Female Presence and Male Absence:recent Films by Greek Women

By Apostolidis, Persephone Tselentis | Film Criticism, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Female Presence and Male Absence:recent Films by Greek Women


Apostolidis, Persephone Tselentis, Film Criticism


In Greek Film, Aglaia Mitropoulou makes a claim that Greek women have acquired by history and the demands of society the director's talent and should not be too willing to give it up for the sake of approval from the predominantly male film industry. "For centuries," she writes, Greek women have, "without being conscious of it, taken on the role of the director in that they projected their thoughts, ideas, and desires to be materialized by others" (Mitropouls 460). She based this on the idea that Greek society is traditionally that of a "covert matriarchy." The 400 years of Turkish occupation, the many barren islands, or poor mainland villages forced men to leave their homes for long periods. The women had to take over and manage the homes, the lands, the livestock, the family. When men returned and the new free Greek state patterned its societal structures on the subordination of women, their power became secret and covert while women continued to direct the action, behind the scenes. Could it be possible that films made by Greek women filmmakers in the year 2001 would reflect those images of manhood and womanhood as described by Mitropoulou? The pattern persists of the absent male and of the female who has become strong by necessity, with a difference: that in the contemporary setting, the social and historical causes for this behavior do not exist any more. These films show an awareness of the new and shifting gender roles, yet, in their search for a balance in relationships, they express a nostalgia for the stability and harmony of the old clearly defined roles. As the male is absent from no external cause, he comes to be more the elusive male; he seems unwilling or unable to sacrifice his freedom, share with his partner and be supportive in a relationship. The female, who has in the meantime become an economically independent career woman, still values supportive and binding relationships. Not finding them, she is forced to take on more authority and power than she wants. She becomes stronger than man, in spite of herself.

This discussion will concentrate on films released in 2002 for the simple reason that this has been, as Elly Petrides of the Greek Film Center describes it, "a bumper year for women filmmakers" (1) but with a further reason attached to it: that this burst of creativity among women filmmakers coincides with and is arguably responsible for a change in Greek cinema big enough to bring Greek audiences back into the theaters. The most films ever made by Greek women filmmakers were made in 2001 and, even though they still account for no more than 30% of the total film production, they are bold, complex, interesting films; artistically, they seem the more independent and accomplished. This past year's production by women filmmakers has everything: the uncompromisingly abstract, avant garde films of Antoinette Angelidi (Thief or Reality); the commercially feminist, with modern life style situations, films of Olga Malea (Risotto); the avant-garde road movie by Greek American Athena Rachel Tsangari (The Slow Business of Going); the wonderful documentary on the Greek deaf community by Lucia Rikaki (Words of Silence) and other documentaries that were awarded at the Thessaloniki and Drama Film Festivals but not screened commercially. These include films with an international cast and funding, such as Maria Iliou's Alexandria; and finally, the low and not so low budget films by women filmmakers who have had a steady and consistently noticeable presence over these past fifteen years in the making of quality documentaries, short films, and feature films: Eleni Alexandraki's documentary Easter is in the Air, Dora Masclavanou's Tomorrow is Another Day, and the films of the three directors to be discussed here: Katerina Evangelakou, Penny Panayotopoulou, and Stella Theodoraki. With their distinctly feminine sensibility, they can open new roads for Greek cinema. …

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