It is opening night of the Greek Film Festival and everyone is in stitches at comedy sequel Nisos 2.
Granted, the theatre is mainly filled with Greek Australians; people who were born here but are very familiar with the customs, culture and humour of the homeland. Actually, humour is putting it too politely. Ludicrosity of the homeland is probably a more accurate description.
If you had never seen a Greek film before and Nisos 2 was your first encounter, I’m sorry. Don’t be put off. The country really does have some talented filmmakers, I promise. Come back for the rest of the program, which is bursting with exciting vision. This farce you saw tonight, the sequel to box office smash Nisos, is downright ridiculous, overcompensating for a pitiful plot about a couple of middle-aged thieves (one a former Mayor, the other a former police chief) hunting down a lost treasure on the island of Sifnos. Complete with requisite slap and tickle (which in Greece, comes in all shapes and sizes, no matter your age, marital status or preferences), the whole thing plays out like an over-the-top Greek soapie, in feature film form.
And yet, I was laughing. Pretty hard in some sections, I’m embarrassed to admit.
I still remember the night Nifes (Brides) opened the 2005 Greek Film Festival in Brisbane.
Pantelis Voulgaris’ award-winning film, set in 1922 aboard a ship bound for New York carrying a boatful of mail order brides, starred Homeland’s Damian Lewis and was heartwarming, heartbreaking, utterly engrossing and a poignant reminder of what so many women endured when they emigrated from Greece.
When the film finished, hundreds from the audience poured out of the cinema and followed a dressed-up bride and groom and a local Greek band through the streets of New Farm, singing and dancing Pied Piper-style, until they reached their after-party destination a few blocks away. It was a magical night.
Seven years later, Greece’s situation is a little bit different.
One glance at the film festival’s program (which has a phenomenal 33-strong lineup in Sydney and Melbourne, a decent 10-strong lineup in Adelaide and a pitiful six films showing in Brisbane) will tell you that. Almost half are dark, edgy dramas; a couple are powerful historical tales, others are farcical romps.
In its entirety it’s an amazing display of films with plenty of light and shade, sadness and happiness, intelligence and…not so much intelligence.
It’s passion. It’s fire. It’s Greek cinema. You’d be crazy to miss it.