New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
The plans for The Ninth Annual New York City Greek Film Festival (NYCGFF) didn’t proceed smoothly. Seemingly insurmountable problems outside the control of the planners surfaced close to the opening date (October 2-25). According to festival director, Jimmy DeMetro, in whose estimation the films that were shown were most worthy, however, all’s well that ends well.
“This year, our ninth, will go down in our record books as the year the Greek crisis hit the festival in a most pronounced way,” said DeMetro in his overview of the festival, “Three films that had been booked to make their U.S. premieres were withdrawn weeks before the festival because they remained unfinished, stuck in the post production phase–a matter attributable to the banking crisis.”
Adding to this difficulty, a fourth film was finished but withdrawn because the producers decided to avoid the elections and open their film in Greece in December rather than in October, he said.
“They decided they did not want the film to show in New York two months before its Greek opening. All this caused us quite a bit of trouble. Nevertheless, I think we came up with worthy films. These are good films selected with our good audience in mind.”
In spite of the problems, DeMetro reports, “We had quite a successful festival, with quite a good turnout at all the locations*, Of the six shows at the Bow Tie Chelsea five were sold out–actually, we don’t sell the first couple of rows, so I consider tall six of them sold out.”
When we started this festival nine years ago, my idea of success was measured by how many people showed up, and I guess that was motivated by the fact that I was so nervous about the funding. that everything was kind of focused on that. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that measuring the success of the festival based on number of people is not the way to go.
The success of the festival really depends on the quality of the films we show. That’s how I want to look at it from now on.”
“We’ve hit a kind of plateau,” he continued, “We have the credibility we needed. People know us. People come back to us year after year. That’s very important to me, because it shows that we’re doing the right thing… the films are satisfying the viewers.”
De Metro emphasized that it would be impossible that a person would like every film shown. “That’s not what I’m going for,” he said, “So long as a viewer leaves the theatre and says, “Well, I didn’t like it too much, but I understand why they chose it… I’m not sorry I saw it,” that’s really the objective.”
DeMetro stressed that he is “so grateful” to the filmmakers. “They’re all small films this year. There’s no blockbuster. You look at these films and you realize, ‘these are damn good movies!’ Every one of them is worth seeing. There’s undeniable quality. There’s intelligent thinking. These are adults making movies for adults. And it’s so important: they deal with life issues. It’s not abstract; it’s down-to-earth cinema, and it’s absolutely thrilling.”
Anyone who has seen three or four or five of the films is bound to sense that, said DeMetro, ”These are interesting movies!”
“Pan Gregorian, the diner and restaurant cooperative, was terrific with us this year. They gave us a grant that we used to make our opening in Manhattan free for everybody.
That night there we had works by Greek Americans and we had works by Greek directors. I didn’t hear one negative comment from the hundreds of people that came up to me and said, ‘wonderful! Wonderful selection! I’ve never seen a better selection of short films,’ and that’s so encouraging, because you realize that these are the people that are going to make tomorrow’s films. I have so much admiration for them. How did they do it? They have no money. They do it because they’ve got to say what’s on their minds. I’m in awe of them.”
This year’s festival catalogue included a very interesting illustrated feature on the giant, painted posters (Starlets Collection) that covered the area over the entrances of Athens cinemas in the 1950‘s. More of this type of historical reference as well as the showing of classic Greek films would expand knowledge of Greek cinema and the times in which they were made, enriching the festival for the general public, as well.
*The NYCGFF took place at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria; Bow Tie Cinema in Manhasset, Bow Tie Chelsea Cinema and NYIT Auditorium on Broadway in Manhattan.