The 17th Annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (LAGFF) featured outstanding films and documentaries, a masterclass for budding filmmakers by George Pelecanos, a workshop on guidelines for filmmakers interested in exploring international markets by entertainment lawyer Carol T. Contes, and a panel discussion with cinematographers working primarily in Greece to compare working conditions with their American colleagues.
However, the breakthrough event of the 17th LAGFF was a new collaboration between The Hellenic Initiative (THI) and Global Greek Film Initiative (GGFI) that will literally bring Hollywood industry professionals to Greece! The significance of this partnership is that the newly created GGFI is now associated with THI, one of the most respected Greek-American organizations with a successful track record of accomplishments, and THI now has access to the Hollywood entertainment industry through the well-established relationships that the LAGFF has built over the past 17 years.
Lia Bozonelis and Ersi Danou, co-founders of GGFI, wrote the two proposals and presented them to the members of the THI executive committee. In my conversation with Tina Courpas, Executive Director of THI, she said that the grant proposals matched exactly with THI’s economic development mission in Greece and that the grants would provide essential training for professionals in the Greek film industry.
Greece has seen a plethora of new productions that have taken advantage of the government’s generous film incentives, with demand for new productions to film in Greece continuing to grow. The first grant THI will fund is for $20,000 and is for Athens-based crew training to take place in 2023. The 80-hour crew training workshops will allow participants to work in international productions as than handles. The second grant, also worth $20,000, will bring American experts to Greece to train Greek filmmakers in 2023.
Discovery Days is an extension of a program that LAGFF has run in Los Angeles for the past nine years, but now, for the first time with THI funding, the program will be brought directly to Greece and professionals from ‘Hollywood will mentor Greek filmmakers to refine and develop their scripts. GGFI will partner with the acclaimed Faliro House Oxbelly Film Education Institute in this effort.
GGFI Co-Founder, Lia Bozonelis, in her statement regarding the partnership, said, “Our organization has long admired THI’s mission to invest in Greece’s future and create a stronger, more vibrant community across the country. the Diaspora. The Global Greek Film Initiative is designed to meet these needs through our similar mission in entertainment.
The LAGFF opening ceremony began with George Pelecanos receiving the 2023 Orpheus Honorary Award from his longtime collaborator, producer and former HBO executive Kary Antholis. Pelecanos is an acclaimed author of 21 books. Stephen King has called Pelecanos “perhaps America’s greatest living writer,” but he’s best known as producer, editor, and writer for HBO’s “The Wire,” a crime drama about the war on drugs in Baltimore.
In his statement, Pelecanos said “receiving the Orpheus award was special to me because of the company I was in. It’s just different and in a more meaningful way when I talk to my fellow Greeks and Greek-Americans. I’m being completely honest when I say it was a career highlight.
The screening of Black Stone, a new film by Spiros Jacovides about a Greek family in crisis, followed. Sofia Milos, an internationally acclaimed Greek-Italian actress known for hit shows CSI Miami and The Sopranos, spoke enthusiastically about the film: “Black Stone, the opening night movie was probably the best I’ve ever seen. have ever seen among Greek films. The lead actress Eleni Kokkidou was truly exceptional, worthy of an international award. Great staging job. Excellent writing and a sense of humor to tell a relatable story on so many levels.
Greek actor Christos Vasilopoulos, known for Banshee (2013) and Blindspot (2015), also enjoyed the film, which received the Audience Award for Best Fiction Feature. The closing night screening featured another excellent film from director Maria Douza, ‘Listen’. This film deals with family dysfunction, prejudice against disability and xenophobia. There are great acting performances from all of them, but especially from the two protagonists Dimitris Kitsos and Efthalia Papacosta which earned him the Orpheus Award for Best Performance by an Actor. “Listen” won the Orpheus Award for Best Fiction Feature.
The Audience Award for Best Documentary went to the well-crafted documentary “Venizelos: The Struggle for Asia Minor”, directed by Nikos Dayandas.
Of note are two short films screened at the festival and produced by the winner Pelecanos, “Miss Mary’s Room”, directed by Nicholas G. Pelecanos, and “The Thisvi Trilogy”, directed by Fay Efrosini Lellios. The film, inspired by photographs of director Lellios’ father and words of her mother, was shot for three years during the pandemic. Lellios said, “I wanted to make a film that was both centered on the events of Septemvriana” during World War II.
The two events that got people talking about the festival were the Filmmakers Brunch graciously hosted by the Consul General of Greece in Los Angeles Ioannis Stamatekos at the Consular Residence, an opportunity for local and Greek filmmakers to meet and mingle, and the ‘Hollywood Scene & Be Seen Party’ in West Hollywood, featuring a live performance by Evangelia which was also a fundraiser hosted by THI, GGFI, LAGFF and Power Muse Productions.
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