Greek cinema has a long and rich history with many Greek directors and actors gaining international acclaim for their work. In 1906 Greek Cinema was born when the Manakis Brothers started recording in Macedonia and the French filmmaker “Leons” produced the first “Newscast” from the midi-Olympic Games of Athens (the unofficial Olympic games of 1906).
The 1950s and 60s were considered to be the golden age of world cinema and Greek cinema. The Thessaloniki International Film Festival was first held in 1960, and would subsequently evolve into the primary showcase for emerging filmmakers from Greece and the Balkans region. The festival showcases both international and Greek films, and awards the “Golden Alexander” for the best feature film.
In the last 50 years the production of Greek films has risen dramatically and in more recent times a new generation of young directors has emerged. More arty, contemporary-paced films have become all the rage, bringing commercial success and critical acclaim. Still, the older generation of films continues to amass cult followings.
So which Greek films make the grade?
- Zorba the Greek (1964) – directed by Michael Cacoyannis, starring Anthony Quinn, the film was a major commercial success and was nominated for several Academy Awards. The movie was based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis and remains a hugely popular film today.
- Stella (1955) – a retelling of the opera Carmen, starring Melina Mercouri.
- O Drakos (1956) – directed by Nikos Koundouros – a simple man realizes that he looks like a criminal named “Drakos”. The police are after him and he hides in a night club. Day by day, he identifies himself with “Drakos”.
- Antigone (1961) – starring Irene Papas, the film is an adaptation of the Ancient Greek tragedy by Sophocles.
- Electra (1962) – again starring Irene Papas (well she IS one of my favourite actresses), directed by Michael Cacoyannis, as the first installement of his “Greek tragedy” trilogy, followed by The Trojan Women and Iphigenia. Based on the play by Euripides.
- The Trojan Women (1971) – starring Katherine Hepburn and Vanessa Redgrave, based on the play by Euripides.
- Brides (2004) – set in 1922, is the story of a mail order bride, one of 700, aboard the SS King Alexander, who falls in love with an American photographer. The film was supported by Martin Scorcese who is credited as executive producer and stars Damien Lewis.
- Dogtooth (2009) – directed by Giorgos Lanthimos about a husband and wife who keep their children ignorant of the world outside their property well into adulthood – I personally found this a very weird, disturbing watch but it has won several awards for its ‘groundbreaking’ content.
- Alps (2011) – another film by Giorgos Lanthimos – a group of people start a business where they impersonate the recently deceased in order to help their clients through the grieving process.
- Xenia (2014) – 16-year-old Danny and 18-year-old Odysseus cross the entire country in search of their Greek father, after their Albanian mother passes away.
I made this list with the help of various ‘top film’ websites – which Greek film would you put on your top ten list?