival, which she first became involved in as a volunteer in her university days.

She was a marketing and events manager for the Melbourne International Film Festival for seven festivals before working for the Australian Film Institute.

While more than 70 percent of festival audiences are from a Greek background, Kyprianou says the festival is reaching out to a wider audience.

“The things that help attract non-Greek speaking people are films that are going to have a broader appeal, whether that’s having a Greek zombie film or big director like Theo Angelopoulos, who people outside of the Greek world know.”

After a dismal four-film program in 2008, last year’s festival was one of the most successful to date, with 5 200 admissions in 11 days.

“It’s reaffirmed people’s faith in the festival,” says Kyprianou, adding that the festival had secured a three-year sponsorship with the Bank of Cyprus.

“We noticed an increase in younger audiences, which was very impressive. Films like Dogtooth (Yiorgos Lanthimos) helped bring in a new audience as well.

“We were very lucky last year in terms of what had been made. You really are at the mercy of what’s going on within the Greek film industry.”

Already on next year’s wish list are four films screening in this month’s prestigious Venice Film Festival.

“That’s a positive sign for Greek cinema and for the festival next year. The strength is there,” Kyprianou says.

This year’s event also includes a Greek student film festival, a joint initiative of the Greek Consul-General in Melbourne, the Department of Education and the Antipodes Festival.

“Students in primary, secondary and university level have been making short four-minute films during the year and we will screen and award them during the festival,” explains Kyprianou.

Under the program, many teachers attended filmmaking workshops at the CAE and passed on the skills to their students.

Their films will be screened at Palace’s Balwyn cinema.

The 17th Greek Film Festival (www.greekfilmfestival.gr) runs in Melbourne from 12-31 October at Palace Cinemas Como in South Yarra.

Full program details and tickets will be available online from Tuesday 14 September.

The Festival also visits Adelaide (7-10 October), Sydney (14-31 October) and Brisbane (29-31 October).