The Hellenic Film Society proudly celebrated 200 years of Greek independence with an eclectic selection of eight films inspired by Greek history, ranging from Hollywood epics to indie documentaries, and two films on the Greek Revolution of 1821. Bonus features included conversations with filmmakers and others to provide historical context and insights about the making of the films.
Written and directed by Elia Kazan
1963 / 174 min
This film is in English
Cast: Stathis Giallelis (Stavros Topouzoglou), Frank Wolff (Vartan), Harry Davis (Isaac Topouzoglou), Elena Karam (Vaso Topouzoglou), Estelle Hemsley (Grandmother Topouzoglou), Gregory Rozakis (Hohannes), Lou Antonio (Osman), Salem Ludwig (Odysseus Topouzoglou), Johanna Frank (Vartuhi)
In the late 1890s, a young man leaves his impoverished village in Turkish Anatolia for Constantinople and eventually fulfills his dream of coming to America, but not before he faces cruelties and betrayals along the way. Based loosely on the life of his uncle, this was Kazan’s favorite among his 19 feature films. Featuring an unforgettable score by Manos Hadjidakis, this Oscar-winning film is one of the most stunningly poetic and powerful immigration sagas ever filmed.
Elia Kazan gives a penetrating, thorough and profoundly affecting account of the hardships endured and surmounted at the turn of the century by a young Greek lad in attempting to fulfill his cherished dream—getting to America from the old country.” –Variety
The film was accompanied by an interview with film scholar Foster Hirsch and former HBO executive, Kary Antholis, who discussed the significance of Elia Kazan’s award-winning film.
BENEATH THE OLIVE TREE
Directed by Stavroula Toska
In Greek and English, with English subtitles
This award-winning documentary unearths the story behind secret diaries found buried on the Greek island of Trikeri. Written by female political exiles during the Greek Civil War in the late 1940s, the journals reveal inspirational stories of thousands of women imprisoned in Greek concentration camps. Director Stavroula Toska journeys from New York to Greece to examine a largely unknown part of women’s history and, in the process, discovers an earth-shattering family secret. Narrated by Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis.
Awards include Best Documentary, Santa Fe Film Festival
The film was accompanied by an interview with Beneath the Olive Tree director Stavroula Toska, who provides historical context and background on her film.
A CALL TO ARMS (BLOOD OF ZEUS: Episode 1)
Created and written by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides
This show is in English
A commoner living in ancient Greece, Heron discovers his true heritage as a son of Zeus, and his purpose: to save the world from a demonic army. In this pilot episode of the hit anime Netflix original series, Blood of Zeus, demons attack the polis near the home of the outcast Heron, who finds allies in the wise elder Elias and the fierce Amazonian warrior Alexia.
Blood of Zeus was made available courtesy of Netflix.
The film was accompanied by an interview with the series’ creators, Charley and Vlas Parlapanides who discuss the show’s origins and their plans for Season 2; how two brothers from a big Greek family in New Jersey, one an investment analyst and the other a law school graduate, broke into the movie business; and how being Greek has influenced their filmmaking over the years.
CLIFFS OF FREEDOM
Directed by Van Ling
2019/137 minutes/Rated R
This film is in English
Cast: Tania Raymonde (Anna Christina), Jan Uddin (Tariq), Raza Jaffrey (Sunal), Patti LuPone (YiaYia), Christopher Plummer (Thanasi), Billy Zane (Christo), Costas Mandylor (Constantine), Simon Kassianides (Gregory)
This is the story of an ill-fated romance between a young Greek village girl and a conflicted Turkish officer during the dawn of the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. The drama blends ageless themes of hope, love and sacrifice with a timely narrative about one woman’s struggle to overcome oppression and shape her own destiny. Cast includes Patti LuPone and the late, great Christopher Plummer.
The film was accompanied by an interview with director Van Ling, and actors Tania Raymonde (Anna Christina), Jan Uddin (Tariq), and Costas Mandylor (Constantine), conducted byTom Papademetriou, Professor of Historical Studies at Stockton University and HFS president Jimmy DeMetro.
GOD LOVES CAVIAR
Directed by Yannis Smaragdis
2012 / 101 min
This film is in English and Greek, with English subtitles
Cast: Sebastian Koch (Varvakis), Evgenly Stychkin (Ivan), Juan Diego Botto (Lefentarios), Catherine Deneuve (Catherine the Great), John Cleese (McCormick), Lakis Lazopoulos (Fisherman of God), Marisha Triantafylidou (Maria), Christopher Papakaliatis (Counselor)
The epic story of Greek patriot Ioannis Varvakis (1745-1825) is brought to vivid life by an international cast in this visually striking film. Varvakis rose from humble beginnings to become a confidante of Catherine the Great, who granted him trading rights to Russian caviar. Enterprising and tirelessly inventive, Varvakis headed one of the largest mercantile empires in Europe and became an early benefactor of the new Greek nation.
THE ROAD TO SPARTA
Directed by Roddy Gibson and Barney Spender
This film is in English
Award-winning documentary about four runners, including ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes, competing in the Spartathlon, the grueling 153-mile foot race between the Greek cities of Athens and Sparta. The course, similar to the route run by Pheidippides in 490 BC during the Persian Wars, is long and brutal under the blazing Greek sun, but grit and determination keep the runners going in this inspirational testament to the human spirit.
“Enlivening and deeply touching. Combining Greek history, music, and poetry the film extends beyond pure athleticism to culminate in a viewing experience that is both immersive and highly gratifying.”
~ Documentary Drive
The film was accompanied by an audio interview with director Barney Spender and ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes, featured in the film.
SEARCHING FOR ANDREAS: Political Leadership in Times of Crisis
Directed by Harris Mylonas and Theo Prodromidis
In Greek with English subtitles
This documentary explores the life of one of Europe’s most controversial political leaders of the 20th century. The legacy of Greek Prime Minister Andreas G. Papandreou is still felt 24 years after his death. Was he a socialist reformer or a populist manipulator? The film is not just about Papandreou’s life and legacy but rather a cautionary tale about the danger of overreliance on charismatic leaders and the challenges that democracies face in replacing them.
The film was accompanied by a discussion by filmmaker Harris Mylonas and distinguished Greek journalist Katerina Sokou about Papandreou’s legacy in the aftermath of the Greek debt crisis.
Directed by Zack Snyder
2006/117 min/Rated R
Cast: Gerard Butler (King Leonidas), Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo), Dominic West (Theron), David Wehham (Dilios), Vincent Regan (Captain), Michael Fassbender (Stelios)
In 480 BC, Persian King Xerxes sends his army of 100,000 to conquer Greece. At the Battle of Thermopylae, Leonidas, king of the Greek city state of Sparta, leads his 300 warriors against the massive Persian army. Though certain death awaits the 300 Spartans, their sacrifice inspires all of Greece to unite against their common enemy. Award-winning Hollywood spectacle with intense battle scenes and a cast of thousands.
The film was accompanied by an interview with writer-director Zack Snyder.
We look forward to bringing you Greek films that entertain, inform, and inspire.