The Greek Film Festival makes its debut

As part of the Greek Heritage Month, which runs from June 3 to June 26, the Hellenic Canadian Congress of B.C. and The Cinematheque will launch the city’s inaugural Greek Film Festival (VGFF) slated to run from June 16 to 19.

The festival was co-founded by film director Harry Killas and artist Christos Dikeakos, who are long-term friends and collaborators. It took the pair many coffee meetings and at least a few months to put the first festival together, says Dikeakos.

“We were both very busy, but we really wanted to do this. We also had to fundraise out of our own pockets,” he adds. “Of course The Cinematheque, being such a great partner, made it happen. With the festival, we can elevate our community aspirations besides the annual Greek Day.”

Rare film selections

The film festival is curated into four streams: From the Archive, Celebrating Greek Auteurs and Artists, Contemporary Greek Cinema, and Greeks in Diaspora. It will showcase a range of films from forgotten classics to a selection of recent titles, from stories by and about iconic Greek artists to films made by diaspora Greek directors.

“We really wanted to make a sophisticated film festival that speaks to cinephiles and the many different types of audiences,” says Killas, who curated the program. “It presents a myriad of stories about the human condition, offering insight into the minds of Greek filmmakers that is at once intimate and universal.”

Highly recommended by both Dikeakos and Killas, the festival will give the audience rare access to Apaches of Athens, allegedly the first Greek sound film and a classic that was considered lost for a few decades until it was rediscovered several years ago.

Photo courtesy of the Hellenic Canadian Congress of B.C. | Still from Apaches of Athens by director Dimitrios Gaziades.

“The camera goes into showing the absolute dystopian poverty in post-war Greece. Greece was a small country and when the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Different ethnic groups were coming back to their homeland, and they would go to war. It shows the conflict in Greek society and that the historical other was assimilated over a long period of time,” says Dikeakos.

Celebrating Greek Auteurs and Artists will spotlight internationally acclaimed filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari, a director associated with the Greek Weird Wave. Three works by Tsangari will be featured: Attenberg (2010), Chevalier (2015) and her short film The Capsule (2012).

The festival will also include the B.C. premiere of Digger (2022), winner of ten Hellenic Film Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The Greek experience

Foreign films offer one the opportunities to understand and experience another culture, history, sentiment and perspective. Greece, as the birthplace of western civilization, is nothing short of unique.

“Greece has a strange kind of double identity. It is attached to Europe and all those western values,” muses Dikeakos “On the other hand, it is also really attached to its Eastern roots, to the irrational. And I think those themes do come in a very interesting range in films. There are also filmmakers that deal with mythology. They are breaking out of the box in our contemporary context and making connections to mythological recurring narratives.”

Photo courtesy of Luis Miguel Villarreal| Documentarist Harry Killas.

Dikeakos, born in Greece, has been a visual artist in Vancouver since the 1960s. His photographic practice has played an important role in the development of conceptual photography in Vancouver. Recently, Dikeakos has produced a traveling exhibition for the McMaster Museum of Art, which combines drawing, collage, sculpture and photography, unpacking a 40-year work and thoughts on French-American artist Marcel Duchamp.

For Killas, the contemporary history of Greece, as in Greece in the 20th century, is also fairly difficult to comprehend.

“When World War Two ended, there was a civil war. There was then a totalitarian regime in the late 1960s to the 1970s. To some extent, there has been a series of unstable governments. Greece is a country that managed, to some degree, escape the industrial revolution and reformation, so the Greek church still has a strong presence in society,” he says.

Killas, a third-generation Greek Canadian, has written, produced and directed a number of films which have screened at major international festivals. His recent credits include Is There A Picture, a film about the first generation of the Vancouver School of photo-conceptual artists where he also worked with Dikeakos, Superkids 2, a profile of highly gifted learners filmed over a time span of 15 years and Greek to Me, an autobiographical look at family, filmmaking and Greek ethnicity, which will be screened at the festival. He is also an associate professor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

Greek to Me

Killas’ own documentary, Greek to Me, will also premiere at the festival as the closing film.

Made over a span of nearly 20 years, the autobiographic documentary takes an inside look at his own family history and dynamic and attempts to poke at the Greek diaspora identity.

“Autobiographical documentary is the kind of a not-very-well-known genre of documentary. My film started out as a comedy, and it wanted to investigate different kinds of documentary filmmaking,” says Killas. “And also what is a Greek Canadian? Through our families, we have our ideas about identity.”

In the end, Killas says humorously that it is perhaps just a shrug, that we all have to accept who we are and free ourselves from the burden of our ethnic past.

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