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Film Director Jules Dassin dies March 31, 2008

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Hospital officials say American film director Jules Dassin has died in Athens at age 96. Dassin made more than 20 films, including “Topkapi” and “Never On Sunday.” He died Monday, hospital officials said. He married famous Greek actress-politician Melina Mercouri and settled in Athens. 

Veteran US moviemaker Jules Dassin, who died Monday in Athens at the age of 96, was a film noir master who sought exile in Europe after being named during the anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s. Dassin married the legendary Greek actress Melina Mercouri, joined her campaign for the return of Greece’s stolen Parthenon Marbles and was eventually awarded honorary Greek citizenship.

Born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1911, Dassin earned a reputation as an innovative director and was one of America’s hottest young filmmakers of the 1940s with films such as “Brute Force” (1947) and “Naked City” (1948). But as an active Communist who never compromised on his beliefs, he was blacklisted at the height of the witch-hunts on leftists unleashed by Senator Joseph McCarthy.

In 1949 Dassin quit the US for Europe, arriving first in London, where he filmed “Night in the City” (1950) starring US actor Richard Widmark and now considered a landmark of the film noir genre. Moving on to France, he produced “Rififi” (“Du rififi chez les hommes,” 1955), based on a novel by Auguste le Breton, and best remembered for a now-legendary heist scene. The 32-minute sequence played without dialogue or music, and the safe-cracking scene was so detailed that Paris police are rumoured to have briefly banned the movie for fear it be too instructive to would-be criminals.

Dassin’s first movie in Greece was “He Who Must Die” (“Celui Qui Doit Mourir” 1957), based on “Christ Recrucified” by the renowned Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis. But he would soon have cause to return to the country for good. In 1960, Dassin made “Never on Sunday” a story about an American in Greece trying to save a kind-hearted prostitute. The film won an Oscar for Best Song for composer Manos Hadjidakis, and is considered one of the finest movies ever made in Greece. Dassin himself was nominated for Best Director and Best Script, although in the end he never won an Oscar. More importantly for Dassin however, the film starred Melina Mercouri, one of Greece’s most adored actresses.

Two years after another of his landmark films, another heist movie “Topkapi” (1964), which won Peter Ustinov an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Dassin married Mercouri, who also starred in the film.

Merkouri and Dassin never hid their radical politics. Both were active in helping organise Greek resistance among expatriate politicians and artists in Paris against the right-wing junta that ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974. After Mercouri retired from film-making she entered politics, rising to become Greece’s Culture Minister in the 1980s. She made the return of the Parthenon Marbles, taken from Greece in the 19th century and now in the British Museum, a lifelong quest.

Dassin joined her campaign and eventually headed the Melina Mercouri Foundation bearing her name established to secure the marbles’ restitution to Greece. Mercouri died in 1994. Three years later, the Greek state awarded Dassin honourary citizenship for his efforts in their joint campaign.

In 1978, the Cannes Film Festival awarded him a Golden Palm for “A Dream of Passion,” one of his last films. In later years, Dassin retained an interest in politics despite advanced age and failing health. He had two children from his first marriage to violinist Beatrice Launer: Julie and Joe Dassin, a popular singer in 1970s France who died from a heart attack in 1980.

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Cyprus eyes growing movie industry March 30, 2008

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30-03-08_cyprus_films.jpg  Cyprus has a rich film history, Paul Newman starred in “Exodus” that was made in Famagusta in 1960. The movie was produced and directed by Otto Preminger and filmed on location in Cyprus and Israel. Dirk Bogarde made “High Bright Sun” with Deholm Elliott in Cyprus in 1964, which however, is considered to be one of his less known films.

Cyprus is hoping to cash in on the booming movie production industry by opening a film studio on the island. The Ministerial Cabinet has given the green light for a commitee to look at ways to attract producers to make films in Cyprus. There is also discussion of the creation of a film production studio, with a specialist to be appointed to carry out a study.

With mountain, sea and and city locations, Cyprus could be a perfect location for producers wishing to create different environments.

The closest film studios are located in Malta, which currently boasts the Mediterranean Film Studios. Dozens of movies have been produced in Malta, which offers standard back lots, water effects area and special effects.

