Cinema of Greece

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Cinema of Greece
Thessaloniki Olympion Cinema.jpg
Olympion Cinema in Thessaloniki
Number of screens 370 (2010)[1]
 • Per capita 3.7 per 100,000 (2010)[1]
Produced feature films (2010)[2]
Fictional 16
Animated -
Documentary 2
Number of admissions (2011)[4]
Total 11,900,000
 • Per capita 0.9 (2012)[3]
Gross box office (2011)[4]
Total $130 million

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The Cinema of Greece has a long and rich history. Though hampered at times by war, political instability and a hostile Greek government, the Greek film industry dominates the domestic market, and has experienced occasional international success. Characteristics of Greek cinema include a dynamic plot, strong character development and erotic themes. Two Greek films, Missing (1982) and Eternity and a Day (1998), have won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Five Greek films have received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Though Greek cinema took root in the early 1900s, the first mature films weren't produced until the 1920s, after the end of the Greco-Turkish War.[5] Films during this period, such as Astero (1929) by Dimitris Gaziadis and Maria Pentagiotissa (1929) by Ahilleas Madras, consisted of emotional melodramas with an abundance of folkloristic elements.[6] Orestis Laskos's Daphnis and Chloe (1931), one of the first Greek films to be shown abroad, contained the first voyeuristic nude scene in a European film.[7] During the Metaxas Regime (1936–1941) and the Axis occupation, the Greek film industry struggled as it was forced to relocate overseas.

Following the Greek Civil War, Greek cinema experienced a revival. Inspired by Italian neorealism, directors such as Grigoris Grigoriou and Stelios Tatasopoulos created works during this period shot on location using non-professional actors.[6] During the 1950s and 1960s, Greek cinema experienced a golden age, starting with Michael Cacoyannis's Stella (1955), which was screened at Cannes. The 1960 film Never on Sunday was nominated for five Academy Awards, and its lead actress, Melina Mercouri, won the Best Actress Award at Cannes. Cacoyannis's Zorba the Greek (1964) won three Academy Awards.

Censorship policies of the 1967 junta and rising foreign competition led to a decline in Greek cinema.[5] After the restoration of democracy in the mid-1970s, the Greek film industry again flourished, led by director Theo Angelopoulos, whose films frequently captured international awards. The drift toward art-house cinema in the 1980s led to a decline in audiences, however.[5] In the 1990s, younger Greek filmmakers began experimenting with iconographic motifs.[5] In spite of funding issues created by the financial crisis in the late 2000s, unique Greek films such as Yorgos Lanthimos's Dogtooth (2009) and Athina Rachel Tsangari's Attenberg (2010) received international acclaim.[8]

History of the Greek cinema


In the spring of 1897, the Greeks of Athens watched the first cinematic ventures (short movies in "journal"). In 1906 Greek Cinema was born when the Manakis brothers started recording in Macedonia, and the French filmmaker "Leons" produced the first "Newscast" from the midi-Olympic games of Athens (the unofficial Olympic games of 1906).

The first cine-theater of Athens opened about a year later and other special 'projection rooms' begun their activity. In 1910-11 the first short comic movies were produced by director Spiros Dimitrakopoulos, who also starred in most of his movies. In 1911 Kostas Bachatoris presented Golfo (Γκόλφω), a well known traditional love story, considered the first Greek feature film. In 1912 was founded the first film company (Athina Film) and in 1916 the Asty Film.

During the First World War, production was limited to documentaries and newscasts only. Directors like George Prokopiou and Dimitris Gaziadis are distinguished for filming scenes from the battlefield and later, during the Greco-Turkish War, the burning of Smyrna (1922).

The first commercially successful Greek film was Villar in the Women's Baths of Faliro (Ο Βιλλάρ στα γυναικεία λουτρά του Φαλήρου), written, directed by and starring comedian Villar (Nikolaos Sfakianakis) and Nitsa Philosofou. In 1924, Michael Michael (1895–1944), a Greek comedian, presented some short film comedies.

In 1926, Gaziadis founded Dag Films and tried to produce the first speaking movies. This company presented its first movie, Love and Waves (Eros kai kymata), in 1927, and experienced moderate success in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The company mainly produced historical movies, usually adaptations of novels. In 1930, Dag produced a speaking movie, Apaches of Athens (Oi Apahides ton Athinon), which was based on a Greek operetta by Nikos Hatziapostolou. Gaziadis also filmed the 1927 Delphic Festival, an idea of Angelos Sikelianos, with the support of his wife, as part of his general effort towards the revival of the "Delphic Idea". The event consisted of Olympic contests, an exhibition of folk art, and a performance of Prometheus Bound.

