ISSN: 2241-6692


(Editor’s note: The following text is excerpted from the introduction of Masculinity and Gender in Greek Cinema by Achilleas Hadjikyriacou. Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing, © 2013).

Between the end of the civil war (1949) and the Colonels’ military coup (1967), Greece went through tremendous political, economic and social transformations which inevitably influenced gender identities and relations. During the same period, Greece also witnessed an unparalleled bloom in cinema productions. Based on the recently established paradigm that cinema and popular culture viewed as social institutions can inform a historical project, this book explores the relationship between Greek cinema and the society within which it was created and viewed with an emphasis on gender issues. This exploration focuses on the ways in which a specific social context informed popular cinema productions and vice versa. The investigation of the interaction between social and filmic worlds aims to provide insights into how masculinity and gender relations as social, cultural and visual products were negotiated and transformed. As far as masculinity is concerned, there is a particular focus on the analysis of the processes through which a state of a crisis may ensue. Such a crisis could be defined as a state in which the definition of masculinity becomes obscured, uncertain and problematic, causing men to feel uncertainty and anxiety about what constitutes their gender identity.

More precisely, this book explores firstly how Greek popular films of the time represented masculinity and gender relations within a context of negotiation between tradition and modernity. It also addresses how class and locality were represented in relation to gender identities. Additionally, throughout this exploration, the ways in which cultural transfers impacted cinematic images are under scrutiny. Importantly, the question of how masculinity is represented in films is paired with an investigation into how these representations relate to their historical context.
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(Σημ. Επιμ.: Το ακόλουθο κείμενο είναι η ομιλία που ο σκηνοθέτης Ηλίας Δημητρίου εκφώνησε στο πλαίσιο εκδήλωσης που πραγματοποιήθηκε τον Μάρτιο του 2013 στο Μέγαρο Μουσικής, όπου σκηνοθέτες της νεότερης γενιάς προσκλήθηκαν να μιλήσουν για μια ταινία συναδέλφου τους)

Πρώτα απ’ όλα θέλω να ευχαριστήσω τους διοργανωτές αυτής της εκδήλωσης. Όμως, η αλήθεια είναι πως με παραξένεψε πολύ αυτή η πρόσκληση. Η πρώτη μου αντίδραση ήταν πως ΔΕΝ είναι η δουλειά μου να μιλώ για τις ταινίες άλλων συναδέλφων… Φυσικά και μιλάμε για τις ταινίες! Τις κρίνουμε αυστηρά, με αιχμηρά, πολλές φορές, σχόλια, κι άλλοτε τις θαυμάζουμε, αλλά πάντα μεταξύ μας. Αυτό που κάνουμε πολύ συχνά είναι να μιλάμε για τη δική μας ταινία σε φεστιβάλ, σε συνεντεύξεις στα μέσα ενημέρωσης και άλλες εκδηλώσεις. Το να μιλήσεις όμως για την ταινία κάποιου άλλου αποδείχτηκε, για μένα τουλάχιστον, πολύ δύσκολο. Τι πρέπει να πω; Πώς να την παρουσιάσω; Ποια ταινία να διαλέξω για να μιλήσω; Και πρέπει να πω πως δυσκολεύτηκα ΠΟΛΥ να διαλέξω…

Ευτυχώς ή δυστυχώς μου έβαλαν τους όρους: να είναι μια ταινία ΜΕΤΑ τον Κυνόδοντα. Λέω δυστυχώς γιατί πολλές υπέροχες ταινίες γυρίστηκαν ΠΡΙΝ τον Κυνόδοντα. Και ίσως να είναι πολύ καλύτερες από αυτές που γυρίστηκαν μετά. Δεν ξέρω, επίσης – αν και είμαι κι εγώ ένας από τους θαυμαστές του Κυνόδοντα – αν αυτή η ταινία πρέπει να αποτελέσει τέτοιο σταθμό ώστε να μιλάμε για προ Κυνόδοντα και μετά Κυνόδοντα εποχή. Ας είναι όμως…
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Can a story be told before it has happened?

When the first “Balkan Survey” sidebar was added to the structure of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, in November 1994, it was at a difficult time. The war in nearby Bosnia was at its peak, with the siege of Sarajevo having lasted already two and a half years, with no end in sight.

Some horrible things were happening at that distant moment in the former Yugoslav lands. It must have been around that time that Esma, a Muslim woman from Sarajevo, was violated in a camp, alongside many other women, and ended up pregnant with an unwanted child, one that she would chose to bear and then learn to love. Twelve years later, in 2006, this child – Sara, a daughter – would confront Esma in the Sarajevo suburb of Grbavica, demanding to know more of her origins. And Esma would need to face reality; the lie she maintained for years in order to ensure Sara’s wellbeing had to be dropped in favour of revealing the dreadful truth of her daughter’s origin.

