Greek Film Festival officially opens in Sydney and Melbourne

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By Mary Sinanidis and Andriana Simos.

The Greek Film Festival officially opened in Sydney and Melbourne on Thursday, October 13 to huge crowds and plenty of excitement as people watched Angelos Frantzis’ award-winning film, Eftihia.

The Greek Film Festival is presented by the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW and the Greek Festival of Sydney.

The Greek Herald was on the ground at both events and this is what happened.

Sydney:

The Greek Film Festival officially opened its doors in Sydney on Thursday night with a cocktail party and movie screening at Leichardt’s Palace Norton Street Cinema.

The event was attended by a number of dignitaries and special guests including the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Yannis Mallikourtis; the NSW Minister for Multiculturalism, Mark Coure MP; Member for Canterbury, Sophie Cotsis MP; the President of the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW (GOCNSW), Harry Danalis; and Head of Sales at Delphi Bank, Tom Christopoulos; among many others.

Following a short cocktail party, attendees moved into a theatre where a number of speeches were given by Mr Danalis, the Consul General, Mr Coure and Mr Christopoulos. A letter by the NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet was also read out.

In his speech, Mr Danalis welcomed everyone to the opening and thanked all the sponsors for their support.

The Consul General stressed the success of the Greek Film Festival and how, over the years, it has “transcended boundaries, extending its outreach beyond the confines of Greek-speaking audiences.”

Photo by Euphoria Photography.

Next to the stage was Mr Coure who expressed the NSW Government’s gratitude for GOCNSW and the work it does to put the Greek Film Festival all together.

Last to speak was Mr Christopoulos. In his speech, the Head of Sales at Delphi Bank said it was an honour to be at the launch of the festival and said it was great to be “back out again” after the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions.

At the conclusion of these official proceedings, attendees were treated to a screening of Eftihia, which was enjoyed by all.

Melbourne:

The cataclysmic downpour and limited parking options around the Astor Theatre in St Kilda could not keep the crowds away from the opening of the Greek Film Festival which runs through to 30 October. It was a great way to spend a rainy Thursday evening, enjoying live music belting out rebetika tunes, grazing on courtesy goodies from Bahari, Procal dairy foods and Hellenic Wines and Spirits, and then enjoying Angelos Frantzis’ award-winning flick, “My Name is Eftyhia”, featuring the remarkably talented Karyofillia Karabeti as emblematic Smyrni-born poet and lyricist Eftyhia Papagiannopoulou.

Author Jeana Vithoulkas said, “As a woman, it is really good to see a film that depicts the life of a Greek woman who has contributed, in a pivotal sense, to contemporary Greek culture.”

Greek Community of Melbourne Committee Member Leonidas Vlahakis, who organised the event, pointed to two films: the opening film, “My Name is Eftyhia”, and “Smyrna My Beloved”, the closing film. He said these were particularly meaningful bearing in mind the 100-year anniversary since the Asia Minor Catastrophe which resulted in the displacement and population exchange of 1.5 million refugees.

“If you don’t cry with both of these, or either of these, you can’t be my friend,” he told The Greek Herald. Judging from audience reactions, it appears that Mr Vlahakis must have a lot of friends.

Mr Vlahakis, who has been part of the committee organising the Greek film festival for the last 21 years, said the film festival first started 32 years ago but had to stop after 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We waited two years for the event, and now people are out and about,” he said. “The public response has been overwhelming. We’re looking forward to a week of films, the Antipodes Festival (22-23 October) and then another week of films.”

Greek Consul General to Melbourne Emmanuel Kakavelakis, who had been appointed to his role during the pandemic, had been looking forward to finally attending the festival he had heard so much about. He said Eftyhia, an unconventional woman, “shows the cultural wealth of all those people who had been transported to Greece”. He added that regardless of the quality of the production, it shows that “what matters is that we, as Greeks, need to wake up from our winter hibernation.”

Culture is very much appreciated in the Antipodes, judging from people’s reaction to the songs. As Ms Vithoulkas said, Eftyhia “penned lyrics to songs that marked the soundtrack of my childhood, and I imagine all of yours”.

In the upstairs lounge, yoghurt sales representative Harry Ioannou and Georgia Diamantopoulos from the Procal Dairy team had carefully laid out their products and looked forward to sharing samples as courtesy movie snacks. “It’s a home-made recipe from the horio,” Mr Ioannou said.

“Great for people to enjoy while watching the movie,” Ms Diamantopoulos added.

Mother and daughter, Ioanna and Argyro, of Spartan background, dug into their gift bags, filled with surprises, samples and snacks, from Greek businesses, while Bendigo Bank – which has acquired the Festival’s long-time sponsor Delphi Bank – was the event’s Presenting Partner.

“We come every year,” Argyro said.

“My daughter is a nurse and also helps teachers at Panagia Soumela, but she scheduled some time off to watch this film,” Ioanna said.

She would have brought her young students too, but thought it was ‘akatallilo’ (unsuitable), while Maria Bakalidou, head of the Greek Orthodox Community Schools of Melbourne, would welcome students – especially those doing VCE Greek – to attend.

Many of the schools will be represented in the 10th Greek Student Film Festival. While more 13 feature films and three documentaries will be hosted at The Astor and Palace Cinema Como in Melbourne (13-30 October), Sydney at the Palace Cinema Como (13-23 October), Adelaide at Palace Nova (3-6 November), Brisbane at the Palace Barracks (17-20 November), and a venue to be announced in Canberra.

For more information, visit www.greekfilmfestival.com.au

READ MORE: Magnetic Fields: Greece’s entry for the Oscars to screen at Sydney’s Greek Film Festival.

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