While Greece struggles under EU debt burden and the bursting of its living-standard bubble, its cinema has been enjoying a surge of global recognition, with its filmmakers producing a cluster of arthouse hits despite the dismal funding climate. The Panorama of European Cinema festival is also determinedly battling on despite a collapse of institutional backing, with a dedicated reduced team headed up by Ninos Mikelides working unpaid to keep the event on its feet. Founded a quarter-century ago, the festival traditionally had leftist paper Eleftherotypia is its main sponsor - a publication now on strike.
The competition section of the festival focuses on European films not yet bought for Greek distribution, and this year the 25th edition featured ten films: French-Chilean co-production Night Across the Street (La noche de enfrente) — the final film of Raoul Rouiz, Serbian film Death of a Man in the Balkans (Smrt coveka na Balkanu) by Miroslav Momcilovic, Marek Najbrt's Polski Film from the Czech Republic, Icelandic comedy-drama Either Way (A annan veg) by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigur?sson, The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears by Macedonian director Teona Strugar Mitevska, Aleksey Balabanov's latest Me Too (Ya tozhe khochu) from Russia, Night of Silence (Lal Gece) from Turkey's Reis Celik, Greek drama-documentary hybrid 10th Day (10i mera) from Vassilis Mazomenos and two French films — J'enrage de son absence from Sandrine Bonnaire, and Crawl by Herve Lasgouttes. While the programme was unduly weighted toward France, the varied selection provided a valuable snapshot of a number of tendencies in European cinema at present. Night of Silence (the FIPRESCI-winner) and Death of a Man in the Balkans, two films that while very different both cast a critical gaze on accepted social milieus in their respective countries through interactions playing out in a single confined room, were unanimously held to be the two competition highlights by our jury.
The festival opened with English director Joe Wright's Tolstoy adaptation Anna Karenina, and closed with Lee Daniels's The Paperboy. Side-bars included a section on Greek Diaspora Directors such as Elias Kazan and John Cassavetes, a section on Turkish Cinema From Yilmay Guney to Nuri Bilge Ceylan and a selection of Contemporary Cypriot Cinema. The festival also continued its commitment to socially conscious side-bars. While a past year saw a section on Depression-era films as the crisis set in, this year a Neo-Nazism in Film section (featuring films such as American History X and This Is England) stemmed from the rise of the far-right in Greece and growing popularity of the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party, and sought to raise awareness of the devastating impact of such sentiment.
Theo Angelopoulos's 1970 debut feature Reconstruction (Anaparastasi) was also screened in tribute to the great Greek director, who tragically died at the start of the year. The FIPRESCI award at this festival is from this point forward to be presented in his memory and honour. (Carmen Gray)
Panorama of European Cinema: www.panoramafest.org