Desperately Seeking Screenplays: Five Contemporary Greek Films Considered

By Horton, Andrew | Film Criticism, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Desperately Seeking Screenplays: Five Contemporary Greek Films Considered


Horton, Andrew, Film Criticism


 
   "What we need today is no less than a revolution. We 
   need to do violence to the cliche, create havoc with 
   the tried, the tired, and tested." 

Larry Gelbart

During the summer of 2002, Variety, that "voice" of the American film industry, noted a new global trend: Hollywood sales and rentals have begun to fall about 7% ($2.2 billion) each year due to the increasing popularity of "local" films (Dawtrey 1). Repeat: Hollywood is now losing market share as filmmakers in countries such as France, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Spain, and Norway are making films home audiences want to see in large numbers. But such is not the case yet in Greece.

There is a growing awareness among many young Greek filmmakers about their situation: "I want to make good films in Greece like they do in Ireland, from My Left Foot to The Crying Game. You know, films that have a large home audience and go on to play in cinemas around the world as well as gather a multitude of festival awards," Christos Dimas, a young Greek filmmaker told me in Athens in July, 2002. But he was not alone. Another used Iran instead of Ireland as her cinema of admiration from a "small country" that has a number of filmmakers who know how to tell a local story like White Balloon that plays globally. At least three other filmmakers had a question for me, knowing that I have written scripts for Yugoslav films and teach screenwriting around the world: "Why can't we Greeks make films as powerful as this year's Oscar winning foreign film, Ademir Tanovic's No Man's Land from Bosnia?" (1) Contemporary Greek cinema is not suffering from a lack of talent. Any representative viewing of recent Greek films by new, maturing, and/or well-seasoned directors such as Pantelis Voulgaris, Nikos Panayotopoulos, and Theo Angelopoulos suggests a surprisingly diverse field of styles, approaches, narratives, and themes. But as Greek filmmakers themselves are becoming increasingly aware, the weak point in most of these projects is the screenplay.

I am writing this essay as a screenwriter and international script instructor and adviser for screenwriters in countries around the world from Europe to New Zealand and South Africa. My intent is to take a brief look at five promising recent Greek films and to explore what can be done to strengthen the forming and "telling" of strong Hellenic tales on film: Renos Haralambidis' second feature Cheap Smokes (Ftina Tsigaras, 2000), Christos Dimas's first feature, The Cistern (Akrovitis Tou Kipou 2001), Constaninos Giannaris's third feature, One Day In August (Dekatpendavgustos, 2001), Andreas Pantzis's third feature, Evagoras' Vow (To Tama, 2001), and Sotiris Gortsas's third feature Brazilero (2001). Not all of these recent films have received a general release in Greece as of 2002. Of the films that have, none has done well at the home box office, (2) and unlike this year's Bosnian Oscar winner, No Man's Land, none of the group has had international popular distribution. All five and many more Greek films of the past thirty years are in need of a strong rewrite to bring out the splendid promise that each film evokes.

Five Easy Scenes & Five Hard Narratives

Consider five strong moments from the films under consideration that suggest these are filmmakers/screenwriters who should be taken seriously. Sotiris Goritsas has established an impressive track record with his debut film From the Snow (Ap' To Chioni, 1993), about Albanian Greek immigrants trying to make it in a Greece hostile to anyone speaking Albanian, and with his second film, Balkanisaeur (1995), which is a well told road movie of two Greeks making money by working scams between Bulgaria and Switzerland.

His latest effort, Brazilero, has a fine set up as "Euro inspectors" descend on a Greek country town to check on whether Euro-cultural funds have been well spent by several Greek characters. …

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