New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
The October 23 Closing Ceremony of the very successful 13th Annual New York City Greek Film Festival (NYCGRFF) held in its entirety at the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF). had ticket sales 7 times greater than last year. Festival director Maria Tzompanaki said this was a crucial year for her because she learned a very important lesson, “You must never say that you know your limits. When you have as much talent as was presented at this year’s festival by our filmmakers and actors you push your limits higher; the impossible became possible… with faith, and with support.” The NYCGRFF is presented in cooperation with the HACC.
A fast-forward to the awards of the 13th Annual New York City Greek Film Festival, accompanied by short clips from the films and announced by Eirini Or!
We Are Not Together, directed by Alexander Nezam won the Audience Award with cash prize for Best International Documentary Feature. Nezam accepted the award saying that he felt privileged and honored to receive the award and credited his wife, the producer, with its accomplishment. “I’m not Greek but making this film I gained a lot of respect for Greek culture; a culture with a lot of resilience and perseverance in a very difficult moment.” The Waiter, directed by Steve Kriskris, won the Audience Award with cash prize for Best Feature Film. Chopper, directed by Yorgos Kapsanakis, won the Jury Award for Best Greek-Related International Short/Fiction or Documentary. Plain Truth (Mavri Alithia) directed by George Bisdikis, won the Audience Award for Best Short/Fiction Film or Documentary.
Incidentally, directed, edited and produced by Konstantinos Economou won the Audience Award for Best Greek Short Film. Supported by the Kofinas Fertility Group, the award was presented by Miranda Kofinas. Konstantinou thanked the festival for bringing Greek films and filmmakers to the festival and dedicated the award to the film’s cast and crew and everyone who helped make the film, his family, encouraging all filmmakers in Greece who invest money into making their films “to keep going, guys.”
The Iranian film, The Castle, directed and produced by Saba Ghasemi, won Best International Short/Fiction or Documentary Jury Award for a film with no Greek reference.
Nikos Perakis’s film, “Success Story” won Best Feature film last year at the 12th Annual NYCGRFF. The award was 5,000 dollars. Perakis put the award back into the festival to be awarded to the winner of this year’s new, Best New Director Jury Award category, which was Akra, directed, written and edited by Dimitra Babadima.
Saying that her words were not enough to thank the supporters of the festival, Tzompanaki expressed her gratitude to the Grand Benefactor, the Alexandrion Foundation, Mr. Nawaf Salameh, founder and chairman of Alexandrion Foundation, Greta Kamaterou of the Alexandrion Foundation, Markos Drakotos, Michael Theodorobeakos, and Athas Ioannou, and meticulously went on to name every supporter and individual involved in the festival, a list so long that it appears at the end of this article.
At the Closing Ceremony, Markos Drakotos, President of the Board of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce. (HACC), Drakotos expressed appreciation “not only to all the filmmakers whose work was shown, but for all the more than 250 filmmakers who sent submissions, the directors and actors who flew in from Greece, the audiences who came to see the films and those who took time to vote, and the countless other people who gave their time to the event; to the Alexandrion Foundation, the Greek Tourist Organization, the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce.
When he opened the Closing Ceremony, Markos Drakotos said that Greeks try to avoid ventures involving the number 13, citing three “unlucky” occurrences—both minor or funny— that suggested there is truth to that superstition. But the third was treacherous: On the day of his arrrival, noted filmmaker, Nikos Perakis, who travelled here with Katerina Bey for the festival’s “Tribute to Nikos Perakis”, tripped on a jagged plexiglass windowpane the strong winds blew directly into his path. He fell, dislocating his shoulder and cutting deep gashes around his right eye. He was rushed to the hospital. An asset to the festival, Perakis championed out the next few days nonetheless, his arm in a sling,
The “Tribute to Perakis” was a singular opportunity to see three of his comedies/poitical satires, “Loafing and Camouflage”, “Living Dangerously” and “Sirens of the Aegean”.
