×

After Latest Elections, Greek Filmmakers Look Ahead With Uncertainty

ATHENS — As weary Greek voters headed to the polls this week for the third time this year, hoping to find a way out of an ongoing political and economic quagmire, local bizzers gathered Thursday night to toast an industry that’s proven surprisingly resilient throughout the country’s protracted crisis.

While the event hosted by the Hellenic Film Academy, which screened trailers for the country’s upcoming slate of new releases, brought in a packed and spirited crowd, many in attendance echoed the dour mood of recent months.

“I think everyone is exhausted and fed up,” said producer Amanda Livanou. “I can sense a mood of helplessness.”

Throughout the gloomy years of the economic crisis back home, Greek helmers have met with global acclaim. Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Dogtooth,” which won the Prix Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2009, earned a foreign language Oscar nomination. Athina Rachel Tsangari’s “Attenberg” was nominated for a Golden Lion in Venice in 2010, the same year that Syllas Tzoumerkas’ debut, “Homeland,” premiered at the fest’s International Critics’ Week. This year Yorgos Zois’ “Interruption” had a Venice debut, while Lanthimos’ “The Lobster” was a hit at Cannes.

The critical success abroad, though, has belied the domestic challenges. “The market has shrunk a lot since five years ago,” said producer Maria Drandaki. “The last five years, more money comes from abroad … and less from the Greek box office.”

Popular on Variety

From a peak of almost 12 million tickets sold in 2010, fewer than 9 million were sold last year. And after 31 feature films were released in 2011, just 17 hit the screens in 2014.

The financial environment for local productions is bleak. A political shake-up at the state-funded Greek Film Center last year has slowed its disbursements. Pubcaster ERT — abruptly shuttered by the government in 2013 — has been slow to commission since being reinstated in June. And last month, the government abolished a tax on ticket sales that had been a significant source of coin for Greek producers.

“There hasn’t been proper funding,” said Livanou, who’s currently in production with “Park,” by first-time helmer Sofia Exarchou. “Park” was the first Greek project ever selected for the Sundance Directors Lab. Instead, she said, producers have been forced to adapt.

“We just found some private money [for “Park”] and we went ahead,” said Livanou.

Bizzers are also awaiting the relaxation of capital controls, which currently limit cash withdrawals and spending in Greece, as well as the ability to send money abroad. The limits have been a blow to the many small, indie productions which rely on cash in hand to get made.

“Low-budget is dead with capital controls,” said Livanou.

Like many Greeks looking for a ray of hope, Drandaki saw a positive sign that the government of prime minister Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza party emerged from its strong showing in Sunday’s elections with a “clear mandate” to govern.

Now bizzers are waiting for a “very clear decision from the government” to show its support of the industry, she said.

More Film

  • Martin McDonaghThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    'Three Billboards' Director Martin McDonagh Sets Up Next Film at Searchlight (EXCLUSIVE)

    Three years after the release of his Oscar best picture nominee “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” director Martin McDonagh has lined up his next project, an untitled feature film about a friendship gone sour in Ireland. McDonagh is reuniting with Disney’s Searchlight and the UK-based Film4, the companies behind “Three Billboards” and Academy Award winner [...]

  • Ennio The Maestro

    Wong Kar-wai’s Block 2 to Sell Giuseppe Tornatore’s ‘Ennio: The Maestro’

    Block 2 Distribution, the sales arm of Wong Kar-wai’s Jet Tone Films will handle international rights to “Ennio: The Maestro.” The film is an upcoming documentary about legendary film musician Ennio Morricone, written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. Morricone, who is 91, has more than 500 movie credits to this name including scores for Sergio [...]

  • José

    'José': Film Review

    It has been a year and a half since director Li Cheng’s “José” won the Venice Film Festival’s Queer Lion. It would be a shame to let the lag time diminish expectations. After a LGBTQ fest run, the Spanish-language drama — about a young gay man in Guatemala — has opened theatrically and continues to [...]

  • The Cost of Silence

    'The Cost of Silence': Film Review

    A decade has passed since 2010’s Deepwater Horizon tragedy, history’s most catastrophic oil drilling accident that occurred when a BP-operated pipe exploded, leaking millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. There was no successful intervention for months, and time hasn’t healed all wounds. On the contrary, it opened new, irreversible ones as [...]

  • Nardjes A.

    ‘Invisible Life’s’ Karim Ainouz Drops Trailer for 'Nardjes A.’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    On Feb. 14 last year, Karim Aïnouz arrived in Algeria to trace via the story of his parents the Algerian Revolution which happened 60 years ago – its 1954-62 War of Independence from France. The uprising he very quickly started to shoot, however, was one happening right then, the Revolution of Smiles, whose first street [...]

  • Call of the Wild

    Harrison Ford in 'The Call of the Wild': Film Review

    Dogs, in their rambunctious domesticated way, can lead us overly civilized humans a step or two closer to the natural world. So it’s only fitting that the best dog movies have saluted that unruly canine spirit without a lot of artificial flavoring. Hollywood’s classic dog tales, like “Old Yeller” (1957) or “Lassie Come Home” (1943), [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content