Event is first public activity from HFA, founded by Filmmakers in the Mist protest movement.

George Lanthimos’ Dogtooth, winner of the Certain Regard Grand Prix at last year Cannes film festival, was the big winner at the Hellenic Film Academy (HFA) awards ceremony last night, closely followed by Panos Koutras’ Strella.

Dogtooth, an impressive portrait of a dysfunctional family with an overly protective father, won 5 of the 8 awards it was nominated for including best film, director and original screenplay. Dogtooth has already behind it an impressive number of awards in festivals around the world and has been sold to various territories by the French minimajor MK2.

Strella, which has a similar track record at festivals and sales, came second with 4 awards out of the 11 it was nominated for, including best actress and art direction. Strella, a poignant portrait of a transexual’s efforts to survive in an homophobic surrounding, was the big revelation at last year’s Berlin festival Panorama section and is sold worldwide by the French outlet Films Distribution.

The awards ceremony was attended by the a who’s who of the local stars in Athens’ lavish Concert Hall. Attendees were impressed by the excellent organization and the overall presentation of these newly founded awards, which replace the discredited State Cinema Awards. 

Master veteran director Theo Angelopoulos was present to honour his young competing counterparts while the American-Greek actress Olympia Doukakis sent a videotaped message saluting the Academy and the awards. 

The awards constitute the first public activity of the HFA, which was created in December 2009 by the “Filmmakers in the Mist” protest movement.

Started almost a year ago, the movement counts nearly 200 film-makers including directors, producers, actors, and screenwriters who denounce the Culture Ministry’s lack of backing of the cinema industry. They are lobbying for the implementation of a new film law to replace the 1985 obsolete one, which would include financial and structural incentives for the local film production and distribution. To back their claims they have boycotted the film unions controlled and corruption ridden 340,000 Euros-rich  “State Cinema Awards” organized by the culture ministry, as well as the two main film festivals in Thessaloniki, the fiction one (TIFF) last November and its documentary counterpart (Images of the 21st Century) last March.

Most observers concede that part of the culture ministry’s considerable delay to present the new film law, which would have to get the finance ministry to greenlight funds, is due to the dire financial situation in Greece. At the same time, there is considerable criticism regarding the lack of initiative by the minister Pavlos Geroulanos in dealing with other cinema-related matters.

Those issues include the lack of decision in replacing or confirming the heads of a number of cinema-related organizations overseen and subsidised by the ministry (a new government was sworn in last October).

Though both the Filmmakers in the Mist and other cinema-related quarters welcome the just-introduced tax shelter allowing for a 20-40% tax refund on film production investment, they point out a serious lack in this measure: foreign productions shooting in  the country do not benefit from the refund. Forco-production with a local producer, only the Greek producer could benefit from this measure. Thus, the Hellenic Film commission is struggling to lure foreign productions to shoot in  the country or to encourage foreign producers to spend their money here.

The ceremony concluded with the HFA proposition for Dogtooth to be the Greek entry to the foreign films category at the next Academy Awards, a privilege reserved up to now to the best film awarded at the  practically extinct “State Cinema Awards”.