With the pandemic still very much in our lives, film festivals, like the rest of us, have had to adapt to survive. Some have chosen to shutter their doors for the time being but many others have gone the virtual route, offering their films to audiences in their home cities or regions. Even quite a few little festivals have gone global, allowing audiences to watch their films no matter where they are in the world. While I would much rather be watching movies in a cinema and exchanging opinions with my fellow cinephiles over a quick cappuccino than sitting alone on my sofa, we’ve got to make do with what we have.
With that in mind, let me tell you about the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival. I’ve never attended it before and, to be honest, I had never even heard of it until a few weeks ago when an email from them landed in my inbox. From January 27 – February 6, they are running a virtual event in honour of Greece’s presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Known as “Heritage and Memory: A Focus On Jewish Greece Through Cinema”, the event features twelve films (features and documentaries) and four Zoom lectures – and everything is free. Unfortunately, the lectures have already taken place but there’s still a few days left to watch the films. If you register for a film now, you will still have a few days to watch it and up to a week to finish it.
Greek Jews, you ask? Kosher souvlaki? Yes! The Jewish community in Greece is over 2000 years old and numbered over 100,000, or 1.5% of the population in 1943, with the majority living in Thessaloniki (Salonika). Smaller pockets also existed in Athens, Corfu, Crete and Rhodes, although Rhodes was part of Italy back then. The community was nearly wiped out by the Nazis during WWII when an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 Greek Jews were murdered in a few short years. Today, the Jewish population of Greece is estimated to be just 6,000, or about 0.05 percent of the population. However, the diaspora of Greek Jews has spread out all over the world – even to Hong Kong, where I live.
Not every film is available internationally and you won’t know until you try to click on it, but most are. I’ve already seen a powerful short, entitled ELEFTHEROMANIA. The Canadian film from 2018 stars Oscar® winner Olympia Dukakis (MOONSTRUCK) and tells the true story of group of Greek-Jewish prisoners in Birkenau concentration camp who are faced with a moral dilemma. I’ll admit that the film is a touch stagey but the message clearly hits home in the film’s closing scene. It’s definitely worth checking out as are the rest of the films in the programme.
For more information about the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival’s “Heritage and Memory: A Focus On Jewish Greece Through Cinema”, visit heritage.eventive.org/welcome. If you do catch one of the films, let me know in the comments below!
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, February 5th, 8:30 am HK time!
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