Rapes were still being committed in Bosnia at the time of the first “Balkan Survey”. The men who perished at Srebrenica in 1995 were still alive.
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Wag the Dog : A Study on Film and Reality is a book that explores the evolving relation between cinema and reality through the close study of Barry Levinson’s film Wag the Dog (New Line Cinema, 1997). Eleftheria Thanouli maintains a dual focus throughout this monograph; she analyzes Wag the Dog as a case study and also the cinema/reality interplay that is reflected in and reflects upon the film.

According to Thanouli, Wag the Dog allows us to reconsider the ways in which art imitates life and vice-versa. The film tells the story of an American president who stages a fake war against a distant foreign country to keep public attention away from his sexual life. Released in the theatres a few weeks before the outbreak of the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the press, the film accidentally reduced the distance between reality and fiction. The real life occurrences, namely President Clinton’s sexual affair with a White House intern and his subsequent attacks against foreign distant targets, seemed outright inspired by the movie plot, causing the film to become a popular entry in the political and cultural dictionary worldwide.
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Το 54ο Φεστιβάλ Κινηματογράφου Θεσσαλονίκης (1-10 Νοεμβρίου 2013) θα μείνει στην ιστορία ως το «Φεστιβάλ του Jim Jarmusch». Τόσο γιατί το ίδιο το όνομα και το έργο του Jarmusch είναι σημεία αναφοράς στον κόσμο του ανεξάρτητου σινεμά διεθνώς, όσο και γιατί το υπόλοιπο Φεστιβάλ, σε επίπεδο ταινιών, δημιουργών και δράσεων, κινήθηκε μάλλον σε χαμηλές ταχύτητες. Παρά την ενθουσιώδη προσέλευση των θεατών στις προβολές – πολλές από τις οποίες ήταν sold-out – και τη γενικότερη σινεφίλ διάθεση του κοινού, ιδίως του νεαρόκοσμου που γέμισε τις αίθουσες σε ποσοστό που έφτασε το 90%, το πρόγραμμα του Φεστιβάλ παρέμεινε σε αναμενόμενα επίπεδα, χωρίς ιδιαίτερες εκπλήξεις σε ταινίες, σε νέες κινηματογραφίες ή σε πρωτοεμφανιζόμενους δημιουργούς.

Jim Jarmusch και Δημήτρης Εϊπίδης

Ο Jim Jarmusch, ο «πρίγκιπας του ανεξάρτητου σινεμά», υπήρξε ο αδιαφιλονίκητος πρωταγωνιστής της Θεσσαλονίκης, την οποία επισκέφθηκε για ένα διήμερο ως επίσημος προσκεκλημένος, ενισχύοντας τη σινεφιλική ατμόσφαιρα. Στο Φεστιβάλ έκανε την πρεμιέρα της και η νέα του ταινία, Only Lovers Left Alive / Μόνο οι Εραστές Μένουν Ζωντανοί, που άνοιξε την αυλαία στο Ολύμπιον. Η παρουσία του Jarmusch στη σκηνή – έπειτα από μια επεισοδιακή παρέλαση επισήμων που ξεσήκωσαν την οργή των θεατών με τον ξύλινο λόγο τους περί κινηματογράφου – ηρέμησε τα πνεύματα και επανέφερε το Φεστιβάλ στους γνώριμους, μυσταγωγικούς ρυθμούς της σκοτεινής αίθουσας.
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The 54th Thessaloniki International Film Festival (1-10 November 2013) will undoubtedly be remembered as “the festival of Jim Jarmusch”. Not only because the very name and the films of Jarmusch are benchmarks of independent cinema worldwide, but also because the rest of the Festival developed in a quite moderate way in terms of films, filmmakers and events. Despite the crowds that were gathered outside the festival’s ticket glass cubes, the viewers’ enthusiasm during the screenings (most of which were sold out) and the overall cinephilic mood of the public, especially among young people who packed the venues in large numbers (more than 90%), the Festival programme was rather predictable, with no particular surprise regarding films, emerging national cinemas or groundbreaking film trends.

Jim Jarmusch and Dimitris Eipides

Jim Jarmusch, the legendary “prince of independent cinema”, was the undisputed protagonist of Thessaloniki, where he was invited to attend the Festival as an honored guest, a fact that enhanced the overall cinephilic atmosphere. Jim Jarmusch’s new film Only Lovers Left Alive premiered in Thessaloniki, opening the Festival at the Olympion Theatre. After an eventful parade of public officials, who annoyed viewers with their impersonal speeches about the future of cinema, Jarmusch managed to calm the spirits and to bring the Festival back to its familiar, mystical rhythms of the viewing experience.
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Αυτές τις μέρες, με τη συμπλήρωση 40 χρόνων απ’ την εξέγερση του Πολυτεχνείου, μου ‘ρθαν ξανά στο νου οι πολλαπλές περιπέτειες που έζησα με την πρώτη μου ταινία, Ανοιχτή Επιστολή. Με δανεικά από φίλους, την αμέριστη συμπαράσταση της γυναίκας μου, της ζωγράφου Τζούλιας Ανδρειάδου, (i) και τη φιλική συμμετοχή του Walter Lassally, τα γυρίσματα ξεκίνησαν στα τέλη Μαρτίου του ’67. Όλα φαίνονταν να πηγαίνουν όπως τα είχα σχεδιάσει, ώσπου ξαφνικά, το πρωί της 21ης Απριλίου λίγο πριν πάμε για το γύρισμα, ακούμε εμβατήρια απ’ το ραδιόφωνο και μαθαίνουμε πως κηρύχθηκε δικτατορία.