Greek film director Athanasios Karanikolas tribute in Athens March 28, 2008

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Berlin based Greek film director Athanasios Karanikolas tribute in Athens

28-03-08_makra.jpg  A scene from “Elli Makra – 42277 Wuppertal”, which helped acquaint Greeks with the work of Athanasios Karanikolas.

28-03-08_karanikolas.jpg  Six films by the German-based film director will be screened at Bios in Athens this weekend as part of a focus on the artist co-organized by the Goethe Institute.

Athanasios Karanikolas, 40, studied photography, video and film in Germany, lives in Berlin, and already has eight years of completed work in short films, experimental projects, documentaries, video installations and one feature film behind him. We would have known nothing about him had he not taken part in last year’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival with “Elli Makra – 42277 Wuppertal”, a film that impressed and earned a Best Actress award for the role played by Anna Lalasidou.

Conceived and made in a minimalist fashion, the film is surprisingly deep in terms of how the actress manifests the inner world of the main character she portrays, a Greek immigrant living in Wuppertal, Germany, who is caught between superficial and violent worlds. Judging by his work, the filmmaker is open to poetic ways, experimentalism, new technology and the close observation of people in various living conditions.

Saturday and Sunday, Bios Venue, 84 Pireos Street, Athens. Six films by Athanasios Karanikolas will be projected. A parallel video installation by the artist will remain on show for an additional week, until April 7.

Bergman tribute throughout the week in Athens March 24, 2008

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Bergman tribute throughout the week, showcasing 22 films > A tribute to the film great is now on at the Danaos Cinema in Athens

Twenty-two films by Ingmar Bergman, who passed away less than a year ago aged 89, have been chosen for a tribute to the highly influential Swedish director, now on until Saturday at the Danaos cinema in Athens.

24-03-08_bergman.jpg  Bergman directed over 50 films and managed, in a harsh yet refined fashion, to bring the human condition to the core of his filmmaking. The melancholic mood of his films and use of articulate language lead the viewer on bittersweet journeys into the darker aspects of existence, life and death.

Bergman was born in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1918 and began his career in theater before turning to film in 1944 when he wrote the screenplay for “Torment/Frenzy” a film directed by Alf Sjoberg. Two years later, Bergman emerged as a director with the film “Crisis” and achieved international recognition in 1955 with “Smiles of a Summer Night”, a humorous and lively look at love and relationships. His reputation abroad was further consolidated with 1957’s “The Seventh Seal”, a drama in which a philosophical knight plays chess with Death in an effort to find God. Bergman’s style was particularly investigative as he sought his casts’ finer nuances in their relationship with the camera. His melancholic takes on humanity in a world of alienation greatly influenced the broader arts, including numerous directors from Woody Allen to Theo Angelopoulos.

Danaos Cinema, 109 Kifissias Avenue, Athens, tel 210 6922655.

Related Links > http://www.danaoscinema.gr/content/blogcategory/16/36/

Who’s on First? > the story of the first Greek baseball team March 18, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Baseball Handball Volleyball, Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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The Hellenic American Union presents a screening of the awarded documentary Who’s on first? by the Greek-American director, Valerie Kontakos. The screening will be held on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 at 20:00 in Hellenic American Union Auditorium, Athens.

18-03-08_greek_baseball.jpg  The documentary, which was shot in the U.S.A., Greece and the Netherlands, recites the story behind the launch of the first Greek baseball team after Olympic Committee’s assignment to Athens of the organization of the 2004 Olympic Games. The documentary was screened in Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (2006) and won Best Documentary Award at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (2007).

What happens when Greece, a country with no background in baseball, is suddenly required to field a team to compete in the 2004 Athens Olympics? When Athens became host to the 2004 Olympic Games, Greece was thrust into the task of creating a national baseball team that would compete in the Olympics. One problem, Greece had no team, players or stadiums in which to play. What started out as a quirky Olympic novelty turned into a transatlantic Greek tragedy.

