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A week of Greek cinema in Sofia, Bulgaria October 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Europe, Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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Hellenic Business Council in Bulgaria organises a week of Greek cinema from October 22 to 26 2007.

Eight, specially selected films of famous Greek directors, will be screened during the week in the Sofia’s Dom na Kinoto. The entrance will be free.

The initiative aims at bringing together Bulgarian and Greek nations by showing the magic of Greek cinema, which is not very popular in Bulgaria. Never on Sunday, A Touch of Spice, Sweet Bunch, In Good Company, The Suspended Step of the Stork, The Cherry Orchard, Fading Light and To the Inn are the films to be screened. The event will be held under the aegis of Bulgarian Culture Minister Stefan Danailov.

Organisers plan to turn the Greek cinema week into an annual event. The organiser, Hellenic Business Council in Bulgaria, is a private, non-profit NGO which provides its members with a network of contacts and assists in information exchange.

Queen Sophia of Spain honored in Athens October 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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hm_queen_sophia.jpg  Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis presented H.M. Queen Sophia of Spain with the City of Athens Golden Medal of Merit during a formal ceremony held at the Ceremonies Hall of the Athens Municipality Mansion, Kotzia Square in Athens.

H.M. Queen Sophia of Spain is of Greek descent and is the sister of the Former King of Greece Konstantinos and a member of the Former Royal Family of Greece.

H.M. Queen Sophia is currently visiting Athens attending the special celebrations honoring Dominikos Theotokopoulos El-Greco, the Greek born Master, on the occassion of the worldwide film premiere “El Greco”, directed by Yiannis Smaragdis, a Greek-Spanish production, as well as the opening of “El Greco and his Workshop” exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art. The exhibition runs until January 5, 2008.

Museum of Cycladic Art, 4 Neophitou Douka Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 7228321 – 3. Nearest metro station “Evangelismos”.

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El Greco celebrations for a week in Athens October 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums, Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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el_greco_filmscene.jpg  Nick Ashdon interprets the role of El Greco in the film directed by Yiannis Smaragdis.

An “El Greco” week is under way in Athens, with a series of events dedicated to the celebrated painter. The exhibition “Moments from ‘El Greco: The Film’” opened in the Syntagma metro station earlier this week, featuring costumes and photographs as well as paintings used in the movie directed by Yiannis Smaragdis.

el_greco_film_premiere.jpg  Queen Sophia of Spain and director Yiannis Smaragdis at the Pallas Theater during the film’s premiere night

The film’s premiere took place on Monday night, in the presence of Queen Sofia of Spain, the Greek President Karolos Papoulias and the Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. At the premiere, Smaragdis noted that the film is a 10-year journey that has now come to an end and now belongs to its audiences. The director also spoke about the three artists, Savvas Georgiadis, Stelios Petroulakis and Nikos Moschos, who created the copies of El Greco paintings used in the film, becoming the artist’s “hand.”

British actor Nick Ashdon, who takes the role of the celebrated artist in the film, spoke of what he felt was a great honor in being asked to interpret the part and how he came to see things through the “Cretan soul.” Juan Diego Botto, Nino de Guevara in the film, mentioned another dimension: “The film talks about how power can burn people, something that is also very contemporary.”

Queen Sofia of Spain was expected to inaugurate the “El Greco and his Workshop” exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art last night. Featuring 58 works from major Spanish Museums, including a number of original El Greco works, the show opens to the public today. The exhibition runs to 5 January 2008.

Museum of Cycladic Art, 4 Neophitou Douka Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 7228321 – 3. Nearest metro station “Evangelismos”.

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‘Earth’ > Vision and the art of persuasion October 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Media Radio TV, Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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Sophocles Tasioulis, one of the producers who convinced the BBC of the merits of ‘Earth’

sophocles_tasioulis.jpg  Producer Sophocles Tasioulis (left) with one of the ‘Earth’ directors, Alastair Fothergill, the other is Mark Linfield.

The most expensive production in the history of documentary filmmaking, “Earth”, cost $47 million and took years of hard work to complete. The film opened last Thursday in Athens, in a triple world premiere along with France and Switzerland.