The 1931 film Daphnis and Chloe (Δάφνις και Χλόη), directed by Orestis Laskos (1908–1992), contained the first voyeuristic nude scene in the history of European cinema; it was also the first Greek movie which was played abroad. In 1932 Olympia Films presented the movie The Shepherdess's Lover (Ο αγαπητικός της βοσκοπούλας), which was based on a play by Dimitris Koromilas. Also influential during this period was director Ahilleas Madras, whose work included Maria Pentagiotissa (1929) and Sorcerer of Athens (1931).[6]

During the late 1930s, a number of Greek filmmakers fled Greece due to the hostility of Metaxas Regime, which came to power following a coup in 1936. The Greek film industry reemerged in Turkey, and later in Egypt.[5] In spite of German occupation during World War II, Philopemen Finos, a film producer who was active in the Greek Resistance, founded Finos Films (1942), which would later become one of the most commercially successful Greek studios. One of Finos's earliest productions, Voice of the Heart (Η φωνή της καρδιάς) (1943, directed by Dimitris Ioannopoulos), drew large audiences, to the consternation of the Germans. Another important film during this period, Applause (Χειροκροτήματα) (1944, directed by George Tzavellas), was produced by Finos's rival, Novak Films.[9]

In 1944 Katina Paxinou was honoured with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as "Pilar" in the Sam Wood film, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

The Golden Age

The 1950s and 1960s are considered by many to be the "Golden Age" of Greek cinema.[6] Directors and actors of this era were recognized as important historical figures in Greece and some gained international acclaim: Mihalis Kakogiannis, Alekos Sakellarios, Melina Mercouri, Nikos Tsiforos, Iakovos Kambanelis, Katina Paxinou, Nikos Koundouros, Ellie Lambeti, and Irene Papas. More than sixty films per year were made, with the majority having film noir elements. Notable films were The Counterfeit Coin (Η κάλπικη λίρα, 1955 directed by George Tzavellas), Bitter Bread (Πικρό Ψωμί, 1951, directed by Grigoris Grigoriou), and The Ogre of Athens (Δράκος, 1956, directed by Nikos Koundouros).

Finos Film and director Alekos Sakellarios collaborated on several films in the late 1950s, namely The Hurdy-Gurdy (Φτώχεια και Φιλότιμο, 1955) and its sequel, Laterna, ftoheia kai garyfallo (Λατέρνα, 1958), as well as Aunt from Chicago (Η Θεία από το Σικάγο, 1957) and Maiden's Cheek (Το ξύλο βγήκε από τον Παράδεισο, 1959).

The 1955 film Stella, directed by Michael Cacoyannis and written by Iakovos Kambanelis, was screened at Cannes, and launched Greek cinema into its "golden age."[6] Melina Mercouri, who starred in the film, met American expatriate director Jules Dassin at Cannes while attending the screening, and the two would eventually marry. Dassin directed the 1960 Greek film, Never on Sunday, which starred Mercouri. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Mercouri, and won the Academy Award for Best Song for composer Manos Hatzidakis' title track.[6] The couple also collaborated on the 1967 musical stage adaptation, Illya Darling, for which Mercouri received a Tony Award nomination. She went on to star in such films as Topkapi and Phaedra, both directed by Dassin, and the 1969 American comedy, Gaily, Gaily.

Cacoyannis' 1964 film, Zorba the Greek, which starred Anthony Quinn, was a major commercial success, and was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film. The movie was based on the novel, Zorba the Greek, by author Nikos Kazantzakis. Other important films during this period include Antigone (1961) and Electra (1962), both of which starred Irene Papas, The Red Lanterns (1963) by director Vasilis Georgiadis, and Battlefield Constantinople (1970), which starred the "Greek Brigitte Bardot," Aliki Vougiouklaki.[6]

The Thessaloniki International Film Festival was first held in 1960, and would subsequently evolve into the primary showcase for emerging filmmakers from Greece and the Balkans region. The festival showcases both international and Greek films, and awards the "Golden Alexander" for the best feature film.

In 1969, the Costa-Gavras film Z was nominated for the Academy Award for both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture.

Modern period and state-funded cinema

The production of Greek films increased after the fall of the dictatorship in the mid-1970s, though the industry struggled with foreign competition and the rise of television.[6] Michael Cacoyannis' 1977 film, Iphigenia, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. During the 1970s and 1980s Theo Angelopoulos directed a series of critically acclaimed movies, among them The Travelling Players (1975), The Hunters (1977), and Voyage to Cythera (1984). His film Eternity and a Day won the Palme d'Or and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. Costa-Gavras's film Missing won the Palme d'Or at 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Director Costas Ferris's 1983 film, Rembetiko, won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.

