Greek crisis spurs new film avant-garde
The film industry in Greece is just as cash-strapped as the government but budget constraints and the dire recession choking the country are minting a new generation of filmmakers whose work is gaining increasing recognition.
Not only is the crisis itself serving as the backdrop for many movie scripts, budget shortages and lack of official backing have forced young filmmakers to come up with ever more creative ways to realise their projects.
"Over the last three years, Greek cinema is taking a very interesting path with very low budgets and mainly independently produced films with a very small participation of the Greek Film Centre," said Eleni Androutsopoulou, programme coordinator for this year's Thessaloniki film festival.
"There are more movies, more interesting than before," she noted.
"Greek directors have started to take opportunities to go abroad and work in coproduction. Before the crisis, they were more introvert. The crisis made them find new ways to find opportunities," she added.
Take 36-year-old Ektoras Lygizos, who made the film "Boy eating the Bird's Food".
"On my film, people were not paid, all the crew are coproducers, they each own a percentage of the film," he said, explaining that it was the only way to make the film with a budget of 40,000 euros rather than 200,000 euros.
The film "is about the crisis", he said, in reference to the debt crisis that has left Greece on the brink of insolvency and led to a raft of draconian spending cuts imposed by foreign creditors.
"But my intention was to make an intimate story, I did not want to explain the crisis, I just wanted to show someone who is as proud as the Greeks are and cannot admit proud like a Greek not to admit his weaknesses," he said.
"This crisis demolishes democracy, which is built normally to protect the weak and the weak are not protected any more, hence this film."
The result is an unlikely but potent feature that has both the raw quality of documentary-style hand-held camera work and a formal elegance reminiscent of Gus Van Sant's films.
"Crisis is good for cinema"
In "Boy eating the Bird's food", as a young alienated man wanders through the streets of Athens driven by hunger, the camera stays close to him, capturing his solitude, despair and pride.
Constantina Voulgari, 33, has a filmmaking pedigree, with her father Pandelis a director in the 1970s, her mother a scriptwriter and her brother also a filmmaker.
But she had to wait three years to make her movie "A.C.A.B. All Cats Are Brilliant" which tells the story of Electra, an anarchist torn between the dream of an ideal society based on sharing and a yearning to blend into the consumer-driven world around her.
"No one was paid, not me of course. If we eventually find some money, we'll see," she said, noting that producers had to "find camera, food, laboratories for free".
"Until now the only thing Greek producers were doing was to take state money and deal with it," said Voulgari, who earned a living as assistant director on television cooking shows."
Yianna Sarri, head of the Thessaloniki film market Agora, noted that "crisis is good for cinema".
Sarri noted that the crisis has forged a solidarity, allowing the industry to develop together.
"They work with light video cameras, they help each other, most of them are friends.
"I think this is related to the crisis, people are looking for a way out. It's the good part of the crisis," she said.
"There is an appeal for Greek movies abroad, we can see that in Berlin and in Cannes," Thessaloniki festival director Dimitri Eipides said.
The short-film festival Drama, in the north of the country, had received this year an avalanche of film proposals unseen in previous years.
"There was the same phenomenon during the Argentinian crisis," Sarri said, in reference to the new talents that flourished in the film industry when Argentina defaulted a decade ago.
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