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‘Amerika Square’ and ‘Son of Sofia’ Bookend Los Angeles Greek Film Festival

Director Alexander Payne to receive Orpheus Award at event’s 11th edition, which runs June 7-11 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood

The Los Angeles Greek Film Festival will open with the West Coast premiere of “Amerika Square” (pictured above), Yannis Sakaridis’ tragic story set in modern Greece as the country copes with dual crises of financial collapse and overwhelming immigration.

The fest takes place June 7-11 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. It will showcase 13 features, 22 shorts, and 15 documentaries from the U.S., France, the U.K., Germany, Cyprus and Greece. This year’s program includes a record 40 premieres: 19 U.S., 10 West Coast, seven Los Angeles – and four world premieres.

“We carefully selected a program that embodies the 2017 festival theme, Building Bridges,” says LAGFF head Aris Katopodis. “Each title represents creating a bridge – whether it is between relationships, races or countries, and the problems and triumphs encountered in reaching the goal.”

Amerika Square,” which won the Fipresci award at the 2016 Thessaloniki Film Festival, centers on an ensemble of characters: Nakos, a racist bent on harming the thousands of refugees in his Athens neighborhood, the film’s titular Amerika Square; Tarek, a Syrian ex-military doctor looking to smuggle himself and his daughter out of Greece; and Billy, a tattoo artist at the film’s center who falls in love with Tereza, an African singer also looking to escape. As time runs out, the three stories merge.

The festival close on Sunday evening will feature the West Coast premiere of Elina Psykou’s drama “Son of Sofia,” which took the best picture prize in the international narrative feature category at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.

Psykou’s film is a dark fairy tale featuring 11-year-old Misha, a young Russian boy who, brought to live in Athens by his mother, is surprised to learn she has remarried. Misha’s imagination soon takes over to protect him from his new life.

The fest will also screen Nikos Koundouros’ “The Ogre Of Athens,” voted number-one film of all time by the Hellenic Film Critics’ Association. It marks a departure role for comic actor Dinos Iliopoulos, who plays a timid man embroiled in a life-and-death situation. The screening is LAGFF’s homage to the director and his works following his passing in February at age 90.

Other film include: Petros Charalambous’ “Boy On The Bridge,” a drama based on a novel by Eve Makis; Michele Poulos’ documentary “A Late Style Of Fire: Larry Levis, American Poet”; Babis Tsokas’ documentary “Our Own Maria Callas”; and the L.A. premiere of writer-director Clio Fanouraki’s first feature, “Xamou.”

In addition, fest-goers will be able to see “Swing Away,” starring John O’Hurley and Shannon Elizabeth, and Sofia Exarchou’s new feature “Park,” set in Athens’ Olympic Village ten years after the Games, where wilding youths, injured retired athletes and stray dogs roam among the ruins and decaying sports venues.

Shorts at LAGFF include Daphne Matziaraki’s Academy Award-nominated “4.1 Miles,” Giannis Ziogkase’s “Ethnophbia,” the west coast premiere of Phedon Papamichael’s dramatic short “A Beautiful Day,”co- written by Angeliki Giannakopoulos and Casey Cannon who also produce, starring James Brolin and Francis Fisher, which will screen with the U.S. premiere of Sotiris Tsafoulias’ feature crime thriller “The Other Me.”

Documentary screenings include the premiere of “Frozen Ambrosia,” from sports filmmaker Constantine Papanicolaou, about his skiing adventure on Greece’s Mount Olympus; and the premiere of George Lagdaris’ “With the Hoes and the Terrarium Forks.”

At the festival close the Orpheus Awards will honor the best of LAGFF’s feature, short and documentary films as voted by the 2017 Jury, with one film receiving the Orpheus Audience Award honor.

The festival selects one filmmaker or actor for exceptional contributions to the entertainment industry. This year, the honoree is Oscar-winning writer/producer/director Alexander Payne (“The Descendants,” “Nebraska”), who will receive the Orpheus for his contributions to worldwide entertainment and the preservation of film itself.

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