891 Page - FINAL (5)

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891 Page - FINAL (5)

  1. 1. THE NATIONAL HERALD, NOVEMBER 8-14, 2014 COMMUNITY 5 Steppling and Morrow Stir the Audiences with Charismatic Dogmouth New York City’s Eighth Greek Film Festival Might Well Be Best One Yet Monica and Richie Barsamian, who have attended every film festival and seen every film said, “It’s like an open window on Greek culture. We’re avid sup-porters and we’re always chal-lenged by how the movies re-flect current issues, how they’re part of Greek culture today.” Voulgaris and Karystiani came from Athens for the festi-val and a once-in-a-lifetime dou-bleheader, the tenth anniversary screening of Brides and the New York premiere of Little England, Greece’s 2014 Oscar entry. The Museum of the Moving Image hosted the Brides event. Brides looks even better ten years after its inception. A ship sails from Smyrna with 700 mail order brides aboard. A seam-stress Niki falls in love with an American photographer, played by Damian Lewis, most recently seen starring in Showtime’s Homeland. It is an exquisitely beautiful film, and resonates with complex emotions, the sor-row of separation mingled with the hopes for a new life. It cer-tainly deserves U.S. distribution. This has not been achieved, de-spite the efforts of the film’s ex-ecutive producer, Hollywood powerhouse Martin Scorcese. Scott Foundas, Variety’s top film critic, interviewed the film-makers after the screening. Said Karystiani, Brides scriptwriter, “It’s very hard to get films from small countries like Greece dis-tributed abroad. It’s like a game that you don’t know how to play. We would like to see the film distributed because there is pure soul in the film. Speaking as a writer, I like books or peo-ple or paintings not because they are perfect but because there is some pure authentic sentiment there. I think Brides is a movie like that.” With seven novels and short story collec-tions to her credit, Karystiani ranks as one of Greece’s most popular writers. Now 62, she did not begin writing until age 42. “I enjoy collaborating with my husband. It’s difficult but it’s good. You have so much to dis-cuss,” she said. “Brides was a challenging production that took seven years. It’s the first film with all Greek girls – 2,500 auditioned for the roles!” At age 74, Voulgaris im-presses with his candor, warmth, and humor. Although he studied at the Stavrakos Film School in Athens, he said he “learned by doing,” working as a child on film sets, “and through the peo-ple I encountered. But my most important education came from my parents, who were incredible story-tellers. I grew up sur-rounded by stories.” If Brides takes the prize for beauty, Little England wins the laurel wreath as an emotional cinematic experience, the kind of film we so rarely see today. The film opens with huge waves washing up on the shores of the island of Andros, cuing the vio-lent and passionate drama about two sisters in love with the same man. Penelope Tsilika plays Orsa, with Sophia Kakkali her younger sister Moscha. Per-haps not since actresses like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford burned up the screen has there been this depth of cinematic love and hate in a movie. Little England sets a new standard for eroticism on film. Rather than see a couple making love, a commonplace of multiplex films, we listen in on the lovers. Totally, this film is a five-star masterpiece. Litte England was based on the novel The Jasmine Isle by Karystiani, who also wrote the script. Arriving at the Ziegfeld theater after a packed cocktail party at the Russian Tea Room and seeing the crowd waiting for tickets, Karystiani said, “Pan-delis and I will give our seats away. We have already seen the film.” Fortunately, they stayed to hear the audience sing “Happy Birthday” to Voulgaris, and to enjoy the enormously en-thusiastic response to the film. Voulgaris commented, “It is as if we were watching the movie for the very first time. I have never seen it so beautifully pro-jected and with such a fine sound quality.” Karystiani has written a new script titled One Thousand Breaths. “It is based on the cur-rent situation in Greece. Voul-garis is trying to raise money for it. It’s not an expensive produc-tion, like Brides or Little Eng-land, but the situation is really very difficult.” A brief look at some other outstanding festival entries: The Enemy Within – A pow-erful, important film from direc-tor Yorgos Tsemberopoulos in-spired by life on Athens’ mean streets. After thugs invade the home of idealistic Kostas and rape his daughter, he sets out for revenge. The old “if you can’t lick them join them” applies here. Common Denominator – Tyro film-maker Sotiris Tsafou-lias broke all the rules of film-making to produce this gem. The only action in the film is a tavli game. Three guys meet in a kafeneion and rap about women, the conversation veer-ing between the philosophical and the physical. Renos Har-alambides plays one of the men. Of course a beautiful young woman comes into the story. Xenia –A four-star winner from director Panos Koutros, who a few years ago gave us Strella. Following the death of their Albanian mother, two (L-R) Translator Sophia Efthimatou, Variety film critic Scott Foundas, screenwriter and author Ioanna Karystiani, and legendary film director Pantelis Voulgaris join in the conversation after the 10th anniversary screening of Brides at the Museum for the Moving Image. brothers, one gay and one straight, hit the road to seek out their Greek father. Koutros in-terviewed a thousand plus ac-tors to find Kostas Nikouli who plays Danny, a heart-winner and heart-breaker. The Winter – Any film that features actor Vangelis Mourikis has to be special, and this film is no exception. It is wonderful, a first film from Konstantinos Koutsoliotis, written with his wife Elizabeth E. Schuch. A failed writer leaves London to return to Siatista and finish his novel. Theo Albanis portrays Nikos, with Mourikis as his dead father. “I die in all my films,” says Mourikis. “I like it.” September – The story of a