x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Greek crisis spurs avant-garde film movement

Budget shortages and lack of official backing have forced young filmmakers to come up with increasingly creative ways to realise their projects.

The Thessaloniki film festival is being held at the Olympion Cinema. Konstantinos Tsakalidis / Corbis
The Thessaloniki film festival is being held at the Olympion Cinema. Konstantinos Tsakalidis / Corbis

The film industry in Greece is just as cash-strapped as the government but budget constraints and the dire recession are minting a new generation of filmmakers whose work is gaining increasing recognition.

Not only is the crisis serving as the backdrop for many movie scripts, but budget shortages and lack of official backing have also forced young filmmakers to come up with ever more creative ways to realise their projects.

"Over the last three years, Greek cinema is taking a very interesting path with very low budgets and mainly independently produced films," said Eleni Androutsopoulou, the programme coordinator for this year's Thessaloniki film festival. "There are more movies, more interesting than before. Greek directors used to be more introverted. The crisis made them find new ways to find opportunities."

Take the 36-year-old Ektoras Lygizos, who made the film Boy Eating the Bird's Food.

"On my film, people were not paid. All the crew are co-producers; they each own a percentage of the film," he said.

The film "is about the [financial] crisis", he said. "But my intention was to make an intimate story. I did not want to explain the crisis, I just wanted to show someone who is as proud as the Greeks are and won't admit his weaknesses," he said.

Constantina Voulgari, 33, had to wait three years to make her movie, ACAB All Cats Are Brilliant, which tells the story of Electra, an anarchist torn between the dream of an ideal society based on sharing and a yearning to blend into the consumer-driven world around her.

"No one was paid - not me, of course. If we eventually find some money, we'll see," she said, noting that producers had to "find camera, food, laboratories for free".

Yianna Sarri, the head of the Thessaloniki film market Agora, noted that the "crisis is good for cinema". It has forged a solidarity, she says, allowing the industry to develop together.

"People are looking for a way out. It's the good part of the crisis," she said.