The Hellenic Centre in London turned into an international meeting point for fans of Greek culture from 30th October to 1st November.
The influence of Greek culture on the world is undeniable. Having impacted so many different fields of society from architecture and sciences to sports and politics, there is hardly any part of Western culture without Greek traces. In the humanities, the Greeks initiated the detailed study of humans including history and philosophy instead of simply registering human events. There would be no Olympic Games and certainly no drama without the Greeks, for their civilization brought theatre forms like drama, comedy and tragedy into being. What is more, they provided us with practical words like psychology, biology, philosophy or anthropology to talk about arts and science. We should therefore not be surprised that it was the Greek community that took up the cause of building bridges between their country and the rest of Europe as they hosted the second Greek Film Festival in London earlier this month.
Thanks to the detailed and warm-hearted organisation of the team around the film director Christos Prossylis, participating in the festival was like diving into the Greek culture with all the senses. Greek wine and the trendy drink “Mastika” were given out to greet the visitors, and later a band performed popular Greek songs like “Ta paidia tou peiraia” (“The Kids of Piraeus”) and “Nychtose choris feggari” (It is Dark without a Moon”). Greek food including filled vine leafs, Tzaziki, garlic bread and meat balls completed the picture.
“The country of myth, light, sea, sand, warm and friendly people” - that is how Sofia Panagiotaki, director of the National Tourism Organisation, enthusiastically presented the country in her speech. She invited film producers to shoot documentaries in Greece, describing it as a “fertile breeding ground for tales” and as “the nicest place in the world for documentaries”.
Her speech was underlined by Bettany Hughes, a British historian and journalist who explained how she fell in love with Greek culture and started to make documentaries about historical themes like the Spartans. To the pleasant surprise of the producers, these historical films became a huge global success. However, for Bethany Hughes one of the greatest achievements was when a Muslim activist wrote her an email saying that he had been inspired by one of her films to build bridges between cultures rather than to destroy them with violence.
The range of films presented at the festival was extremely varied – it included feature fiction films, short films, documentaries, animation and video art. For the first time this year, the festival also invited international artists with an interest in Greece to participate showing the country from different angles, through their own eyes.
The film festival organisers wanted to present Greek people as open-minded, enthusiastic and creative – and that is definitely the impression we had after the festival.
By Julia Sahm