A Celebration of Greek Cinema at the San Francisco Film Festival

A Celebration of  Greek Cinema at the San Francisco Film Festival

Featuring nine documentaries, eight narrative features, and two dozen shorts, the 21st edition of the San Francisco Greek Film Festival,  runs from March 16-23 at Delancey Street Screening Room—with an online program available throughout that span in addition to in-person screenings. The festivities kick off with Asmina Proedrou’s Behind the Haystacks, a complex tale of debt, smuggling, immigration and intergenerational conflict. The prize-winning drama was Greece’s submission to the Oscars’ Best International Feature competition this year. Also arriving laden with laurels is another drama involving refugees, Corinna Avraamidou and Kyriacos Tofarides’ Iman.

Behind the Haystacks 

Other prominent titles in the program run a storytelling gamut from the historical to the very current. In the former camp is Murderess aka Fonissa, the latest version of a famous 1903 novella by Alexandros Papadiamantis. Its titular protagonist is Hadoula (Karyofillia Karabeti), a midwife and healer in a bleak coastal hilltop village. She’s had a lifetime to absorb how grim the lot of women is here—and begins taking that plight into her own hands. Not by attacking the wife beaters and other agents of patriarchy, but by providing uninvited euthanasia to babies, girls, and any other females she thinks she’s sparing from misery. It’s a harsh tale whose arresting aesthetic in director Eva Nathena’s hands owes much to the grey-to-black palette of the rocky landscape, in which it seems impossible anything might grow—least of all human kindness. Another literary period piece is Kostas Haralabous’ amour fou saga Capetan Michalis, whose source novelist Nikos Kazantzakis also spawned famous films Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ.

The Summer With Carmen

The characters in those costume dramas might faint dead away at the ultra-modern protagonists in Periklis Chousoglou’s The Summer With Carmen. It’s a simultaneously randy and soft-hearted comedy in which two gay men (Yorgos Tsiantoulas, Andreas Labropoulos) lounging on the beach recall the momentous (well, to them) events of a couple summers prior. This very meta exercise, in which these personnel are writing a script as we watch it unfold, provides a good time while ambling bemusedly nowhere in particular. The scenery is outstanding: Meaning you get a whole lot of hirsute ’n’ hunky lead Tsiantoulas in the buff, the exhibitionism so shameless it becomes a kind of running joke. Of related interest is AKOE/AMFI: The Story of a Revolution, which chronicles the heyday of the Greek Homosexual Liberation Movement—that nation’s pioneering gay rights organization. It’s one of several documentaries available for streaming only in the festival’s online component. 


Bridging past and present, then setting fire to the bridge, is Konstantinos Koutsoliotas’ Minore. It starts out as a romantic mysterioso ensemble piece, with a bouzouki-playing young foreign sailor arriving in a seaside town, searching for the father he never knew. A horny gay painter (whose favorite local subject is perpetually shirtless), gangsters, frequent earthquakes, traditional music/dance interludes, phonetically spoken English dialogue, and a seemingly supernatural fog tug the loose plot this way and that. Then suddenly we’re in a campy mashup of The Mist and Shaun of the Dead, as tentacled flying giganti from a retro drive-in sci-fi movie turn this into an absurdist creature feature. A WTF mixture of comedy, fantasy, gore and whatnot, Minore may not quite have the finesse to ace its gambits, but you have to admire the sheer chutzpah of the attempt.

Those are just a few of the titles in the 2024 SF Greek Film Fest; for full program, schedule, ticket and other info, go here.

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