Los Angeles Greek Film Festival to honor Alexander Payne
Academy Award winning writer/director Alexander Payne will be the 2017 Orpheus Award honoree at the 11th Annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival. The Award will be presented as part of the Orpheus Awards ceremony following the closing night film on Sunday, June 11 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The festival, which runs June 7-11, marks its 11th year as one of the premiere cultural film festivals in Los Angeles.
“Alexander Payne was selected by the committee to receive this year’s honor because of his worldwide contributions to movies and his dedication to the preservation of its history,” stated Festival Director Aris Katopodis. “We are delighted to be among those who recognize his brilliance as a filmmaker and his dedication not only to the craft but the people that work with him. His ability to entertain and intrigue audiences worldwide is surpassed by none.”
Payne, the grandson of Greek immigrants and a native of Omaha, Nebraska, received his MFA in filmmaking at the University of California, Los Angeles. Soon after graduating, he made his first feature film, “Citizen Ruth” (1996). Payne then examined high school politics in his comedy “Election” starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon (1999). Three years later came “About Schmidt,” starring Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates, earning Oscar nominations for both performances. Critically acclaimed films continued to follow, including “Sideways” (2004), for which Payne won his first Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay; “The Descendants” (2011), and “Nebraska” (2013). His latest production, the science fiction story “Downsizing,” starring Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau, is one of 2017’s most anticipated films.
Katopodis is proud of the program his team has put together. “We will show 13 feature films, 27 shorts films and 8 documentaries – a total of 48 films in 5 days. In addition, our IPDF (International Project Discovery Forum) film lab for Works In Progress is continuing in its 5th year, developing projects, helping filmmakers realize their dreams, and giving a hand in the finalization of new projects. We are already seeing the benefits of IPDF as films and directors that have been in IPDF in earlier years are completing their films, winning awards in major festivals. “Son of Sofia” was in our IPDF lab, three years ago, and it is now the first Greek film to win the prestigious Best Feature Award at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. LAGFF is part of that film, as we were there to nurture it while still in script form.”
HJ: Do you have a theme for this year’s festival?
AK: There are two ideas that push the 11th LAGFF forward. One is the “Building Bridges” theme. Bridges between filmmakers and their audience, between the city of Los Angeles and the country of Greece, between American independent film scene and the fiercely independent productions of Greek films, between Greeks and Americans, between filmmakers and the entertainment industry, between filmmakers themselves.
HJ: Do you see any particular trend or trends in the Greek movies being made this year?
AK: The issues of the continuing economic crisis, the refugee crisis, and the loss of innocence are thematic ideas that are explored by many of the films of this year. Stylistically, there are varied ways the filmmakers have chosen to express their stories and ideas. From the uniquely Greek hyper-stylized films like “Lines” to the heartwarming narrative of films like “The Boy on the Bridge,” to the uniquely personal style of “The Son of Sofia” and “Limbo,” and everything in between. It makes for an amazing bouquet of films to watch in the span of five days.
HJ: Are most of the directors Greeks who live in Greece or are they Greeks living in the “diaspora”? Any living in the U.S?
AK: We are happy to report that the filmmakers creating these films are a cross section of modern Greeks.. Yes, most of the directors are Greeks who live in Greece, but many of their films are co-productions with European companies, so even the Greeks in Greece are an “internationalized” group of people who spend significant time abroad, filming or doing post production. Some of our directors live and/or work in the UK, Cyprus, Germany, Sweden, France, Albania or Colombia. A significant number are from the U.S. of course.
HJ: Any general comment you want to make about film in these times?
AK: An interesting, rather recent, phenomenon seems to be that Greek films are managing to receive wider distribution than ever before, even in the difficult-to- penetrate U.S market. Papakaliatis’ “Worlds Apart” has screened in a number of cities across at least 4-5 states, as has “Suntan” by Papadimitropoulos and “Chevalier” by Athina Tsangari. Plans for other films to be distributed in the US are under way. These are not in the blockbuster category, of course, but they seem to be sizable, compared with say the last 10-20 years or so.
From Cannes, to Berlinale, to Tribeca, to AFI, to Venice, to Prague, to Locarno, to Busan, to Dubai, to SXSW, to Sarajevo, to Thessaloniki, to Taipei, to Toronto, one will find Greek films garnering top prizes and recognition. This is neither a small feat nor a trivial one. We hope that Greek film continues its bold voyage in international waters, winning not only top prizes but also the hearts and minds of its audience. We here at the LAGFF are doing all we can to keep things moving forward..
For tickets and more information, visit lagff.org.
Email the author: Mavis Manus