Behind this giant of a film is a Greek, producer Sophocles Tasioulis, who helped convince the BBC to make the leap to the big screen from the safety of television. Having lived in Germany for the past 25 years, Tasioulis became involved in the movie production business in an unusual manner, he told the press last week, when he came to Greece for the Premiere Nights Athens International Film Festival.

“I studied building aircraft,” he said, “but I had a passion for photography and at one point decided that I wanted to live by creating images. I began working as a camera assistant with a crew in Berlin and then some friends put together a small company of freelance crew members. The business went well so we decided to get into the production business and now I play the mediating role between the money and art. Our first productions were documentaries, and that is where my heart will always lie, but we are also making forays into other genres, such as fiction and animation.”

What is the objective of “Earth”? “Our hope is that the audience, when they come out of the theater, will have fallen in love with our planet once more by seeing the story of the dangers faced by three species: the polar bear, the elephant and the whale. With a subject such as that of the Earth, we wanted to create a global cinematic phenomenon with the simultaneous release of the film in as many countries as possible. Unfortunately, though, this is something that can only be done with big-budget productions like Hollywood blockbusters,” says Tasioulis.

How did a small production company such as Tasioulis’s decide to take on such an expensive project and how did it convince a giant like the BBC? “With the success of ‘Microcosmos’ and ‘Le peuple migrateur’ we observed that there is an audience interested in natural history in cinema. The BBC had some trouble understanding this at first, because UK television shows the best documentaries in the world every day. So, you see, they couldn’t believe that someone would go all the way to the theater and pay for a ticket to watch a documentary. We did some research into what kinds of subjects would make someone take that trip to the movies. There are many social issues of interest, such as unemployment, but they are restricted to a very small audience. If you want to make a big production, you have to think of a big audience. The only answer was to make a documentary on natural history with the biggest producer of this genre in the world, the BBC. We approached them and proposed the project. At first they looked at us as if were crazy and told us that they had been making documentaries exclusively for television for the past 50 years. It took us two years to convince them, but we finally succeeded and made a deal for five movies.”

The rising interest in documentaries shown at the movie theater, according to Tasioulis, is due to the fact that there is a new audience that is interested and a new generation of directors who “know that cinema is the realm of emotions and not information. So, they have learned how to make a documentary for the big screen.”

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El Greco exhibition opens in Athens, as new film released on Greek-born master October 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Movies Life Greek.
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Long faces and swirling colors are all the rage in Athens, as a major exhibition on El Greco coincides with the release of a new film on the Greek-born master.

el_greco_painting.jpg  “El Greco and his workshop” brings together 45 oil paintings and other works by El Greco from Museums and collections in Spain, the U.S., Hungary and Switzerland, and opens to visitors on Wednesday.

The show, at the N.P. Goulandris Foundation-Museum of Cycladic Art, focuses on the output of El Greco’s large workshop in Spain, where the painter, whose real name was Domenikos Theotokopoulos, lived from 1577 until his death in 1614.

Spain’s Queen Sofia and Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis were to attend the official opening late Tuesday, 16 October. Queen Sofia also watched Monday’s worldwide first screening of “El Greco”, a Greek film with an international cast that opens in cinemas here on Thursday 18 October. The movie is directed by Yiannis Smaragdis, with a score by fellow Greek Vangelis Papathanassiou, who wrote the Oscar-winning music for “Chariots of Fire”.

el_greco_movie.jpg  Film producers are also organizing an exhibition of costumes and props from the film at Athens’ central Syntagma Square metro station. Most of the paintings at the Cycladic Art Museum are by El Greco’s pupils and assistants, including his illegitimate son Jorge Manuel, who probably joined the workshop in the mid-1590s and eventually became a partner. From his move to Spain in 1577 until about 1588, El Greco worked mostly alone, according to curator Nikos Hadjinicolaou. But popularity brought on a wave of orders that the artist was unable to keep up with single-handedly.

