Lydia Papadimitriou is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Liverpool John Moores University. Her monograph The Greek Film Musical: A Critical and Cultural History (2006) has been translated into Greek (2009). She is the Principal Editor of the new Journal of Greek Media and Culture (Intellect) and she has co-edited (with Yannis Tzioumakis) the collection of essays Greek Cinema: Texts, Histories, Identities (2012). She has published articles and reviews in New Review of Film and Television Studies, Screen, NECSUS, Sight & Sound and Senses of Cinema and has contributed chapters in a number of edited collections. She is co-editor of the Special Issue of Interactions (3.2) on Contemporary Greek Culture (2012).
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There is something very special in attending for the first time one of the ‘Big Three’ film festivals. Together with Cannes and Venice, the Berlin International Film Festival is one of the three major gateways for non-studio produced films to gain critical attention and break into the market. Extensive and often real-time media coverage of the premieres, of the critics’ responses and of the awards contributes significantly to the make-or-break of films, but also to the festival’s own prestige status. By the time you read this report you will have heard about the winning films, you may have read a few reviews about them, and … you might have even have contributed to the box-office receipts of the widely anticipated studio-produced erotica Fifty Shades of Grey, which also had its European premiere at the Berlinale , out-of-competition, of course.
I arrived in Berlin in the evening of the second day of the festival, too late to secure tickets for any screenings, but just in time to catch some distant glimpses of a luminous Nicole Kidman on the red carpet and get a scribbly autograph from James Franco – both of whom were in town for the premiere of Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert. But as star-gazing was not my priority, I was very relieved the next morning when I found a way to actually see some films: rather than queuing outdoors in the freezing cold from 7am each morning for next-day tickets, my experienced journalist friend showed me how to queue for same-day press screenings indoors instead… Excitement notwithstanding, I soon realised that the Berlinale is a trying experience even for accredited participants like me. Hierarchies abound, privileges vary, queuing is de rigueur – and often in vain. During the five days of my stay – half the duration of the festival – I saw nine out of the nineteen competition films, as well as a few films in other strands. Two competition films stood out for me: Romanian Aferim! and Guatemalan Ixcanul/Ixcanul Volcano, while two other Latin American films, both from Chile – El Boton de Nacar/The Pearl Button and El Club/The Club – were also very powerful. Pleased to find that all these films won awards, I was nonetheless sad to have missed Jafar Panahi’s Golden Bear winner Taxi – although undoubtedly its award will help it reach my nearby art-house cinema. ... More
Financially leaner than during the previous post-crisis years, the 55th Thessaloniki International Film Festival continued to successfully serve its key aim of offering a varied, challenging and engaging programme of independent films from around the world to audiences in Greece’s second-largest city.i It also presented the most expansive programme of Greek films for years, celebrating the centenary of Greek cinema by screening a total of 36 features, of which 20 were voted online from a selection of 200 films from the past. Aside from marking the appearance of the first Greek feature-length film Golfo in 1914, the Greek programme also reflected the dynamism and international recognition of Greek cinema in the last five years. This renewed emphasis on the projection of national production foregrounds questions about the primary role of the festival: is it predominantly a space for nurturing and promoting Greek talent, or rather a Greece-based site for international discoveries? One also wonders whether the behind-the-scenes, but widely reported, tensions among the festival’s artistic director, Dimitris Eipides (whose term in office was extended by another three years in September) and the president of its board of governors, film director Yannis Smaragdis, have in any way been connected to this shift in emphasis, and whether the increased presence of Greek cinema will remain a more permanent feature of future festival editions.ii ... More
Lydia Papadimitriou met actor Maria Kallimani at the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in July 2014, where Athanasios (Thanassis) Karanikolas’s Sto Spiti/At Home was shown as part of the ‘Another View’ section, following the film’s world premiere – and Award by the Ecumenical Jury – at the Berlin Film Festival in February. Through a highly internalized and quietly expressive performance in the leading role of Nadja, Kallimani conveys very effectively the dignity of this domestic worker from Georgia, in a film that departs from stereotypical depictions of immigrants in Greece. Lydia Papadimitriou interviewed Maria Kallimani about her role in the film, her collaboration with writer/director Thanassis Karanikolas and her overall career in the cinema.
Lydia Papadimitriou : I would like to begin by asking you to introduce us to your character Nadja in At Home.
Maria Kallimani : Nadja is a domestic worker from Georgia who has lived over twenty years in Greece, and who, for the last twelve, works for a young, affluent and open-minded Greek couple and their daughter, Iris. She has an unconventional relationship with them – the wife says that she is her friend, and Nadja seems to be part of the family. However, from the opening scene we realize that Nadja has a physical weakness and she soon gets diagnosed with a disease – probably multiple sclerosis. Unfortunately, this coincides with financial difficulties for the couple because of the broader economic crisis. So they decide to sack Nadja, and the situation changes dramatically for her. ... More
(Editor’s note: The following text is the Editorial of the new Journal of Greek Media and Culture, which will appear later in September both in print and online version)
At a time of increasing global interconnectivity, the launch of a new journal with an area demarcation at its title may seem anachronistic. Why would we need a journal dedicated to Greek media and culture? Yet, it is precisely the ever-expanding and increasingly faster exchange of information and ideas enabled by new technologies of communication that intensifies the need for such a platform of scholarly debates. For Greek media and culture is not, and should not be seen as, a set of insular practices relevant only to those living within the geographical boundaries of the Greek nation state, or accessible only to those who speak the Greek language. The main aim of this interdisciplinary journal is to enable productive dialogue on and about Greek media and culture at an international scale. The gradually increasing publication in English on topics related to Greek media and culture shows that such dialogue has already begun; however, the dispersed nature of the sites of publication, and the difficulties in reaching relevant readership, intensified the need for a periodic platform that would act as a hub for such exchanges. The Journal of Greek Media and Culture aims to fill that gap. ... More