Υπερήφανος χορηγός επικοινωνίας “Ελληνικός Τύπος” – “Greek Press”
Ξεκίνησε στις 30 Σεπτεμβρίου 2022, το Ελληνικό Διεθνές Φεστιβάλ Κινηματογράφου “Περιήγηση στον Καναδά” – Greek International Film Festival Tour of Canada και θα λήξει στις 9 Οκτωβρίου. Μια βιτρίνα και γιορτή των κινηματογραφόφιλων Ελλήνων.
Πραγματοποιείται σε 9 πόλεις σε όλο τον Καναδά: Τορόντο, Χάμιλτον/Νιαγάρα, Οττάβα, Λονδίνο, Οντάριο, Γουίνιπεγκ, Ρετζίνα, Κάλγκαρι, Έντμοντον και Βανκούβερ. Μία εξαιρετική προσπάθεια διάδοσης των Ελληνικών Κινηματογραφικών ταινιών στον Καναδά που αξίζει σίγουρα να την υποστηρίξουμε!
Το Φεστιβάλ έκανε πρεμιέρα με την ταινία “Σμύρνη μου Αγαπημένη” όπου την παρακολούθησαν περίπου 600 άτομα στην αίθουσα του κινηματογράφου Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. Μεταξύ αυτών διακρίναμε τις παρουσίες, του Γενικού Πρόξενου της Ελλάδας στο Τορόντο κ. Αντωνάτου, των Επαρχιακών βουλευτών του Οντάριο, MPP Efi Triantaffilopoulos, MPP Aris Babikian, της προέδρου της Ε.Κ.Τ. κ. Σκουτάκη, του προέδρου του HHF κ. Λουράκη και πολλών μελών των παροικιακών συλλόγων και ομοσπονδιών.
Το καλωσόρισμα στην πρεμιέρα του Φεστιβάλ είχαν αναλάβει οι κυρίες Ντόρα Κονόμη και Ειρήνη Αναργύρου γνωστές ως παραγωγοί του ραδιοφώνου “Agape Greek Radio”, ενώ στο τέλος της ταινίας κατεύθυναν την ενδιαφέρουσα συζήτηση μεταξύ των παρευρίσκομενων καλεσμένων, της Ελληνίδας ηθοποιού Κατερίνας Γερονικολού και του σκηνοθέτη Atom Egoyan.
Three Films at GIFFT
Smyrna, My Beloved – Echoes of the Past – When Mercury Held His Breath
GIFFT stands for Greek International Film Festival Tour of Canada. It started last year in Toronto and the second instalment shows films in nine cities across Canada. It is a stunning project, the brainchild of Stan Papulkas. In Toronto and the other cities 6 feature films and 11 full-length documentaries as well as 23 shorts were shown between September 30 and October 7, 2022, in Toronto.
I will comment on a few of the films that made the greatest impression on me. Space limitations in the paper make it impossible to review all of them.
Three films deal with pivotal and catastrophic events in Greek history. Smyrna, My Beloved tells the story of the destruction of that city and the murder or expulsion of its Greek population in 1922. Echoes of the Past is a stunning view of the massacre of Kalavryta in 1943 while When Mercury Held Held His Breath- The Battle of Crete is a dramatic documentary about the brutal Nazi invasion of that island in May 1941.
SMYRNA, MY BELOVED
Grigoris Karantinakis directs a large cast in the telling of destruction of the storied city. The film starts and ends with the connected stories of refugees in Lesbos in 1922 and today. The main story is about life in a civilized city where the wealthy Baltatzis family enjoys the cultural and social pleasures in a society where Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Jews and Europeans live harmoniously.
That society starts breaking at the seams as the defeat of Turkey and Germany in World War I, the end of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Turkish nationalism create schisms. The Baltatzis family reflects the divisions within their society with the patriarch Dimitris (Leonidas Kakouris) considering Smyrna as their ancestral home while his brother Spyros (Krateros Katsoulis) is leery of the situation in Asia Minor and wants closer ties with Greece.
