Greek Film Festival in Melbourne opens with award-winning film

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By Mary Sinanidis.

Perspectives. There were plenty to be had at the opening of Thursday night’s Greek Film Festival at the Astor Theatre, St Kilda, Melbourne, with the premiere of Asimina Proedrou’s Behind the Haystacks. There was the before and after as audiences unsuspectingly traipsed into the cinema sipping on Greek aperitifs, mingling, enjoying the swag in their goody bags before finding themselves immersed in a powerful, moving exploration of the human cost of the refugee crisis. They left perplexed.

Proedrou had told The Guardian that she created the award-winning film to “show the human side of the refugee crisis and to challenge people’s perceptions of refugees.”

greek film festival melbourne 2023
Opening of Thursday night’s Greek Film Festival at the Astor Theatre, St Kilda, Melbourne.
greek film festival melbourne 2023
The festival opened with Asimina Proedrou’s film ‘Behind the Haystacks.
greek film festival melbourne 2023
Skinos.

Leonidas Vlahakis, Chair of the Greek Community of Melbourne’s Cultural Programs Committee, told The Greek Herald it was one of his favourite festival films to date.

“The festival delves deep into contemporary Greek society, exploring the undertones and overtures of the complex culture that is the Greek world in a 21st century setting,” he said, warning audiences that the tragic incident set at Greece’s Northern Border was not “light-hearted storytelling.”

greek film festival melbourne 2023
Leonidas Vlahakis, Chair of the Greek Community of Melbourne’s Cultural Programs Committee.

More haunting than a fairytale, the Oscar-nominated film was so much more in its nuanced exploration of xenophobia, hypocrisy and humanity through a compelling family tragedy.

Emmanuel Kakavelakis, Greece’s Consul General in Melbourne, said, “Everybody has an image of Greece but as times change, my country changes as well, mostly for the better.”

greek film festival melbourne 2023
Emmanuel Kakavelakis, Greece’s Consul General in Melbourne.
greek film festival melbourne 2023
Attendees really enjoyed the opening night.

And indeed, the film is set in the same year as the SYRIZA Radical Left Coalition’s entry to Parliament, a failed referendum, a second election and the imposition of capital controls while a refugee crisis took its toll. The film does not directly address these issues, but are suggested through the mood and undertones of the unfolding family crisis.

Through Thursday night’s premiere, the film showcased both Greece’s ruin and resilience, both the country’s culture and collapse.

We gave each other hugs, had a banter, and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Greek Community of Melbourne President Bill Papastergiadis, Melbourne University’s Hellenic Senior Lecturer of Greek Diaspora Antonis Piperoglou, HACCI Board Chair Fotini Kypraios, author John Martino, former health minister Jenny Mikakos MP, former mayor of Whittlesea Kris Pavlidis, and so many more influential Greek Australians.

greek film festival melbourne 2023
NUGAS members.
greek film festival melbourne 2023
Everyone was all smiles at the event.
greek film festival melbourne 2023
Nick Dallas being interviewed.

Over the next few days, the variety of films and events are expected to also attract cinema lovers at large, beyond the Greek prism.

Bendigo Bank National Community Engagement Manager Paul Orphanos was met with cheers as he addressed the audience to explain why the bank has been a long-time sponsor of the event.

“It’s great to see it attracts an ever-growing multicultural audience,” he said. “The festival, by the spectral power of cinema, promotes culture and reminds us of the past through some of the historic films to be screened over the next few days.”

As Mr Kakavelakis said, “I often say we are very privileged in this city to live in such a multicultural environment, but what good is living in a multicultural environment if you don’t showcase it, if you don’t share your culture.”

The Greek Film Festival is presented in Victoria by the Greek Community of Melbourne. It will be shown at Palace Cinema Como, Palace Balwyn Cinema and the Astor Theatre and runs from 19 to 29 October. For more festival details and the full program check: Melbourne Films | Greek Film Festival 2023.

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