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Thessaloniki Documentary Festival ends after crowning sex change film March 17, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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The Thessaloniki Documentary Festival closed yesterday after awarding its top prize to a film about sex change operations in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

17-03-08_be_like_others.jpg  A screenshot from FIPRESCI winner “Be Like Others” directed by Tanaz Eshaghian.

“Be Like Others” by Tanaz Eshaghian, which won the international critics’ (or FIPRESCI) award for a foreign film profiles the lives of young gay men who opt for gender change rather than live in constant fear of abuse and retribution. Homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran, while a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini made sex change permissible for “diagnosed transsexuals”.

The FIPRESCI award for a Greek movie went to Nicos Ligouris’sThe Lovers from Axos”, the story of a couple of 55 years living in a mountain village on Crete.

The audience award for a film over 45 minutes in the international selection, with a prize of 4,000 euros, went to Hilary Helstein’s “As Seen Through These Eyes”. The film, a moving documentary about the art and artists that survived the tragedy and paranoia of the Holocaust, beat among others the “Flow – For Love of Water”, “The Price of Sugar” and “The Suicide Tourist”. “City of Cranes”, by Eva Weber, captured the under-45-minute film prize.

From the local selection, Alinda Dimitriou’s “Birds in the Mire” received the over-45-minute audience award, while the short length award went to “The Archelon Bubble” by Eleftherios Fylaktos. Both received a 4,000-euro cash prize.

Other awards included an Amnesty International Award for “The Price of Sugar”, a WWF award won by “About Water: People and Yellow Cans” and an Hellenic Radio Television’s [ERT3] State Broadcasting award, carrying a 3,000-euro prize, that ended up with “The Lovers from Axos”. Dimitris Vernikos’s “The Mirror and the Knife” won the Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace award, worth 6,000 euros. The documentaries sharing the Greek Film Center Awards, worth beween 2,000 and 3,000 euros, were “Etel Adnan Words in Exile”, “Alex”, “Birds in the Mire”, “The Mirror and the Knife”, “The Lovers from Axos” and “The Third Takis”.

It’s poetry day all week in Athens March 17, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums, Books Life Greek, Music Life Greek.
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The international celebration is marked with events, discussions, lectures, readings and more

Singer Maria Farandouri, joined by Zacharias Karounis and accompanied by an eight-piece orchestra, will sing at the Athens Concert Hall on Thursday, while actors Eva Kotamanidou and Nikos Bousdoukos will read excerpts at an evening of Greek political poetry set to music. International Poetry Day falls this Friday, March 21, but the celebrations start today.

Stoa tou Vivliou [Books Arcade] and PoeticaNet have put together a lively mix of discussion, poetry set to music and a video, curated by poet Iosif Ventouras. First up are Professors Dimitris Dimiroulos and Elisavet Arseniou, exploring the subject of poetry in the information age. Then the hip-hop group Enemy will present songs from their latest album and collide with living poems. Participants include poet and media artist Dimosthenis Agrafiotis and American poet Heather Raikes, who will talk about her work in a video made for the event. That’s at 8 p.m. today, at the Stoa tou Vivliou, 5 Pesmazoglou Street, Athens, tel 210 3253989.

The European Translation Center (EKEMEL), Ikaros Publishers and Patakis bookstore are saluting International Poetry Day with a presentation of Alexandros Issaris’s book “Kato apo tosa vlefara: Simeioseis gia ton Rilke” (Under So Many Eyelids: Notes on Rilke), published last year by Ikaros. The speakers are literary critic Vangelis Hatzivassileiou, writer Yiannis Efstathiadis and the author, who is also a poet and translator. Actress Mayia Lyberopoulou will read extracts from the book. Tomorrow, Patakis bookstore, 65 Academias Street, Athens, tel 210 3811850, at 7 p.m.

Poems will liven up time spent at bus and tram stops and metro stations and on board public transport as of Wednesday and until April 22. It’s the latest edition of a successful promotion by the National Book Center of Greece (EKEBI). Poet and academic Nasos Vagenas chose the poems and six young students and graduates of the Athens School of Fine Arts produced the colorful posters.

Verses by Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis feature on a phone card to be issued on International Poetry Day. In a follow-up to another campaign by EKEBI and telecoms provider OTE, there will be a new phone card with different verses every month till December. This year’s selections will be from political poems.

Greek political poetry set to music is the theme of an evening at the Athens Concert Hall on Thursday. Maria Farandouri and Zacharias Karounis, accompanied by an eight-piece orchestra, will sing, and actors Eva Kotamanidou and Nikos Bousdoukos will read. Giorgos Papadakis has selected and orchestrated excerpts from Euripides, as well as pieces by Yiannis Ritsos, Odysseas Elytis, Nikos Gatsos and Iakovos Kambanellis and others, with music by composers such Eleni Karaindrou, Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis and Thanos Mikroutsikos. Vassilis Nikolaidis will conduct.