The family is well-connected and matriarch Filio Baltatzis (Mimi Denissi) while enjoying life in the high society of the city wants her children, the beautiful Lefkothea (Anastasia Pantousi) and her son Vassilis (Giannis Eglezos) to marry well. Lefkothea finds a good husband but the war prevents their marriage. Unacceptably, the Vassilis falls in love with the beautiful servant Zaharoula (Katerina Geronikolou).
In the background the ugly clouds are gathering. Their faithful servant Halil (Burak Hakki) has joined the revolutionary followers of Kemal Ataturk. What is worse and fatal, Greece has sent an ill-equipped and badly-led army intent on conquering a large swath of Turkey. They are trounced and Kemal’s forces attack Smyrna with the intent of killing or driving out the Greeks.
After we see the triumphal arrival of Greek forces parading behind the Archbishop of Smyrna in his Byzantine finery, we witness the reality of utter defeat and devastation. The city is on fire, the citizens are driven to the seashore and the ships of Greece’s allies in World War I refuse to take a single refugee. The Turkish army goes on a four-day orgy of killing, raping, robbing the people and destroying everything in sight. In a heart-wrenching scene, we see Lefkothea emerge from the chaos in her wedding dress covered with blood. She staggers to the shore and throws herself in the sea. She has nothing to live for.
There are scenes of decency and many more of brutality. The servant Halil saves his mistress Filio in an act of decency and bravery. George Horton (Rupert Graves), the American Consul in Smyrna pleads for action to save the victims of the holocaust, to no avail. In a telling scene, he states that he is ashamed of being a human being.
Karantinakis working with a script by Mimi Denissi sets himself the ambitious task of capturing what has become known as the Asia Minor Catastrophe through the lives people of all classes as well as well as scenes of chaos, brutality and desperation as people try to escape on ships in the harbour while their city is a blazing inferno.
Smyrna, My Beloved is an emotionally intense, beautifully filmed and simply stunning movie.
ECHOES OF THE PAST
On December 13, 1943, a Nazi division massacred all the men, locked all the women and children in the school and set it on fire, looted the houses and burned down the town of Kalavryta in Achaea, Greece. Guerrillas of the Greek resistance had killed 78 Nazi soldiers and the reprisal was ordered in retaliation and as a lesson to the local inhabitants about interfering with the occupying Wehrmacht.
Echoes of the Past is a fictionalized telling of the massacre and a movie whose emotional impact takes a hold of you from the start and keeps you enthralled to the very end. It is a film of astonishing power.
The narrative is fictionalized but the massacre is a fact of history. The background of the film is the search by a German lawyer for the facts of the massacre with a view to compensating the families of the victims.
Caroline Martin (Astrid Roos), a dedicated lawyer in modern Germany undertakes to examine the facts and the evidence of the massacre. She finds Nikolas Andreou (Max von Sydow) an old man suffering from cancer who is very reticent about the massacre. She pursues her search and tries to find an Austrian connection.
In the meantime, we meet the Andreou family, the father Alexis (Nikolas Papagiannis), the mother Maria (Danai Skiadi) and their two young sons Anestis (Tasos Karlis) and Nikolaos (Maximos Livieratos). They are trying to survive as the German commander is billeted in their house. Are the Germans suspicious and the commander there to watch them? Their fear reaches fever pitch when the father comes home injured from his involvement with the guerrillas and the killing of the Nazi soldiers.
General von Le Suire (Tomas Arana) orders a massive retaliation and all the townspeople are ordered to gather in the school. The men are separated from the women and the taken to a field atop a hill outside the village. Alexis and the older son Anestis are included with all the men of the town. Director Nicholas Dimitropoulos shoots the scene on top of the hill slowly showing the deliberate preparation of the Nazi soldiers as they prepare to execute their task. The machine guns are positioned, loaded and the order is given. In a heart-wrenching scene, all the men and children are mowed down as if they were just weeds.
