Los Angeles.- By Vasilis Papoutsis
The critically acclaimed and audience darling Greek film My Name is Eftyhia (Ευτυχια) that had an amazing box office run in Greece in 2019 was finally presented in Southern California as part of the virtual edition of the 14th Los Angeles Greek Film Festival(LAGFF). The film that was inspired by the life of the most prolific Greek female lyricist Eftyhia Papagianopoulos, portrays masterfully her brilliant songwriting talent, her enormously strong determination as well as her disastrous personality flaws. The movie is comprised of flashbacks during an award dinner given in her honor. After escaping the catastrophe in Smyrna in 1922 with her mother and two young daughters, she is determined to live life to it’s fullest each and every day. Her marriage to a wealthy but much older Greek man did not last long after her return to Athens and her adventure of self discovery began. Although she did not start writing until she was older the array of songs she wrote was incredible. Every song in the movie is a well known classic, the soundtrack of our lives! She has written lyrics for every major Greek composer such as Vasilis Tsitsanis, Manolis Hiotis, Apostolos Kaldaras, Manos Hatzidakis and her songs had been performed by music giants such as Stelios Kazantzidis, Grigoris Bithikotsis, Mary Linda, Sotiria Bellou and Yiorgos Dalaras. And despite her accomplishments she was mostly unknown outside of the music industry and never received the accolades she deserved while she was still alive. Film Producer Dionyssis Samiotis in our conversation told us that “I was drawn by the music and Eftyhia’s amazing lyrics. I wanted her to finally get the recognition she deserved and for the public to witness her tremendous personality”. And it is that larger than life personality that keeps the audience captivated as they witness the various aspects of it, either as a loving wife and mother, a dedicated friend, a chain smoker and an addict gambler who can find creative inspiration at any moment. Eftyhia whose name means Happiness, experienced very little happiness in her life, as she had to overcome losses of loved ones and her own demons. The film that won eight Hellenic Academy Awards was based on the book of Papagianopoulos’ granddaughter Rea Maneli “My yiayia Eftyhia”. Even though the book was the guideline, screenwriter Katerina Bei credits Eftyhia’s grandson Alexis Polyzogopoulos with obtaining a deeper understanding of her character. “We met a few times and through his narrations he helped me bring her character to life. I was fascinated by her sense of humor and her resolute spirit that made her an unstoppable force”. The character of Eftyhia was performed brilliantly by two great actresses Katia Goulioni and Karyofyllia Karabeti. Goulioni portrays the young Eftyhia and Karabeti the elder. Katia Goulioni won LAGFF’s award for Best Performance that could had easily been shared with Karabeti as they were both wonderful. They were able to convey to the audience feelings of admiration for her talent and empathy for her misfortunes even when those were related directly to her personality’s shortcomings. When asked about the choice to have two actresses portray the same character Samiotis said that “it was a suggestion of our director Angelos Frantzis who felt that the movie will be better served if we had two actresses. He wanted to show the tremendous pain Eftyhia felt after the death of her mother and how that experience affected her emotionally and physically”. With music so instrumental to the identity of the film it made perfect sense to recruit one of the best film score composers, Minos Matsas. Matsas wrote the music for the synonymous song Eftyhia that was performed by Dalaras, Zouganeli, Triandafillidis and Kitsou and he also made the music arrangements for all the classic songs performed in the film. Producer Samiotis praised Matsas’ “incredible contribution to the film”. Samiotis had also had high praise for his director Angelo Frantzis with whom he said shared “the same artistic vision about the film, our collaboration was ideal and he delivered an amazing film”. The film was produced by Tanweer Productions that was founded by President Joseph Samaan of the Tanweer Group, for the modest amount of 1,200.000 euros. Dionyssis Samiotis who started his career as a lawyer of intellectual property and has produced over 30 feature films since 1996 said that “it is a testament to the superior talent of the Greek artists both in front and behind the camera that a film of this quality can be produced by such a modest amount”. Greece dealt for the most part successfully with the pandemic but one of the victims was Ioulia Stavridou the costume designer for Eftyhia and countless other cinema and theater productions. Film production was halted but TV productions resumed at the end of July. Samiotis said we decided that we “could proceed with production of TV shows because we were able to establish strict guidelines to protect the crew”. The next project for Samiotis and Tanweer will be the epic SMYRNA about the catastrophe in 1922 with Grigoris Karantinakis directing and starring iconic Greek actress Mimi Denissi. The film production was scheduled to start last May but with the lockdown due to the pandemic it was cancelled and it is rescheduled for April 2021.
LAGFF2020 Orpheus Winners Announced
While there is no Red Carpet Closing Night & Orpheus Awards Gala at this year’s Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, there is an abundance of interest and excitement for the films and Award Winners.
Orpheus Winners were selected by the internationally- drawn jury made up of Martichka Bozhilova, Yule Caise, Colin Campbell, Khavn De La Cruz, Matt Kaszanek, Kirsten Kawamura, Robert Koehler, Akis Konstantakopoulos, Konstantia Kontaxis, Sherman Ong, Vasilios Papaioannu, and Nassos Vakalis.
“There were many incredible films and talent this year,” explains Festival Director Aris Katopodis. “Our distinguished jury panel looked at the films very carefully. The awards were very close.” Due to popular demand, Katopodis extended the Festival by six days from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21 to allow pass holders and supporters more time to watch 55 films.
Best Feature: “Siege on Liperti Street”
Best Director: Stavros Pamballis (“Siege on Liperti Street”)
Best Performance: Katia Goulioni (“My Name is Eftihia”)
Best Short: “Index”
Best Documentary Feature: “As Far As The Sea”
Special Jury Award – Director: Rinio Dragasaki (“Cosmic Candy”)
Special Jury Award – Short: “Electric Swan”
Special Jury Award – Documentary: “Wax and Feathers”
Honorable Mention – Short: “The Distance Between Us And The Sky”
Honorable Mention – Documentary: “I, Tony”
Honorable Distinction – Animation: “Heatwave”