Who’s on First? is a documentary that chronicles Greece’s bittersweet effort to establish the until-now foreign sport of baseball. With no cultural or historical context in Greece, baseball has nonetheless captured the imaginations of Greek athletes, who are now bent on bringing Greece into the line-up of Olympic baseball teams. Before this happens, however, they have to learn the game. In September of 1997, after many years of Herculean, but unsuccessful efforts, Athens was chosen to be the host city of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. The Games were finally coming home to Greece, bringing baseball with them.

As the host country, Greece automatically qualified to compete in all team sports. In 1997, when the Hellenic Baseball Federation was founded, baseball was non-existent in Greece. No one knew what or where first base was, let alone what an inning was or how many there were in a game. How would it be possible to train athletes in less than five years to become Olympic-grade baseball players? How could the Greeks compete against the Cubans, Japanese or even Italians? The Baseball Federation realized it desperately needed outside help and turned to Greeks of the diaspora, especially those in America and Canada. Many Greek-Americans in the U.S. responded to the call, in fact the response was overwhelming. It was a dream come true for hundreds of Greek Americans who had played baseball in high school or college.

They suddenly found themselves dreaming of Olympic glory. Two of those hopefuls were Chuck Samiotis and Billy Galatis. Americans of Greek descent, living in Boston, Massachusetts, and in their mid-40s. They saw an ad in a Greek American newspaper and decided that this was their calling.

They hired a professional baseball trainer and dedicated all their free time to preparing for the Olympics. Another Greek American, businessman Peter Angelos, owner of the historic Baltimore Orioles, also came on board to help the fledgling Greek baseball effort. Angelos put his organization behind this project and bankrolled the effort to the tune of one million dollars. Orioles scout Rob Derksen became the manager and went out scouring the U.S. and Canada for professional players with Greek ancestry. The Greek government agreed to issue a Greek passport to anyone with one Greek grandparent and to waive the mandatory military service for all males. The results were excellent. In 2003, the national Greek team, consisting of 22 Greek Americans and two Greeks, won the silver medal in the Pool A European Baseball Championships. The next step was the Olympics!

But not everyone was happy. The Greek baseball players were beginning to worry about their prospects of making the team. Now that the Greek Olympic team was a serious medal contender, was there any place for them on the team? And what about Chuck and Bill, who continued to pursue their dream until the very last game the Greek team played? In the end, the tragic loss of Rob Derksen left a void that was irreparable.

A discussion with the director will follow the screening. Admission is free to the public.

Hellenic American Union, 22 Massalias Street, Αthens, tel 210 3680900.

Related Links > www.hau.gr

Hellenic Baseball Federation > http://www.baseballgreece.com/

Hellenic Olympic Committee > http://www.hoc.gr/EN/info/periodika/6o/3.asp

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

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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”.

Finnish director honored at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival March 14, 2008

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Arto Halonen was honored at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival.

His past as a director in the domains of fiction films and cartoons, the luck he had “to be in the right place at the right time,” the passion and the intuition involved in not “planning the things I’m going to deal with but rather getting carried away by them and then pursuing them” all combined to drive Finnish artist Arto Halonen to focus on documentaries.

The multifaceted artist, director, writer, producer and founder of DocPoint, Scandinavia’s most significant documentary festival, who also runs a production company that supports independent films, is the honored guest at this year’s Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.

“This award vindicates the life of a filmmaker if we take into account the considerable number of difficulties and obstacles confronted in our line of work,” remarked Halonen after receiving the honorary award in Thessaloniki. Projects by Halonen that have been chosen for screenings at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival include documentaries focused on the wild slopes of Kyrgyzstan, Cuban myths, Tibet, Malaysia and China, as well as Turkmenistan, where he filmed his most recent documentary.

For his next project, Halonen returns to his native Finland to shoot a documentary about the life of a local artist whose music and lyrics have been a major influence in the filmmaker’s life. “It’s going to be a story for those of us who don’t realize that we become vehicles that carry messages to others, and in doing so, leave our imprint on society,” he told a news conference yesterday. “Through documentaries, we have the ability to stir emotions, raise awareness on issues and instigate action. This has been the driving force for me as well.”

Related Links > http://www.filmfestival.gr/docfestival/uk/index.htm