Athens played host to the Hellenic Film Academy’s fourth annual Greek cinema awards this week. Gathering cinematographers, actors, producers and fans together under one roof, it proved the perfect opportunity to celebrate the new darlings of the Greek screen.
Winner of the best picture award was taken by Ektoras Lygizos’ ‘Boy Eating Bird Food’ – the theatre director’s feature debut. Shot with shaky handheld lensing, the film acts as an allegory for Greece’s current economic situation. As Lygizos explains;
“It is a story, the portrait, of a very young man in Athens today. He has finished with his studies and he is ready to work. But he is an artist and everybody around tells him that he is useless. We watch the life of this man, feeling total rejection. Finally, he tries to find the courage to ask for help.”
Having already scooped the Best Actor Award at several other film festivals, Yannis Papadopoulos praised the work ethic that went into the film’s creation, alluding to the significant rise in independent productions in Greece as a result of austerity in the region;
“I am very happy that all the work we have done for this movie is recognized, is rewarded. We worked very hard for this movie. All the crew. Nobody helped us with that. It is an independent movie. It was really hard and difficult for us, because there was no support.”
The gong for Best Actress went to veteran Amalia Moutousi, for her performance in the movie ‘Joy’. Playing the part of Hara, she leaves a maternity ward having snatched a newborn baby.
Subconsciously, and intuitively, she decides the baby is her own and subsequently goes to great extremes to protect her child…just as any mother would.
Elsewhere, Thanos Anastopoulos won Best Director for ‘The Daughter’. This is the coming-of-age story of a 14-year-old girl, again, told through the bleak exploration of the moral and financial bankruptcy of an entire nation.
Anastopoulos was pleasantly surprised to also pick up the award for best screenplay, given the unique style of writing he employs:
“The screenplay award for ‘The Daughter’ was a real shock for me. Of course it is my second award for screenplay…but I didn’t expect it, because I work in a very particular way. That means I don’t write a screenplay in the ordinary way. With my colleagues, we make a loose structure of the plot, and after we make the process.”
Looking back over the evening, President of the Hellenic Film Academy, Katerina Evangelakou, was thrilled at the quality of this year’s entries:
“There are some very interesting fiction films but also some documentaries. I have to stress that it was an excellent year for documentaries in Greece. But also short films met great success. We must be proud for all these films, because they prove their value, participating in many international festivals.”
Another of this year’s notable triumphs was ‘J. A. C. E.’ by Menelaos Karamaggiolis. Starting the night with 11 nominations, this epic inverted Odyssey eventually went home with a bounty of 6 awards.
All in all, the award ceremony marked another decidedly fruitful year for Greek cinema. The necessity of small, independent productions has encouraged a spring of creative freedom, and critics around the world continue to laud new Greek releases as they are shown at international festivals.
Whilst hardly a tonic for the country’s economic woes, many are turning to the big screen for a sense of hope.