Poet Nikiforos Vrettakos is the subject of a tribute starting 5.30 p.m. at the Benaki Museum on International Poetry Day. Academics Eratosthennis Kapsomenou, Vincenzo Rotolo, Vangelis Athanassopoulos, poet Titos Patrikios and Vrettakos Archive director Eleni Tzinieri-Tzanetakou will speak, followed by the first public screening of Athanasia Drakopoulou’s film “Periousaka Stihiea” at 8.30 p.m. at the Benaki Museum Pireos Annex, 138 Pireos Street and Andronikou Street, Athens, tel 210 3453111.

An exhibition of first editions, and documents for the Nikiforos Vrettakos Archive opens Friday and runs to April 20 at the main branch of the Benaki Museum, 1 Koumbari Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 3671000.

Theater takes on the challenge of Roidis’s controversial “Popess Joan” March 17, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Stage & Theater.
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Director Sotiris Hatzakis and art director Lydia Koniordou have opted to use puristic version > Emmanuel Roidis’s condemning language of 150 years ago remains contemporary,’ says director Sotiris Hatzakis. Performances of his theatrical adaptation begin March 21 at Patras’s Apollon Theater.

A century-and-a-half has elapsed since Emmanuel Roidis shocked the Nation and was excommunicated by the Greek Orthodox Church for his novel “I Papissa Ioanna”  [Popess Joan]. Even today, this legendary work continues to provoke, not so much as a scandalous literary outing but as a work that is extremely daring, disrespectful, biting and venomous. Its appeal is ongoing because this is a well-structured, imaginative and surprise-laden novel delivered in the writer’s typically scintillating and ironic style. The question is whether all these elements can be transfered to the stage. It is only natural to respond reservedly to a theater’s decision to stage Roidis’s “Popess Joan”. The concern is accentuated further by past attempts, such as those by Giorgos Roussos and Gerasimos Stavros, where the only aspect preserved was the plot. Now, Roidis’s old classic is being prepared for a staging by the Regional Municipal Theater of Patras, presently under the artistic direction of esteemed actress Lydia Koniordou. Performances, at the city’s Apollon Theater, begin on March 21. The production, Sotiris Hatzakis, will then be brought to Athens in May before returning to its base for performances around the region’s Achaia prefecture.

Initially, Hatzakis had intended to stage a theatrical adaptation of novelist Pavlos Matesis’s “Mitera tou Skylou” [Dog's Mother] but that plan fell through and he subsequently proposed staging the Roidis classic, a work he had contemplated for a while, “because of its history and language,” in the director’s words.

“The play tells the story of an orphan girl who wanders through medieval gloom and learns about the art of survival. She is surrounded by violence and hypocrisy, but is armed with intelligence and power of reasoning, which help her adapt to the conditions and measure up to others. To survive, she resorts to transvestism by donning a male monk’s cassock and playing the role,” commented Hatzakis. “As a monk, she rises through the Catholic church’s hierarchy. She undergoes changes and the hot-blooded girl of the outdoor life and erotic and pagan stories is transformed into an icy traveler. When she is finally declared Pope, the little that remains of her moral values begins to be totally demolished. The moment she conquers the very top and calms down, the subsequent boredom she feels awakens her womb, which had hibernated for years … she gets wrapped up amid a flowering of feelings and ends up pregnant. And that is the beginning of her end.”

Considering the novel’s language, didn’t the director have second thoughts when thinking about taking this work to the stage?

“Yes, and they were even greater than the ones I felt when I thought about doing Alexandros Papadiamantis’s ‘The Murderess’, which we did with Lydia Koniordou. Because, here, apart from various other things, we have to deal with a relentless take on puristic Greek that is rigid and untouched, without the looser moments of Papadiamantis’s fused language,” said Hatzakis. “Here, we have a writer who is phlegmatic, possesses high-quality irony, and launches an attack on the Catholic Church in a cold-blooded fashion – all this through his use of language.”

In preserving Roidis’s old-school puristic Greek language, the director, responding to a question, said he was not worried about modern-day audiences having problems understanding the play.

“I’m not afraid of this at all. Of course, there were some concerns at first, as had also been the case with ‘The Murderess’, which ended up being groundless,” remarked Hatzakis, who added that when taking on such a project one should not be driven to concerns about whether it will be “understood by the people … It should be more a case of ‘let’s see how the public will react. It’s an opportunity to see how such a venture will work out. With this venture, I’m taking a stand against the recent trend to translate works into the vernacular.”

