Crisis? What Crisis? Greek Producers Stand Tall In Face Of Financial Turmoil

As the world watches Greece and wonders whether the economy will collapse, there are clear signs that Greek film producers are fighting to stand tall.

Creative juices long stimulated by the country’s crisis were flowing at the recently concluded Karlovy Vary festival in the Czech Republic — traditionally focussed on films from the Balkan triangle and countries in the former Soviet bloc.

The winner of the Works in Progress session at Karlovy Vary was Greek pic “Park”; two out of the 10 film students in the European Film Promotion’s Future Frames initiative are Greek up-and-comers Konstantina Kotzamani and Artemis Pattakou. And “A Blast,” the potent second work by Syllas Tzoumerkas that tackles Greece’s financial crisis head-on, was a fest fave featured in the Variety Critics Choice section.

“Park,” by first-time director Sofia Exarchou, follows a group of youths wilding amid the decaying 2004 Olympic Village outside Athens.

“Set in the ruins of past glory, this film takes us to the bottom of society and ignites a fire of raw energy,” the Works in Progress jury enthused.

Now “Park” producer Amanda Livanou just has to figure out how to finish the promising pic.

“We did it on a very low budget. We said: ‘Lets get the movie in the can and find completion money later. And that’s what we are trying to do right now,” she says.

“Park,” which is the first Greek project ever selected for the Sundance Directors Lab, got development coin from Sarajevo’s CineLink program, among others on the circuit. It is co-produced by Livanou’s Beben Films and Faliro House with other Greek outfits, and support from France’s CNC and European Cinema Support Fund Eurimages.

Due to complicated legal squabbles tied to political turmoil, for the past six months the state-subsidized Greek Film Center has not disbursed funding to new local productions. “Park” had qualified for this Greek soft money, which is frozen, not cut. But it was forced to look elsewhere.

“We have had to find very creative ways of getting our films made,” says Greek producer and distributor Konstantinos Kontovrakis, co-topper of production/distribution company Heretic.

Heretic is boldly going into production in Athens on July 22 on a feature film by Elina Psykou (“The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas”) titled “Son of Sofia” with a non-negligible $1 million budget. Pic has a “complicated production structure,” involving a co-prod between Greece, France (KinoElektron) and Bulgaria (the Choukov Brothers) with soft money from France and Eurimages.

To make things more difficult, they will be shooting amid “capital controls” currently limiting cash withdrawals and spending in Greece.

Interestingly, “Son of Sofia,” like “Park,” has a connection to the 2004 Athens Olympics. It’s a coming-of-age/family drama set in 2004 against a backdrop of the Olympic Games “returning to the country where they were born,” the synopsis says.

Kontovrakis underlines that “if we exited the Euro, besides currency problems it means that we would exit a European film funding system that has been in place in which we have grown as professionals.” But right now that does not seem likely.

“The past few months have been quite critical and dramatic,” he notes. “But at the same time this uncertainty makes us all the more determined, because that’s the only way to get the job done.”

Leo Barraclough and Alissa Simon contributed to this report.

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