“In order to carry out his commissions, El Greco was obliged to maintain a workshop with assistants who were good enough painters to complete or add to many of the works he personally started, as well as apprentices,” Hadjinicolaou said.

Eight of the works are signed by the master himself, including “St. Veronica with the Holy Shroud” from the Santa Cruz Museum in Toledo and “The Adoration of the Shepherds” from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Born in Crete in 1541, El Greco worked in Italy and Spain. His highly individual art, with elongated figures, vibrant colors and disregard for the classical rules of painting, was prized during his lifetime but later fell out of favor, until it enjoyed strong acclaim in the 20th century.

The exhibition runs until January 5, 2008, although nine paintings will be returned to Spain’s Prado Museum in late November.

Related Links >
The N.P. Goulandris Foundation-Museum of Cycladic Art > http://www.cycladic-m.gr

El Greco official film > http://www.elgrecothemovie.com

Nia Vardalos at the Acropolis October 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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New film co-written by Oscar-nominated Greek-Canadian actress gets rare approval by Greek authorities

nia_vardalos_acropolis.jpg  Nia Vardalos standing in front of the Erechtheion temple during the shooting of ‘My Life in Ruins.’ Scheduled for release in 2008, the film is produced by Tom Hanks. 

Nia Vardalos, the star of «My Big Fat Greek Wedding,» stood under a big reflector on Saturday, filming a new romantic comedy among the dramatic ruins on the Acropolis. The scene will appear in «My Life in Ruins,» also starring Richard Dreyfuss, and follows a decision by Greek authorities to relax a longstanding ban on any commercial use of ancient sites. Authorities vetted the film script for historical accuracy and convened a panel of senior archaeologists to give final approval.

«Imagine how I feel being here shooting a movie… I can’t believe things like this can happen to me,» Vardalos said late Friday before the Acropolis shoot. Released in 2002, «My Big Fat Greek Wedding» was a surprise international hit and earned Vardalos an Oscar nomination for its script.

On Saturday, dozens of tourists gathered round a tiny set to take pictures of Vardalos. The 45-year-old Canadian actress plays a tour guide and has already been filmed at Delphi and Ancient Olympia.

«I’m just a girl from Winnipeg. I write these ideas and somehow they happen,» said Vardalos, who co-wrote the new movie. «I have cousins from America, from Australia and we all met up here. I have so many memories of being here.»

Director Donald Petrie denied suggestions the script had been watered down to secure access to ancient sites. «If the script had had a paintball war in Ancient Olympia, I think they would have said no,» he said. «The only major restriction for us is that we treat the sites as they are. We don’t bring in fake Roman columns,» he said, smiling.

«The story revolves around the character that Vardalos plays who has actually somewhat lost her passion. She has led so many tours with so many tourists who don’t care… and it’s depressed her beyond belief,» Petrie said. «Through one group of tourists… she is almost taught to rediscover her passion.» The love interest for the film was found in Alexis Georgoulis, an actor popular in Greece.

«It’s a romantic comedy, and we wanted a Greek actor who was experienced but not necessarily well known internationally,» Vardalos said. «We found Alexis Georgoulis. He’s a great kisser, a great actor and a great guy.» Dreyfuss said he had always wanted to come to Greece and was enjoying his time here. «This movie is about the ever-present possibility of love,» Dreyfuss said.

«My Life in Ruins» is the first major project helped by the Hellenic Film Commission, recently created by Greece’s Culture Ministry to try and lure international filmmakers to Greece. «Even small African countries had film commissions. But not Greece,» said the Commission’s Markos Holevas. «This is our first effort,» he said. «We will get organized and provide tax breaks and do what everyone else does.» «My Life in Ruins» is due for release next year.

Documentaries tackle real issues October 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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‘Earth’ and ‘Sicko,’ which opened on Thursday, tell us about what we’ve got and what we’re losing > ‘Earth’ is not an overtly political documentary. It has chosen the way of images, and breathtaking ones at that, to show us some of the most beautiful spots on Earth and to tell us why they are so important.

