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Greek films flourish at Venice

Country has its biggest showing in decades

Greek cinema continues its burst of creativity, despite turmoil caused by the country’s financial crisis, as attested by its strong presence on the Lido.

The country has its most robust contingent in Venice in ages, including competition entry “Attenberg,” a father-daughter drama by U.S.-trained helmer Athina Rachel Tsangari; Syllas Tzoumerkas’ Critics’ Week player “Homeland,” a family psychodrama mirroring events leading up to Greece’s financial meltdown; and Fillipos Tsitos’ “Plato’s Academy,” a hit comedy playing as a special event in Venice Days.

Tsangari, who managed the rare feat of making the cut for competition with “Attenberg,” her sophomore work following sci-fi road movie “The Slow Business of Going,” was also an associate producer on pluriprized offbeat laffer “Dogtooth,” winner of Un Certain Regard’s nod in Cannes last year.

Dogtooth” is considered emblematic of Greek cinema’s newfound vigor.

“I feel that there is a new generation of filmmakers in Greece who are more reliant on an independent type of filmmaking,” she told Variety. “This is new for Greece, especially given the financial crisis, which had been brewing for a couple of years.

“The idea is to make films by any means necessary without expecting the state to fund the films; and this gives us freedom,” she said.

Also there is a collective spirit “because we help each other.”

“These days there is a (film) community in a country where filmmakers really talk to each,” she said.

Another aspect of the Greek cinema upswing is that it is spawning a diverse batch of new movies, rather than a new wave with any type of unifying aesthetic, Tsangari said.

That is clear if you compare “Attenberg,” an intimate, surreal tale of tender disconnect between a 23-year-old girl and her dying architect father amid a post-industrial wasteland (which is a Utopian architectural experiment gone wrong) with “Homeland,” which contains real and re-enacted footage of the recent riots in Greece in a much more in-your-face style.

“We wanted to make a film in which the political drama could explain the family drama and vice-versa,” said “Homeland” helmer Tzoumerkas, at his feature’s debut. “We created a family drama as intense as the political events that were going on in Greece at the time.”

What Tzoumerkas had not predicted was that the turmoil would get bigger and bigger so he constantly had to update his movie.

Still, there is one element common to both Greek pics in the running for Lido nods: family as the country’s cornerstone, albeit a changing family.

“It is very important to talk about the political and social core of Greece, which for me is family and our relation to the patriarchy; but of course the family is changing and we are depicting it in a different way,” said Tsangari.

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