waitress whose entire life con-sists of looking after her dog. When he dies, she intrudes on the lives of doctor and his sym-pathetic wife, who befriends her. Intriguing and Ingmar Bergmanesque. Committed – Put two beautiful people on the road in a white convertible and send them on a trip through scenic Cyprus. How can you lose? George, a sweet, dimpled hunk picks up a bride who claims to have had wedding jit-ters. A twist at the end elevates this charming romance. Lost in the Bewilderness – Thirty years in the making, this documentary from Alexandra Anthony traces the life of Lucas, who was kidnapped by his mother at age five and taken to America. Eleven years later, he returns to Greece to meet his fa-ther. A fascinating doc with a happy ending, Lucas’s wedding at age 38. The Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce, includ-ing executive director Stamatis Ghikas staged the Festival, with important support from the Onassis Foundation, the Agnes Varis Charitable Trust, Dr. Alexander Kofinas and Eleni Ko-finas and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. By Constantine S. Sirigos NEW YORK – The audience did not know what to expect from Dogmouth, the movie adapted from the play written by John Steppling. Many of them had al-ready acquired a taste for “The Greek weird wave” of films that have made their way not only to the annual New York City Greek Film Festival, which pre-sented Dogmouth, but to the at-tention of film lovers world-wide. They were prepared for weirdness and violence, and to be disturbed by the experience, but how much? Some may have wondered “who can I take to this film?” James DeMetro, the founder and director of the festival, in-troduced Stephan Morrow, the Greek-American director, prior to the screening at the Cinema Village Theater. “Dogmouth is controversial,” Morrow said. “Steppling is an equal opportunity offender… but I find his writing to be some of the best around. This is a film that is rare these days, one to be listened to as much as any-thing else.” The Festival program called Dogmouth, the character was played by Morrow, “a bitter Viet-nam vet and rail-riding rene-gade living his last days.” But there is some charisma to Dogmouth, which spawns disturbing thoughts about that human quality. He has a follow-ing and has managed to charm a pretty young woman, Nyah, played with excruciating ingen-uousness by Alexandra Milne. She not only joined his not-so- merry-band-of-men, which Morrow calls “a mysterious mafia of racist, violent, Vietnam Vets living on freight trains… a repugnant set of people” - she was carrying his baby. They are not a harmless bank of misfits. Dogmouth is de-pressed because his profession of training dogs for violent fights has been outlawed, and it slowly becomes clear that a murder being discussed was ac-tual, not hypothetical. The metaphors come fast and furi-ously. “This film stands apart be-cause of its powerful dialogue - the authentic language of crim-inals but it’s also intertwined with ruminations on birth, death, dreams, even survival of the fittest,” Morrow writes. A forest is the setting for the burnt out men – and one woman – in Dogmouth’s life. They are camping out by long-abandoned railroad tracks, seeming sometimes to be wait-ing for a train that never comes – like Godot. Among Steppling's many siz-zling sentences is one simple devastating line: “I am not a good man” Perhaps the question that dis-turbs is not how much humanity there is in a bad man – the film makes it clear there is always some as even Dogmouth feels the pain of children and little birds – but how much humanity there is in the rest of us who meet them. The script has no hints – and there shouldn’t be – about what Dogmouth was like before he went to Vietnam. Just as Morrow’s gripping portrayal of a damaged human being tempts the thought that it is not evil which lurked in the forest, Steppling and Morrow-as- director pull the rug out from under liberals in the audience with the edgy scenes of Dog-mouth fuming or seething in si-lence as Nyah, clutching her swelling womb, tries to preserve the peace and her sanity. Should we be worried about her and the baby in an environ-ment when murder is being dis-cussed so openly and blithely? Disturbing/illuminating thoughts are triggered through-out the movie. Aren’t presidents, monarchs and their generals calm, even jovial as they plan the next bat-tle with its guaranteed deaths for hundreds or thousands? Hannah Arendt’s haunting phrase “the banality of evil” comes to mind as we watch Dogmouth’s friend Weeks (William Tate) express how ea-ger he is to do what he believes is a just deed. How easily can we be recruited into a murder-ous cause by charismatic people we sympathize with? Perhaps we learn something else about our leaders from Morrow, who allowed some of the mannerisms of stage acting to show in his performance, showing that there is little left of whatever Dogmouth was. He too is just playing a role, all per-sona as Carl Jung might say. Dostoyevsky would say a dead soul.What becomes of a man who cannot reflect on his emotions and actions? When Nyah tries to get him to talk about the im-pending birth of his child, let alone the apparent murder plot he was orchestrating, Dogmouth barks: “Shut up!” Morrow quoted Steppling: “Art is not your friend.” But is should not be ignored. The 20th century taught humanity that art is not about pretty things. Beauty is truth. Ugly is truth too. “I think an artist’s obligation is to move to the truth,” Morrow told the audience, “whatever it is, under the darkest slimiest rock if that’s where it exists… it’s not easy, but it is really im-portant for our souls,” Because it throws mirrors in front of us. Dogmouth shows illumina-tion can come from darkness, and makes a powerful case for self-reflection as the essence of our humanity. Greek-American in Love Triangle Commits Murder-Suicide POCKET-LESS PITA BREAD Kontos Foods Manufacturers of Authentic Ethnic Hand Stretched Flat bread. Kontos the first family in fillo dough and fillo products. 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