Special to the Hellenic Journal
The LAGFF is in its 12th year and still growing. In June we were treated to two gala openings – the first on June 4 at UCLA, presented in conjunction with the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture. Getting the festival off to a splendid start was 1968, a film that combined feature and documentary elements written and directed by Tassos Boulmetis. At the core of 1968 was a thrilling basketball game between AEK and Slavia Prague that took place in Greece. Boulmetis weaved together stories of family, love, and politics, all of which were affected by this hard-fought basketball game.
The movie took us back into late 60s Greece and caught the drama felt by the thousands of Greeks who attended the game, hoping for a win by AEK. A highlight was the game’s sports announcer: It seemed his voice and passion touched the feelings and thoughts of the entire Greek nation.
“It’s a terrific movie,” pronounced the filmmaker and educator, Michael Economou. “It’s funny, touching, inspiring, and thoroughly enjoyable. It celebrates how believing in an impossible dream can unite a nation. The effectively constructed and carefully detailed story deals with that historic basketball game in Athens for the 1968 European championship, intercutting it with various people listening to the broadcast. The flowing and at times hilarious dialogue provides the actors with constant opportunities to shine and they are just wonderful as they caught up in the excitement, exhilaration, and the national pride of David-beating-Goliath again. Then comes the shocking final minutes of the film with shots of the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. It was a sad, sobering reminder of the evil that exists in this world.”
Singer Annet Artani, accompanied by guitarist Dan Sistos, kicked off the Gala Opening II on June 6 at the Egyptian Theater, which featured the Cypriot film, Smuggling Hendrix.
This was a touching tale set on the divided island of Cyprus. Yiannis, a disillusioned and down-and-out Greek musician, is poised to leave his homeland for a fresh start in Holland when his beloved dog, Jimi, (named after Jimi Hendrix) runs away and crosses into the Turkish-occupied section of the island. Yiannis’ quest to find Jimi and bring him back is a perilous one, thanks to the still-smouldering conflict between the Greeks and Turks. Yannis risks everything, even a descent into the underworld to try and save his pet. Ultimately, though, Jimi manages to save himself. No survival help is needed from the imperfect, flawed human race for this clever and self-sufficient mutt. Mario Piperides was the director/ writer of this unique and engaging film.
The opening-night screening was followed in fine style by a reception catered by Good Greek Grill.
Another popular movie during the seven-day long festival was The Promise of Tomorrow 1940-1960, a universal story of the American experience as seen through the eyes of first-generation Greek-Americans. This documentary is Part Two of the award-winning series: The Greeks of Southern California – Through the Century and Beyond. Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis returns to host and narrate. The documentary highlights dramatic stories from those who served in all branches of the U.S. military and in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Included were heartwarming and entertaining stories about being raised Greek at home while struggling to be American in the outside world. Balancing this duality struck a familiar chord with people of different backgrounds who also had to cope with assimilation. The Greek-Americans became Americans, yet maintained their heritage, language, and culture, which in turn shaped their attitudes, self-worth, and drive to succeed. As the film shows, large numbers of first-generation Greek-Americans went on to secure their place in American history.
The film was skilfully directed by Anna Giannotis, who also wrote the script and co-produced with Shelly Papadopoulos, and Zoye Marino Fidler. Philip Georgious served as Director of Photography.
“We completed it in 2009,” reported Giannotis. “Currently, I am in post- production on the third segment of our trilogy, which will be called The New Greek Americans 1960- 2018.Andreas Kyprianides, Honorary Consul General of Cyprus, summed the festival up perfectly: “My warmest congratulations to the founders, leaders and volunteers of the LAGFF for this year’s very successful event. I have been a strong supporter of this community institution from the very beginning and I have attended all twelve Festivals. The LAGFF is one of the most important annual happenings in our Greek American Community, bringing together a large number of our people, especially among the youth. It keeps us in touch with our Hellenic Heritage and helps us understand better, the current cultural, social and political trends and attitudes in both Greece and Cyprus. It deserves our wholehearted support and I like to convey my best wishes for continued success.”
On Sunday, June 10, the 12th LAGFF came to an end after achieving another artistic success. Hats off to Artistic Director Aris Katopodis and his capable team!
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2018 Honorary Orpheus Award recipient George Chakiris and West Side Story co-star and presenter Rita Moreno reunite at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival.
Email the author: Mavis Manus