Asked whether it was possible to transfer the irony of Roidis’s language onto the stage, Hatzakis admitted that this proved to be a real challenge, and one that remains untested.

“We’ve taken a leap and only the end result will tell us if we’ve been successful. However, we have been having a great time at rehearsals, discovering a forward-looking text that was as controversial as could be during its time, and which still stirs waters today. Because when the break with power is truly revolutionary and relentless, it condemns its structure and abuse in a timeless fashion.”

Greek government’s vehicle-leasing plan March 17, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Transport Air Sea Land.
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The Greek government expects to save millions of euros by selling its current fleet of vehicles, and replacing it with a new fleet under leasing contracts.

Finance Ministry officials are to follow the lead of Parliament, which has introduced a program under which MPs have already been given leased cars. A scheme for the replacement of conventional technology cars with new, greener vehicles has been worked out by Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Nikolaos Legas.

The move is envisaged to cut excessive state spending, i.e. wasted tax-payers’ money, on maintenance and fuel, as well as on certain “costly irregularities.” Interestingly, the 2008 state budget earmarks 8.8 million euro under the heading of maintenance and repair of state-use land transport means, in addition to 35.4 million for procurement of spare parts. The above amounts do not include insurance outlays.

Rather more complicated is the issue of police car insurance, on account of the special specifications and use of such vehicles under tough conditions. Car companies offering such leasing solutions would also help the state save on service and maintenance, tires, insurance premiums and road tax. For spare parts alone, the Greek police currently spend an annual 11.5 million.

Some special-purpose army vehicles and fire-engines are to be excluded from the leasing solution. The existing state fleet is to be auctioned by the Public Property Management Organization (ODDY). Ministry officials say that the leasing solution would also help cut fuel and lubricant costs, currently standing at 225 million annually.

Finance Ministry inspection services have also found extensive unlawful use of state fuel, estimated to be costing the state some 60 million each year. To prevent state fuel from being unlawfully pumped into private vehicles, the Ministry plans to install pump nozzles of a different size that will not fit in the tanks of private cars. Officials say this would make it impossible for private vehicles to be supplied with fuel from state stations.

European countries have also been facing similar problems with fuel misappropriation, but have recently managed to cut the phenomenon by as much as 30 percent. How? Simply by utilizing advanced technology. In Greece, too, special microchips are to be placed not only in pump nozzles but also in the gas tanks of state vehicles, in an effort to curb the unlawful supply of private vehicles with state fuel and keep track of the fuel used by state vehicles.

Deutsche Telekom buys MIG’s shares in Greece’s OTE March 17, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Telecoms.
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It was possibly meant to happen. Last week’s rumors, spread fast in business circles, while the old saying “where there is smoke, then there’s a fire” which suits well Deutsche Telekom’s case. The possible sale of MIG’s shares in Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation [OTE] could solve a major problem > If it buys, Deutsche Telekom may be the strategic partner the government was looking for.

According to various sources, MIG (Marfin Investment Group) has clinched a deal to sell all or part of its minority stake in OTE, about less than 20%, to German telecoms operator, Deutsche Telekom, at an unspecified price. The latter will be at a premium compared to the share price of OTE at Friday’s close on the Athens bourse.

OTE shares closed at 19.14 euro, up 3.35 percent on Friday, and Deutsche Telekom will most likely pay more than 24 per share to buy the stake. MIG’s average acquisition cost of OTE shares is estimated between 23 and 24 without including the cost of swaps the investment company has entered into with banks to buy the stake.

This deal is important for both MIG and the Greek government. The investment company, which will be able to raise more than 2 billion if it sells its entire stake, estimated at 19.6 percent, to the German telecoms operator. In addition, it will get some capital gains at a time bourses and credit markets are under pressure as evidenced by the Fed’s extraordinary decision to bail out Bear Stearns, the second largest underwriter in US mortgage bonds on Friday.

It is worth noting that Marvin Investment Group (MIG), an investment holding company whose biggest shareholder is Dubai Group, raised more than 5 billion last summer at more than 6 per share in the biggest IPO ever by a European company of its kind but has seen its share fall dramatically since then. It gained 8.04 percent to 4.30 on Friday on speculation about the deal with Deutsche Telekom.

The likely sale of OTE shares to Deutsche Telekom by MIG is even more important for the government, although it comes at a difficult time. The government has repeatedly said it would prefer a major Western European telecoms organization to become OTE’s strategic partner and has discouraged financial investors such as Private Equity Funds from attempting to gain control of the organization.