When the left-leaning Panhellenic Socialist Movement was elected to power in 1981, actress Melina Mercouri, a member of the party, was appointed Minister for Culture. In this role, she obtained government support for the Greek film industry, and set up networks to promote Greek cinema abroad.[6] The increase in government funding led to a predominance of slow-moving, cerebral art-house films, which lacked mass appeal.[5]

Beginning in the 1990s, younger directors turned to more contemporary-paced films and social satires, which brought moderate commercial success.[10] In 1999, TV series writers Michalis Reppas and Thanasis Papathanasiou, collaborating with contemporary famous actors made the sex taboo comedy Safe Sex, which was the most successful movie of the decade.

In 1998, with Money, A Mythology of Darkness, Vassilis Mazomenos created the first European feature 3D animation film, a visual essay on the impact of money on humanity. The film has been acclaimed in both Greece and abroad, nominated for the European Fantasy Award (George Melies award) in 1999 and won the same year the jury's special award in Fantasporto.

In 2003, A Touch of Spice (Politiki kouzina), a big-budget film by director Tasos Boulmetis, was the most successful film of the year at the Greek box office, making over 12 million euros. 2004 was also a good year for Greek films, with Pantelis Voulgaris's Brides (Nyfes) gathering more than a million spectators and over 7 million at the box office. In 2007 the most successful film was El Greco, directed by Yannis Smaragdis.

In 2009, Dogtooth, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, won the Prix Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, and in 2011 was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards.[11] The 2010 film Attenberg, directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari, won the Coppa Volpi Award for Best Actress (Ariane Labed) at the Venice Film Festival.[12] In 2011 Alps won the Osella Award for Best Screenplay (Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimiοs Filippou) at the 68th Venice Film Festival.[13] Dogtooth, Attenberg and Alps are part of what some film critics, including Steve Rose of the The Guardian, have termed the "Greek Weird Wave," which involves movies with haunting cinematography, alienated protagonists and absurdist dialogue.[14] Other films mentioned as part of this "wave" include Panos H. Koutras's Strella (2009) and Yannis Economides's Knifer (2010).[15]

In 2011, just twenty feature-films were produced.[16]

In 2013, Miss Violence, directed by Alexandros Arvanas won Silver Lion for best director at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, compared the film to the previously mentioned, saying that "It (self-evidently) does not have the humour of those movies by Yorgos Lanthimos and Athina Rachel Tsangari and by that token, less of their richness and inventiveness. But its force can't be doubted."[17]

Notable films

File:Thanasis Veggos.jpg
Thanasis Veggos as "000" (secret agent "007" spoof, 1967)

Notable musicals

Filming, distribution companies and studios




Renowned figures




Directors of photography


Film score composers

See also


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  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Vrasidas Karalis, History of Greek Cinema (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2012), pp. ix-xiii.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 Ephraim Katz, "Greece," The Film Encyclopedia (New York: HarperResource, 2001), pp. 554-555.
  7. Babis Aktsoglou, "Daphnis and Chloe: Plasticity and Lyricism," CineMythology, 2003-2004. Retrieved: 15 June 2013.
  8. Steve Rose, "Attenberg, Dogtooth and the Weird Wave of Greek Cinema," The Guardian, 26 August 2011. Retrieved: 15 June 2013.
  9. Kalaris, History of Greek Cinema, p. 36.
  10. Kate Armstrong, Michael Clark, Christopher Deliso, Greek Islands (Lonely Planet, 2008), p. 49.
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  14. "Dark, Haunting and Wonderfully Weird," The Economist, 6 December 2011. Retrieved: 19 June 2013.
  15. Steve Rose, "Attenberg, Dogtooth and the Weird Wave of Greek Cinema," The Guardian, 26 August 2011. Retrieved: 19 June 2013.
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  17. Peter Bradshaw, "Miss Violence Review - Macabre Tale of Evil and Greek Anguish," The Guardian, 19 June 2014.


  • Dimitris Koliodimos, The Greek filmography, 1914 through 1996, Jefferson, N.C. [u.a.] : McFarland, 1999, 773p.
  • Journal of Modern Greek Studies 18.1, May 2000, Special Issue: Greek Film
  • Vrasidas Karalis, A History of Greek Cinema, Continuum, 2012

External links