Dublin Greek Film Festival
The appreciation of Greek cinema outside Greece in the recent years, as well as the screening of Greek films in numerous international film festivals around the world (as for instance in Cannes Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival, among others) has resulted in an increase in the demand of Greek films abroad. Ireland is a country that is proving to be fascinated by Greek cinema: Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (JDIFF), the largest film festival in the country, has hosted a series of Greek films in the past, especially after the emergence of the Greek Weird Wave, but also, the Dublin Greek Film Festival is bringing Greek films to Ireland for the past four years.
The idea of Dublin Greek Film Festival was conceived by Kiki Konstantinidou, who lives in Dublin since 2008. Konstantinidou decided to undertake this step after considering a series of facts. She has seen the city embracing Greek films at JDIFF, and also came to the realisation that Dublin has an audience for foreign films and is open to other cultures, as it hosts a variety of annual small ethnic film festivals from countries from all around the world. Konstantinidou has also witnessed the expansion of the Greek community over the last few years (since many Greeks moved to Ireland in search for a better future). Additionally, while both Ireland and Greece were undergoing a financial crisis, which led to austerity measures and recession for both countries, commonalities between the recent experiences of the two countries started to be noticed. For instance, film critic Ronan Doyle, in an article named ‘Why Greek cinema is invading Ireland’, in which he introduces the Greek films shown on JDIFF in 2014, he wonders:
where better a place –its own nation aside– for Greek cinema to make an impact than Ireland, maybe the Eurozone’s closest cousin in terms of economic instability, and home to a population every bit as beset by banking crises and budgetary cutbacks (Doyle 2014).
Konstantinidou, experiencing both crises in both countries, started noticing that the Irish people could identify some similarities between Greece and Ireland in Greek films, especially through the recent Greek cinema, which has been affected by the financial crisis.
Taking all these into consideration, Konstantinidou decided that it was high time that a Greek Film Festival was founded in the Irish capital. Therefore, the Dublin Greek Film Festival was established in 2015. Kiki started organising the first Dublin Greek Film Festival on her own, until she joined forces with Alexandra Szymbara. The aim of the festival was set from the very beginning: to promote Greek culture through a variety of films and events, and to showcase and celebrate links between Ireland and Greece (Dublin Greek Film Festival 2018). Moreover, Konstantinidou and Szymbara aimed, from the very beginning, to show a different side of Greece; a side that is not only associated with the sun, the Greek islands and summer vacations (Konstantinidou, 2018), which is what many people have associated Greece with, especially in Ireland, whose people consider Greece a popular summer holiday destination.
The film selection for the first festival was proved to be a challenge, as the organisers had to test the water and try to guess what kind of films would attract the attention of the Irish, and not just of the Greeks living in Dublin – who, at a time, were not too many. For these reasons, the first festival hosted contemporary films that had traveled in various international film festivals before, such as To Agori Troei to Fagito tou Pouliou/Boy Eating the Bird’s Food (Ektoras Lygizos, 2012) and I Aionia Epistrofi tou Antonis Paraskeva/The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas (Elina Psykou, 2013). Moreover, in order to appeal to the link between Ireland and Greece, the festival screened Fish n’ Chips (Elias Demetriou, 2011), a British-Cypriot co-production showing the life of a Greek-Cypriot immigrant in London who works in a fish and chip shop (directly associated with Ireland and the United Kingdom) and decides to return to Cyprus.
Organising the first Dublin Greek Film Festival was not an easy task. The organisers initially struggled to find sponsors and they were pensive about how the festival would be received by the Greek but also the Irish of Dublin. In the first festival, they relied on filmmakers who agreed to attend the festival without a fee, such as Dimitris Koutsiabasakos, and they also managed to recruit volunteers for the festival. The festival still works with people on the volunteer basis and relies heavily on the willingness of these people to be part of the event and support the endeavour.
As time passes by and the festival becomes increasingly popular, it is easier for the organisers to choose films for the festival. Now, the organisers always try to bring films at the festival that would not have the chance to be screened in cinemas in Dublin, and they have a preference for films that have not been screened in Ireland. They also always look to host a variety of film forms, not just features but also documentaries and shorts. Their priority is still to show films that are recent and show links between Ireland and Greece. The festival now showcases the latest films by both internationally established directors and emerging filmmakers.
In 2018, the fourth year of the Dublin Greek Film Festival, things have changed dramatically since the festival’s birth, and the success of the festival now allows the organisers to receive funding from Dublin City Council, among other sponsors. The festival is equally supported by the Edinburgh Greek Film Festival, and by the Greek Film Centre. The festival also has a number of partners who support it and help it flourish every year.