Drakotos expressed appreciation not only to the filmmakers whose work was shown but to all of the more than 250 filmmakers who sent submissions, the directors and actors who flew in from Greece, the audiences who came to see the films and those who took time to vote, and the many people who gave their time to the event, to the Alexandrion Foundation, the Greek Tourist Organization, the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce.
Hall of Fame Broadcaster, Greek American Ernie Anastos greeted the audience with a happy Γεια σαs, καλισπερα σαs!“ After a video showing the historical high points of Anastos’s long career, Maria Tzompanaki presented Anastos (who as announced by Tzompanaki, will be an Honored Guest at every annual NYCGRFF), with the Achievement in Broadcasting Award and an original artwork. Greatly appreciative of the award, and saying, “I think you know that I’m very proud to be a Greek American,
I owe everything to my Greek home and my Greek family.” Anastos spoke at length about his dedication and loyalty to his Greek heritage and to Orthodoxy, which has an active role in his life, one evidence being that every week he burns incense in all the rooms of his home. Anastos revealed that his grandfather was a priest, and with his usual humor, Anastos also related that he is known for being able to banish the Evil Eye, being upon frequently by people to rid them of the curse of the “Mati.” This was uproariously funny to the audience, further endearing him to the Greek public.
“Greek Female New Yorkers Perform Songs from Greek Composers,” a concert dedicated to women who have suffered abuse in modern society, introduced by Chrysi Sylaidi, featured knockout performances of well-known songs by Eleni Andreou, Christiana Kantilioti, Yanna Katsageorgi, Natassa Pantelidi, with Glafkos Kontemeniotis’s world-class piano inventions and accompaniment, Ileana Exaras (accompanied herself on the piano singing her own composition), and Maria Tzompanaki emerging alone from a blacked out stage to sing Ξενιτεμενο μου ποuλι, unaccompanied, added emotion to the festival. Some more songs, Στην αγκαλια μου; aυτη η νυχτα μενει, moving as only Greek songs can be, were lightened up by Eleni Andreou’s Θα τα βρεισ μαζη μο σκουρα. The presentation was directed by Paul Krisikos.
A great after-party followed, with a couple of hundred enthusiastic voices buzzing and an abundance of wine and foods in Le Skyroom, with the twinkling lights of the New York night shining through the expansive window-wall and many photographers catching the moment.
As named by Maria Tzompanaki, the many supporters of the 13th Annual NYCGRFF in addition to the ALEXANDRION FOUNDATION, the festival’s Grand Benfactor: Athas Ioannou, New York Maritime Inc.; M&N Management. Grand Supporters: Southern Star Shipping Company, Inc.; Catsimatidis Family Foundation; Atlantic Bank; Pan Gregorian Enterprises; Seward & Kissell, LLP. Supporters: Kofinas Fertility Group. Advertisers, Pepsi; Olympic Payroll; Paycargo Finance; American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece; Minosis Group; Leroy Lambert; Nick and Despina Kolokithas. Partners: Pan Macedonian Association USA; T; Fresh and Company; MBH; ONIRO Taverna & Lounge. Communications Sponsors: Cosmos FM; ΕΘΝΙΚΟΣ ΚΗΡΥΞ; ΕΛΛΑΣ FM; ΑΝΤ. Sponsored by The Greek National Tourist Association.
NYCGRFF Team assisting Maria Tzompanaki, Managing and Artistic Director, and Founder of the International NYCGRFF: Athas Ioannou, Esq. Legal Advisor; Robbie Eksiel, Program Consultant; Bean Studio – Stelios Fasoulis; Rick Eberle TopAd Advertising Agency; Despina Kolokithas Promotional Activities and Catering Assistant; Zafiris Haitidis, Backstage/Highlights Director; George Alexiou, Video editor; Frosso Tsouka, Festival Guest Support – Filmfreeway Support; Eva Fatahi, Website Content Publisher; Soula Daskalomarkaki, Video Music Composer. Q&A and Red Carpet Interviews: Eirini Mo. Q&A: Maximilian Kempf and Chrysa Sylaidi.