Νέος τότε, 31 ετών, με όνειρα που έβλεπα να χάνονται μέσα σε μια μέρα, ξανοιγμένος σε χρέη που δεν είχα να πληρώσω, με τη γυναίκα μου έγκυο στην κόρη μας, κι ένα περιβάλλον γύρω μου πνιγμένο στο φόβο, έπρεπε ν’ αποφασίσω τι θα κάνω. Τα γυρίσματα βρίσκονταν περίπου στα μισά, τα λεφτά τελείωναν, το μέλλον της ταινίας –όποτε κι αν τελείωνε– αβέβαιο, και το δίλημμα που έμπαινε πιεστικό: τα παρατάω όλα στη μέση, γκρεμίζοντας ό,τι είχε χτιστεί ως εκείνη τη στιγμή με τόση προσπάθεια κι αγωνία ή συνεχίζω όπως-όπως κι ό,τι θέλει ας γίνει; Προτίμησα το δεύτερο, κόντρα σε κάθε λογικό επιχείρημα που έλεγε ότι έπρεπε να σταματήσω.
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At a time when the civil war was raging in Yugoslavia and the Balkans were presented to the international community as a hotbed of barbarism, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations, the Thessaloniki Film Festival’s director Michel Demopoulos proceeded, in 1994, to establish a section called the “Balkan Survey”, which would be exclusively devoted to films produced in this region. This initiative aimed to showcase the creative cinematic forces of Balkan countries and to seek out bridges of communications through their common cultural roots. At the same time, however, it was an effort to offset the negative representations of the international media regarding the Balkans; to put forward a different way of seeing; and to bring to the fore the discourse and viewpoint of – mostly – native film directors. It was, therefore, a counter-proposal, which would put the Balkans back on the international map under different terms, by linking Balkan cinema to that of the rest of Europe. This move was considered extremely progressive at the time, since there was no such section anywhere on the landscape of international film festivals, and gave the Festival and Thessaloniki the chance to act as a meeting point and a place of communication within the greater region of Southeast Europe.2 Especially in regard to foreign professionals of the world of film (journalists, critics, festival programmers, producers and distributors), the TIFF offered a strong motive for them to attend it and catch up on the latest cinematic developments of the Balkans.

But the Festivals’ emphasis on Balkan cinema also sprung from the interest aroused by being neighbors with the other Balkan countries, combined with the need to overcome the substantial ignorance and, at times, prejudice of the Greek public for Balkan cinemas. With the age-long national disputes between Balkan states and the Cold War having contributed to the lack of a feeling of accord between these neighboring countries, this absence is also reflected in cinema. Each national cinema in the Balkans has developed independently of the other countries, without – up until recently – a real collaboration between them. In Greece, this cinema was, to a large degree, unknown, since most film-goers knew only the films of the most famous among Balkan directors, such as Güney, Makavejev, and Kusturica, since they were the only ones that were ever shown in the movie theaters (the same had applied in the past to commercial Turkish films). But with the emergence of talented young directors and the systematic showcasing of their work, the TIFF contributed decisively to overcoming the pre-existing isolation and the lack of contact which have characterized the cinemas of the Balkans.
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An international conference for the study of Greek Cinema was established last summer. The organisation of Contemporary Greek Film Cultures 2013, which took place at the Hellenic Centre in London on the 5th and 6th July, was a collaboration between doctoral researchers from the Universities of Glasgow and Reading, bringing together scholars of contemporary Greek Cinema from Greece, the UK, other European countries and the USA. The aim was to reflect on the recent resurgence of interest in Greek Cinema and to promote the study and theorisation of Greek film internationally. Although there were a number of trends that appeared to dominate the conference, there was a great variety of cross-disciplinary approaches and themes, covering a wide range of the filmography of the contemporary scene.

One of the most prominent trends was the scholarly attention turned to the so called ‘weird wave’ of Greek cinema [i], and specifically to Lanthimos’s Dogtooth (2009) and Tsangari’s Attenberg (2010). Each paper, however, focused on different aspects of the films − a fact that explains the willingness of the organisers to welcome numerous but diverse papers on these two films in the conference. The issues that were addressed concerned identity, language, family, politics and crisis, but also great emphasis was given to the concepts of the national and the transnational. The choice of elaborating on these topics is not coincidental, since these are recurrent themes in Greek cinema overall, and contemporary Greek cinema more specifically; themes that seem to attract great attention by audiences and researchers alike both nationally and internationally.
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