This year the programme included films such as Polyxeni: Mia Istoria apo tin Poli/Polyxeni (Dora Masklavanou, 2017), To Teleftaio Simeioma/The Last Note (Pantelis Voulgaris, 2017), and Happy Birthday (Christos Georgiou, 2017), as well as a series of short films (which always play an important role in the festival) in collaboration with the Drama Short Film Festival. Prominent to the film festival, and in line with its aims, the two documentaries, screened in the festival this year, celebrate the connections between Ireland and Greece. Oson Zis, Fainou/While You Leave, Shine (2018), which opened the fourth film festival, is a music documentary exploring the musical history of Epirus, Northern Greece, filmed by the Irish filmmaker Paul Daune, and is a co-production between Greece, Ireland, and USA. The second documentary featuring in the festival was Yorgos Avreropoulos’s Mexri tin Teleutaia Stagona: O Mystikos Polemos tou Nerou stin Evropi/Up to The Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe (2017). The documentary was filmed both in Ireland and Greece and deals with water privatisation in these countries and the European Union in general, while drawing links between the two countries and their financial crises. No matter how different the two countries are in other aspects, their recent political turmoil has created similar experiences among them; as Doyle notes, “[h]istory may have had entirely different paths in mind for these countries, but the EU’s amalgamation of identity –not to mention currency– has set their fates on a collision course with fiscal catastrophe” (2014).
Since the very beginning, the Dublin Greek Film Festival aimed to promote Greek culture in general, and consequently, other types of art, such as music and dance, a fact that is vital to the festival’s programme, and is associated with a key characteristic of the Dublin Greek Film Festival: that the festival has multiple venues, quite different to each other, rather than just one. For instance, the first year the festival was spread out in three venues in central Dublin. These three venues –Chester Beatty, Filmbase, and The New Theatre– were different to each other spaces, with different target audience. For example, the Chester Beatty Library is mainly attended by elderly Irish people. For this reason, the documentary O Manavis/The Grocer (Dimitris Koutsiabasakos, 2013) that was screened there offered the Irish people a journey back to their own childhood, when the grocer man was travelling to their villages, and raised conversations around the importance of going back to our roots during times of financial crises. At the same time, The New Theatre hosts mainstream films, when the Filmbase only hosted independent films. Moreover, the choice of the venue depends on the event and its needs. For instance, this year the organisers decided to close the festival with a concert, so they needed a venue that can host both a screening and a concert, thus they hosted the closing ceremony at The Sugar Club.
Due to the variety of events, films, and venues, the festival’s audience is very diverse, something that the organisers are very proud of (Konstantinidou 2018). According to the organisers, many members of the expanding Greek community of Ireland (and not only of Dublin as people travel from the vicinity of the city) attend the festival every year (Konstantinidou 2018), but what highlights the success of the festival is the fact that in the past three years there have been many events that were mostly attended by Irish cinephiles, who love Greece and Greek culture. Moreover, the age of the audience varies depending on the events, as seen earlier with the screening of The Grocer. In the same manner, the concerts that the festival organises attract mainly a younger Greek crowd (Konstantinidou 2018).
When asking Konstantinidou about her most memorable moment, she answered:
I'll never forget our first festival (in 2015) when we started with no budget and I was terrified it would not go well. But when two of our screenings (The Grocer and Xenia) were sold out, I felt proud as I realised that we did well with very little and that there was great potential for this festival (Konstantinidou 2018).
The festival flourishes every year and many shows are sold out. This underlines the importance of smaller scale festivals, since festivals like the Dublin Greek Film Festival accomplish their aims to “celebrate social groups or causes [...], highlight the commercial production of different national cinemas [...], and offer films for particular audiences” (Wong 2011). Moreover, the Dublin Greek Film Festival accomplishes its own aims and celebrates Greek cinema away from Greece. According to Elsaesser “[f]estivals are the moments of self-celebration of a community. [They] require an occasion, a place and the physical presence of large numbers of people. The same is true of film festivals” (2005: 94). In the case of the Dublin Greek Film Festival, the (Irish and Greek) community of Dublin is now introduced to a venue where the contemporary Greek cinema, culture and art in general can be celebrated, shared and appreciated.
Doyle, R (2014), ‘Why Greek cinema is invading Ireland’, Indiewire [online], 19 February 2014. Available at https://www.indiewire.com/2014/02/why-greek-cinema-is-invading-ireland-29832/ . Access 12 October 2018.
Dublin Greek Film Festival (2018). Available at http://www.greekfilmfestival.ie/. Access 10 October 2018.
Elsaesser, T. (2005), European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Konstantinidou, K. (2018), interview with the author, 10 September 2018.
Wong, C. (2011), Film Festivals: Culture, People and Power on the Global Screen, London: Rutgers University Press.