The 7th Annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival - LAGFF (June 6-9, Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills) announced its 2013 Program, including the selected feature for the ever-popular Opening Night gala, which will be Spiros Stathoulopoulos' drama, METEORA, which debuted at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. Kimon Tsakiris' (SUGARTOWN) documentary, MITSIGAN – HARDSHIPS AND BEAUTIES, will close the festival on Sunday, June 9th, following the presentation of this year’s Orpheus Awards. In addition, festival representatives elaborated on their previously announced tribute to writer/director Elia Kazan, noting the screening of Kazan's AMERICA AMERICA, introduced by HBO's President of Miniseries & Cinemax Programming and LAGFF Advisory Board member, Kary Antholis, on Friday, June 7.
Greece has long been known for cinematic masters such as Theodoros Angelopoulos and Michael Cacoyannis. In the last three years, thanks to directors such as Yorgos Lanthimos, Greek cinema has become increasingly important in the world scene, gaining critical acclaim in prestigious festivals such as CANNES, VENICE, TORONTO and KARLOVY VARY. LAGFF gives the opportunity to U.S. audiences and the U.S. film industry to view and participate in its many depths.
LAGFF Director of Programming Aristotle Katopodis said, “This year we have over 30 features, documentary and short films representing the Greek diaspora in over 11 countries - more than ever before. The theme that permeated the 2013 submissions is the toll taken by economic turmoil, whether the films are from Greece or from Greeks around the globe,” further noting that, “These filmmakers have responded powerfully with a redefinition of values and principles. They are raising their voices and shedding light on pressing issues, with anger, pathos and even humor. Our selections capture the most vibrant of these, while showcasing some innovative filmmaking and a slew of new, young, and daring artists not to be missed.”
Opening the festival's red carpet gala on Thursday, June 6, is Spiros Stathoulopoulos’ (PVC-1) US premiere of the period drama, METEORA, starring Theo Alexander (TRUE BLOOD). Set in a 12th century monastery in Greece, METEORA is the story of an illicit love affair between a Greek Orthodox monk and a Russian Orthodox nun. METEORA was an official selection of the Berlin Film Festival.
The Opening Night gala will also kick off the four-day celebration of all things Greek, including a dinner reception of Hellenic-California cuisine sponsored by Petros Restaurant, as well as a wine tasting by Athenee Importers, featuring Domaine Porto Carras wines from Sidonia Halkidiki, Gentilini Wines from Kefalonia and Thimiopoulos vineyards from Naousa – all regions in Greece renowned for their award-winning wines.
Kimon Tsakiris, whose documentaries SUGARTOWN: THE BRIDEGROOMS and SUGARTOWN: THE DAY AFTER won over audiences at the 2007 and 2011 editions of LAGFF, returns this year with his new film, MITSIGAN - HARDSHIPS & BEAUTIES, about Mitsos "Mitsigan" Tsiganos, a modern-day Greek cowboy and the owner of "Hardships & Beauties", a vegetable and fruit farm in southwestern Greece. The story follows Mitsigan on a journey throughout that region's farming area, as he meets with old and new friends and comes to the realization that his country will never be the same again.
Prior to the Closing Night screening, the festival will present its Orpheus Awards for Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best Short and Audience Choice, as well as Jury distinctions. The winner of LAGFF's inaugural Project Discovery Forum will also be presented with the Aegean Award at that time. The screening will be followed by an exclusive reception for filmmakers, Gold Pass members & VIP guests, hosted by the Consul General of Greece, Los Angeles, Elisabeth Fotiadou.
As part of the tribute to Elia Kazan, the festival will present the filmmaker's 1963 Oscar-winning drama, AMERICA AMERICA, on Friday evening as its Centerpiece presentation. AMERICA AMERICA is loosely based on Kazan’s Greek uncle’s struggle to emigrate from Anatolia to America in 1893. The film will be introduced by HBO's President of Miniseries & Cinemax Programming and LAGFF board member, Kary Antholis. The LAGFF Tribute to Elia Kazan is sponsored by CINEMAX®, a premium television service offered by Home Box Office, Inc. Cinemax features high-impact original series specifically created for the channel like Strike Back® and BansheeSM, as well as the widest variety of film entertainment, combining select and broad-appeal films that showcase Hollywood’s hottest hits, the best in new cinema, action-packed thrillers, wild comedies, classic screen gems and more.
