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Hellenic Film Academy honours go to Unfair World, City of Children, Christmas Tango

Awards handed out amidst post-electoral uncertainties; Unfair World to be official Greek Oscar submission.

A mere twenty four 24 hours after Sunday’s inconclusive general elections in Greece, the celebration Monday night of the film awards gala by the Hellenic Film Academy (HFA) was a kind of statement of determination from the young generation of local film makers. That in spite of the crisis they will continue making new films, being awarded at international festivals, which are produced out of collective voluntary efforts, without backing from such state institutions as the funds depleted Greek Film Centre.

Philippos Tsitos’ Unfair World was the big winner followed by George Gikapepas’ City of Children and Nikos Koutelidakis’ Christmas Tango.

Unfair World received four awards: best film, best director and best actor for Antonis Kafetzopoulos while Christos Stergioglou was named best supporting actor.

Tsitos and Kafetzopoulos were already named best director and actor at last September’s San Sebastian Film Festival for Unfair World, which launched the bittersweet social satire. Its story is about a police officer who, dismayed by the social injustice, decides to attribute justice according to his own humanitarian criteria.

The film was produced by Alexandra Bousiou’s Wrong Men shingle with backing from Berlin-based Neue Road Movies and a contribution from the Greek Film Centre. Tsitos shares his time between Athens and Berlin where he earns a living as director for successful TV series (Kriminalist, Stolberg).

This is the director’s third film. His previous one, Plato’s Academy, made a splash at Locarno in 2009 where Tsitos favourite actor Antonis Kafetzopoulos received the best actor nod for his part in the film.  

As a result of its best film award Unfair World — which is sold internationally by Films Boutique — is set to be the official Greek entry in the foreign language category at next year’s Academy Awards.

Coming next with three awards was Gikapepas’ directorial debut City of Children, a social drama taking place in the degrading context of the Greek capital affected by the ongoing national  financial crisis.

Gikapepas received the best screenplay nod, Kika Georgiou was named best actress and brothers Giorgos and Argyris Alahouzos received the special effects award.

The film is handled in and out of the country by the local Seven Films outlet.

Another three awards were bagged by Christmas Tango directed by veteran film maker Nikos Koutelidakis who makes here his debut in feature fiction. This love drama unfolding in a military camp between an officer and the wife of the camp’s commander, received the trophy for best original music score by Giannis Aiolou and the awards for art direction and costumes by Giorgos Georgiou.

The film was produced and  handled in and out of the country by Village Greece.

Elias Dimitriou was voted best debut director for Fish an’ Chips, a social comedy about a Cypriot who decides to close down his fish and chips stall in the UK and transfers his business to his native Cyprus.

In a strange twist of shorts director George Lanthimos and writer Efthimis Filippou’s screenplay for Lanthimos’ Alps failed to win the favour of the HFA voters in this category in spite of the fact that their joint effort emerged with the best screenplay award at the 2011 Venice film festival.

Another disheartening surprise, which also raises some questions about the HFA voting and nominating procedures, was the almost total absence of George Siouga’s directorial debut Burning Heads (To Gala) from the awards. The film, a strong social drama about the life of a family of immigrant workers, adapted from a successful theater play, superbly lensed by DOP Giannis Drakoularakos, walked away with just one award, that of best make up for Katherina Varalitou, though it was nominated in no less than 11 categories.

In spite of the relative glamour proper to a celebration of this kind, the reigning feeling among those present was that of anxiety about the future of the country in general and the film business in particular.

The Greek films may win accolades at the international festival circuit but they are suffering admissions wise in the local market where exhibition is greatly affected by the overall cuts in spending. Institutional backing is also falling, with not only the Greek Film coffers empty but on top of that the culture ministry of the socialist government that resigned earlier this year failed to put in practice the film law that the ministry itself had passed in parliament two years ago. The law which calls for activating different sources of financement remaining dormant such as the obligation of TV channels to pump 1,5% of their gros income into film production, was never implemented.

Many among the young directors/producers wonder if in spite of their enthusiasm they will be capable to cope with the crisis.

Lanthimos, whose Dogtooth received the Cannes Un Certain Regard award and was nominated at the Academy Awards in 2011, has already moved to London in search of  financement for his next film.

It was probably the best actor winner, the hugely popular Kafetzopoulos who summed up the feelings of the people and of  the  film community while picking up his award: “The state representatives that we trusted these last year proved indifferent and incapable.”

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