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Greek director’s odyssey in London

21 November 2011 / 16:11:53  GRReporter
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The fourth edition of the London Greek Film Festival has recently ended in London. The Golden Odysseus prize was awarded to Nikos Kalogeorgopulos for the film Riders of Pylos and George Zervas’ Like the Air I Breathe ... World Music in Crete took the award for best documentary. The artistic director of the festival is film director Christos Prossylis whose passion is experimenting in theatre and films, in video and media. Maria S. Topalova talked with him about the London Greek Film Festival specifics, the place of Greek cinema globally and the creative challenges of today's generation of actors and directors.

How did the Greek Film Festival in London start?

We started 4 years ago and the preparation started 5 years ago, when we wanted to show the Greek cinema, but there was nothing. I am a director, a producer and therefore, I am interested in Greek cinema. We decided that a few directors, producers and journalists should begin working together to create the Festival. It started upon our initiative, and I could say that it has developed very well, given the difficulties faced by such initiatives. This is because London is a multicultural place, where it is not easy to make your way.

What kind of films are shown here?
This is what makes our Festival different. Two things distinguish it from the usual festivals. The first is that the films shown are by Greeks around the world, from Greece and the Diaspora as well as by foreigners, whose films have some Greek interest. This is very important. The second difference is that our Festival is alternative. This means that we feature not only films but also short films, documentaries, experimental films, video art, animation, presentation of scenarios. This sets us apart from the usual festivals.

What is the symbolism behind the name of the award - Golden Odysseus?

It is associated with the artist's odyssey. This is the odyssey of a man willing to create a work, big or small, but which is facing many difficulties. There are awards for each film presented in the programme. The prize is not money, unfortunately, because we cannot afford it as we do not have financial support. However, this prize is awarded by an eminent jury and provides opportunities in the field. This opens many doors to whomever is awarded the prize to present their work to the public. So far, I think we have not been mistaken and all our assessments have proved correct.

What are the criteria, how do you select the film that will be awarded the prize?

There are 2-3 main criteria. The first, of course, is the artistic one, i.e. the film should be the best in artistic terms. The second is the technical criterion. The film must meet certain technical standards that are the best. The third criterion is what we call promise, i.e. to see that those who will be awarded, will continue, or that there is talent, prospects. This is evident from the work and while we are looking at the artist’s autobiography. So, we combine all these. In addition, we assess if the film is international, i.e. we are not interested in local aesthetics but in the global, international aesthetics that can cope with competition in Europe and America as a whole.

What is the target audience of the Festival? Is it intended only for Greeks or for an international audience too?
No, many foreigners attend it. The audience varies depending on the day. Sometimes, fewer people come when there is something "more Greek", to say, or experimental. Other times we have more visitors. Overall, however, there is mobility and the result is a very good network. I am very pleased that the festival is alternative. Because we Greeks do not have so many films that are competitive abroad. However, we have many talents in all kinds of films, in other countries as has become clear. Seemingly, the Bulgarian film industry has the same opportunities. Therefore, the audience is diverse. Some days, you will see many people, but sometimes there will be fewer when there is a serious documentary. This is natural, I think.
What is the profile of your visitors? Are they professionals or not?

I would say about a quarter are professionals. The remaining three quarters are ordinary people from all professions and from different age groups. Younger people, say students, and older visitors, and businessmen, lawyers, doctors, teachers, people with ordinary jobs, waiters, workers, everything imaginable. And this is very interesting because it shows that the audience is diverse. It is not the strict public, which we sometimes think is interested only in cultural events, but it is a wider audience. And that's good. I think that is good in general for such a festival held in London, in these difficult conditions offered by a multicultural place like London.

Now, does the economic crisis make people more interested in Greece or just the opposite?
This is a difficult question. What we do is to present the creative side of Greece, the positive side. Because many negative things have been heard, but at least this is precisely what we are doing  - we are trying to show a side that actually exists. The work of artists shows it. It is not something we have figured out. And I think this is something positive amidst all this negative atmosphere.

Tags: London Greek Film FestivalChristos ProssylisMaria S. TopalovaGolden OdysseusCinema
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