"We are very excited to screen this epic masterpiece on the 50th anniversary of its first release for a generation that has not had the pleasure of experiencing it in the cinema," states Ersi Danou, LAGFF's Creative Director and Co-Founder. "It has been a dream of ours to celebrate Kazan’s work, and this seems to be the right moment. And we are grateful to Kary Antholis for shedding light on Kazan’s roots and connecting his creative genius with our own history and the history of our ancestors as immigrants," added Danou.
"When I read Elia Kazan's memoir a quarter of a century ago, I related deeply to his perspective on the world... to his immigrant’s soul, as he might put it. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kazan's most personal work, AMERICA AMERICA, it is a privilege to curate Kazan's own insights into the experiences of a Greek immigrant to the United States and to offer context to the way these insights shaped his masterpiece," states Kary Antholis.
Adding to the already impressive line-up is Ektoras Lygizos' critically acclaimed and award-winning drama, BOY EATING THE BIRD'S FOOD, which garnered this year's Hellenic Film Academy Award for Best Film and also recently won the prestigious European Crossing Award in the European Competition. Moreover, it will likely be Greece’s 2014 Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. BOY, which marks Lygizos’ feature directorial debut, is a modern-day adaptation of Knut Hamsun's classic 1890 novel, Hunger, which follows a young outcast desperately trying to survive on the streets of Athens.
LAGFF 2013 will also feature the US premiere of Panagiotis Evangelidis' poignant documentary, THEY GLOW IN THE DARK, shot in post-Katrina New Orleans, about Michael and Jim, two middle-aged gay friends and ex-lovers, penniless and with HIV, who reunite after twenty years. THEY GLOW IN THE DARK won the 2013 FIPRESCI Prize at this year’s Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
Stella Theodoraki's thought-provoking documentary, AMNESIA DIARIES, was filmed almost entirely by Theodoraki herself over a 4-year period in 1985, 1986, 2010 and 2012, and reflects on the rapidly changing world. Theodoraki’s past meets her present-day experiences, attitudes and thoughts when, in an environment of social unrest and despair in modern-day Athens, she begins recording her "diary" after the loss of her best friend, trying to make sense of what was, is and will be. DIARIES were awarded the Loukia Rikaki Award and Best Documentary at this year's Hellenic Film Academy Awards.
Another award-winning film, Thanos Anastopoulos’ thriller, THE DAUGHTER, will make its US premiere bow at the festival. THE DAUGHTER, one of the major winners at the Hellenic Academy Awards this year, tells the story of fourteen-year-old Myrto who, upon learning that her father has fled to avoid paying his debts kidnaps the son of his business partner whom she blames for bankrupting her father's joiner's workshop.
LAGFF's Executive Producer, Alex Kalognomos, adds, "The past few years have produced a very exciting generation of filmmakers who, in artistic terms, are being heard worldwide by utilizing the power of film to generate understanding about Greece's current state - and the state of the Greek individual. It is with this in mind that our team - supported by a community of patrons, sponsors, and volunteers - works so vigorously to produce the festival year after year. It's our way of using film to fight for change."
The festival’s previously announced PROJECT DISCOVERY FORUM will be presented on Sunday morning, June 9, at the Real D Theater in Beverly Hills. The Forum is a new event, sponsored by Pabst Brewing Company and the Metropoulos Family, designed to encourage and help filmmakers of Greek or other Balkan descent with their new projects. A professional panel will critique and judge 5-8 finalist projects during a 20-minute, in-person presentation by the filmmakers themselves. The winning project will receive the $1,000 Aegean Award – sponsored by the Metropoulos Family.
LAGFF's Executive Director, Craig Prater concludes, "Last year LAGFF experienced a 20 percent increase in attendance, selling out many of the screenings. We are already exceeding our 2012 GOLD PASS sales and anticipate reaching our allotment in sales for the popular all-access pass prior to the start of the festival. We are overwhelmed at the enthusiastic response to this year’s award-winning films we are receiving from cinema fans outside of the LA basin. We cannot wait to welcome our festival fans and newcomers on June 6. "
BOX OFFICE for LAGFF is now open at www.itsmyseat.com/lagff for Gold Pass Membership purchases. Gold Pass membership includes attendance at the Opening Night screening and reception, as well as an exclusive invitation to the Closing Night Orpheus Awards Gala, plus all-access and priority seating to all screenings and events.
General screening admissions are $13 online / $16 at the door and will go on sale May 16.
Centerpiece Film AMERICA AMERICA and Elia Kazan Tribute is currently on sale $20 online / $25 at the door.