Deutsche Telekom (DT) was among the European operators that expressed interest in OTE in the second half of 2006 but the change of CEO at the time and DT’s other priorities at home seemed to have played a role in putting the project on hold.

It is known that the government had appointed three advisers, namely Credit Suisse, UBS and Eurobank EFG, to find a strategic investor for OTE in the last quarter of 2006 and 2007 but their efforts did not bear fruit.

It is ironic that the same company, that is MIG, which defied the government’s repeated warnings to raise its stake in OTE, is becoming the catalyst for finding a strategic partner for the country’s telecoms incumbent. The government in December last year passed legislation prohibiting investors from acquiring more than 20 percent in companies of strategic importance to the country without its approval.

By all accounts, this is a protectionist piece of legislation and the government would have had a difficult time defending it before the European Court of Justice, where it would most likely have ended up.

So, the MIG-Deutsche Telekom deal will save the government face because it will not have to go to court. Even if the case is taken to the European Court, it will have no problem doing away with the law since DT will – de facto – have become OTE’s foreign strategic partner.

The government will also be able to sell a deal with Deutsche Telekom to the international investment community as a sign that its privatization program is still on track. This may not be appreciated so much at a time when international stock markets are suffering but will be later on.

It should be noted though that how this deal will be structured is another story and will not happen tomorrow. After all, Deutsche Telekom will have to justify the deal to its shareholders. The latter must be fully aware of the Greek government’s restrictive law with regard to the shareholding of domestic corporations of strategic importance, so they will ask for clarification on that particular point.

After all, it is not popular with shareholders nowadays when their companies spend billions of euros to buy minority stakes in other companies, even if they are regarded as good assets, such as OTE mainly on account of its operations in Southeastern Europe, without having secured a road map to full control down the road. In turn, this means the government must have been informed of the deliberations between MIG and Deutsche Telekom and must have given its blessing even if it does not advertise it or even denies it in public.

It is very likely DT will ask the Greek government at some point to buy part of its 28.7 percent stake in OTE and the latter will consent to it along with the signing of a shareholders agreement. DT may even proceed with a public offering to buy the remaining OTE shares from the market and enhance its equity stake in the Greek telecoms organization.

Aside from what DT will or will not do in coming weeks and months, it is safe to say Deutsche Telekom is most likely OTE’s foreign strategic partner and this cannot escape the attention of trade unions and opposition political parties. So, the government will likely face stiffer resistance and will have to prepare for that.

Greek weightlifters show promise before Beijing March 17, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Aquatics, Martial Arts.
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Greece wins 11 medals at the EU Championships, synchronized swimming ensemble misses out on medal at Europeans

Displaying promise ahead of the upcoming Beijing Olympics, the Greek National Weightlifting Team won 11 medals at the European Union Championships in Forst, Germany.

The Greek men’s team finished third in the competition’s overall rankings and the women’s team ended fifth. Germany won the men’s event and Poland triumphed in the women’s competition.

The Greek National Team’s performance was particularly encouraging given the entry of Bulgaria and Romania, both traditional powers in weightlifting, to this latest edition of the EU Championships. Among the Greek team’s top performers was the 23-year-old athlete Natalia Tsoulia, who won three gold medals in the women’s 75-kilogram division. She lifted 95 kilograms in the snatch, and 110 kilograms in the clean and jerk.

“I wanted to lift more kilograms, but it doesn’t matter, I’ll accomplish this at the European Championships next month” said a beaming Tsoulia following her success in Germany, who had stopped competing for two years but made a comeback last year at the National Championships.

Other medal winners for the Greek team included Christos Saltsidis, who ended up with two silvers and a bronze in the men’s 94 kilogram division.

In other Olympic sports, the Greek Synchronized Swimming Team narrowly missed out on a medal at the European Championships. The Greek team ended fourth after a mistake at the beginning of its routine cost it a medal.

“We made a major mistake at the beginning. You can’t win medals when you make mistakes such as these. The judges were right, and if we were better, we would have won the bronze medal” noted the team’s coaches Anastassia Gustcheva and Albena Mladenova. “The girls lack experience. They have a lot to learn. They will mature and bigger successes will come their way.”

Spain won the gold medal, Italy won the silver and Ukraine the bronze.

Greek Fashion Week show March 17, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion & Style, Shopping.
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17-03-08_greek_fashion_week.jpg  A model is reflected in a mirror during the Greek fashion week that wound up at Zappeion Hall in central Athens yesterday.

For the seventh consecutive fashion season, the Hellenic Fashion Designers’ Association (HFD) organized the Athens Collections InStyle, Greek fashion week. On the international front, buyers were expected from Italy, France, the Netherlands and Turkey as well as from Harvey Nichols Hong Kong.

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