From a haven for dreamers and a space for iconic reality to unfold, movie theaters are increasingly becoming places for an awakening of political and social awareness, venues where one goes to get informed. Two much-anticipated documentaries opened in Athens on Thursday.

Michael Moore’s «Sicko» takes issue with the grave shortcomings of the American healthcare system and compares it to that of other countries, even ones with substantially weaker economies. The other documentary is «Earth,» by Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill, which is based on the successful BBC documentary of the same title and looks at the beautiful landscapes, ecosystems and animals of our planet that are at risk of extinction. It is narrated by David Attenborough and Patrick Stewart.

Though different from one another, both documentaries are about loss, the loss of social rights on the one hand, and the environment on the other. Life on Earth is no longer a simple matter and each day is a battle. Both «Sicko» and «Earth» each in its respective field, make a record of the things we have and those we are losing.

The environment and its preservation is becoming all the more frequent as the subject of movies and documentaries. From «The March of the Penguins,» which looks at the trials and tribulations of the emperor penguin, to Al Gore’s «An Inconvenient Truth,» and from «Earth» to «The 11th Hour» a documentary written and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Peterson, due in Greece in December, the voices championing the environment are growing increasingly stronger.

Does this mean real awareness and understanding, or a passing trend? It doesn’t take much to express concern over the course of the environment. But what will come of it? When another issue with more hype comes along and draws the attention of Hollywood’s stars, will the public and, especially, governments, have changed attitudes?

«Earth» is not an overtly political documentary. It has chosen the way of images, and breathtaking ones at that, to show us some of the most beautiful spots on Earth and tell us why they are so important. As far away as the forests of Siberia may seem, our very breath depends on them. Three animals are the stars of the documentary: the polar bear, the humpback whale and the African elephant. The first impression one gets is that they are in no imminent danger. Yet, the creators of «Earth» have selected these species specifically because they are not, yet, species at risk of extinction, but will be very soon. As their natural habitats shrink rapidly and their access to food and water becomes limited, the battle for survival gets harder each day.

Michael Moore, for his part, takes a more in-your-face approach to his subject in «Sicko». The effect of a Michael Moore documentary on its audience is much like the effect the director had on his audience at the University of Buffalo in New York recently during a lecture. The reactions varied from outright enthusiasm to downright indignation. But who said that Moore likes to play it safe? Some members of the audience accused him of being a propaganda artist. He replied that he is an anti-propaganda artist.

Moore addresses a slew of different issues, gun control, the war in Iraq, education and unemployment in America are just some of them, and his target is always the same: US President George W. Bush. «Of all the crimes committed by Bush, I think the greatest is that way he and his administration have succeeded in killing hope,» he says.

The above example reflects that way most groups view Moore and his work. In many parts of the world, Greece included, critics say he is too simplistic and something of a rabble-rouser. But Moore is not trying to display the results of scientific research. His documentaries, whose objective is essentially to be entertaining and therefore attractive to a broad audience, are based on the conclusions of his research and meant to raise social awareness on certain issues. Is this ethical? Maybe not. Is it desirable? If it brings results, yes, it is.

The genre is experiencing growing pains in Greece. The Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival in March 2006 featured in its program the successful television series “Exandas” By Giorgos Avgeropoulos, “Reportage Without Frontiers” by Stelios Kouloglou and “War Zone” by Sotiris Danezis. Critics defending art-house documentaries reacted and said that journalists had no business at a documentary festival, because their work is shown on television.

“It reminds me of the arguments we used to have as kids in the 80s, about whether a song was rock music or not,” says Danezis. For Avgeropoulos, “it is a childhood disease we all suffer from in Greece, as we are still newbies.” “Abroad,” says the creator of “Exandas,” “people got over it because they realized they have nothing to fear from others. You can make a poetic, lyrical documentary and I can show raw reality.” But he also does not believe that television is the only customer for documentaries. “A few years ago, we experienced a historic moment when Philippos Koutsaftis’s ‘Mourning Rock’ sold tens of thousands of tickets in theaters,” says Avgeropoulos.