The school is set on fire with orders that it be burned to the ground. We see and hear the women as they scream, cry and desperately try to get out as the smoke envelopes them and the flames are ready to engulf them. It is a horrifying scene. Then a Nazi soldier who apparently cannot endure the barbarity that he is witnessing breaks down the door with his gun and the petrified women and children escape.
A devastating scene follows as the women go to the place of the massacre to search for the bodies of their family. Maria, her face blackened by the smoke in the school keeps calling out the name of her son Anestis as she turns over bodies. We hear women wailing and mourning over their dead relatives. It is a shattering and heartbreaking scene.
Max von Sydow is a guilt-ridden old man who teeters between suicide and a heart attack. He is a survivor of the massacre and is paralyses by his inability to do anything about it. Von Sydow gives a great performance by just being silent much of the time. Maria expresses the love, fear, pain and horror in her facial expression alone as she tries to protect her children and her husband. She has the eternal expression of a victim of human tragedy. Tasos Karlis and Maximos Livieratos as the Andreou children gave superb performances displaying innocence, intelligence and grace under pressure.
Tomas Arana as General von Le Suire was quietly vicious and his orders left no doubt about the extent of his evil. But all the German were not monsters. The officers, aside from the General, showed some compassion and one soldier, an Austrian, dared to break down done the door where the women and children were about to be burned. The movie does not say anything about his fate but we are certain that he was killed.
The story is written by Dimitrios Katsantonis and he deserves credit for much of the emotional impact of movie. No documentary can bring us that close to the suffering of individuals and the horrors of the historical event. The director gets the bulk of the credit for managing a large cast superbly and producing an outstanding film.
WHEN MERCURY HELD HIS BREATH –
THE BATTLE OF CRETE
When Mercury Held His Breath – The Battle of Crete also deals with a major historical event. It has a heroic side but a tragic end as it tells the story of the Nazi invasion of Crete in May 1941. The film was directed by Victoria Vellopoulou and it contains rare footage of the airborne attack, interviews with survivors of the battle and commentary by historians with intimate knowledge of the epic event.
The invasion was named Operation Mercury after the swift god of Olympus because the Germans anticipated a quick victory after their invasion of mainland Greece. The battle lasted only 13 days, from the initial attack on May 20 to the final retreat of the Allied forces on June 1. 1941.
The Allied forces were made up of Greek, British, New Zealander and Australian forces. The commander of the Allied forces was Major-General Bernard Freyberg, a New Zealand Army officer, who had experience from World War I. He was appointed commander on April 20, 1941. One of the commentators on the documentary said that Freyberg lacked imagination and another one classified him as stupid.
Over and above the professional, trained forces, were the ordinary Cretans who rose against the invader with tenacity and bravery of unimaginable proportions. Along with the troops, they fought against the landing Nazi paratroopers and killed thousands. The New Zealanders had figured out to aim at the feet of a landing parachutist thus hitting him on his body and insuring his death.
We see parts of the Cretan landscape from Maleme in the west to Sitia on the east. The Allies had a huge advantage over the Nazis because they had decrypted the German communications system and knew of the enemy plans and movements. They did not take proper advantage of that knowledge.
We hear from old men who recall seeing the horror of the airborne attack on May 20, 1941, as thousands of parachutists started landing on the island. This was the first airborne attack because the Germans thought a naval attack would be difficult due to the presence of the Royal Navy north of Crete. The airborne attack resulted in such serious losses that it was never repeated.
Cretans from police officers to soldiers to ordinary people fought with whatever weapons they could get their hands on. The fighting was conducted by the air and and naval forces of both sides. The Allies scored some victories especially at the beginning but German superiority in numbers made it clear that the battle could not be won and Freyberg ordered retreat and evacuation from the island.
There were vicious reprisals by the Nazis in the aftermath with the murder of thousands of civilians and the burning of villages. The Battle of Crete is an epic and terrible story but this 2021 documentary brings the events clearly and eloquently before us.
For more information about the Greek International Film Festival Tour of Canada and the films shown visit www.gifft.ca