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Are You a FilmHellene?

In Chicago, a new alliance has taken shape, with plans to revive Chicago’s Greek Film Fest and promote Greek films throughout the year. Niko Franghias spoke to us about this exciting new endeavor.

What’s a FilmHellene?

A FilmHellene is someone who supports Greek cinema, and FilmHellenes is an alliance of individuals striving to bring current Greek films and promote the works of Greek filmmakers from all around the world.


Where did the name come from?

Our name came from the connection to the Philhellenes of the past, notable people from all over the world – lovers of Greek culture. Philhellenism, their movement, through powerful representations of visual art and travel literature, formed an intellectual ‘fashion’ prominent at the turn of the 19th century, which contributed to the establishment of the Greek nation-state.


How did this start?

It’s been several years since we’ve had a Greek film festival here in Chicago. About 2-1/2 years ago, I was approached by Vickie Kamberos, an avid cinephile herself, who found out I was a filmmaker, and approached me to help revive the festival. I have ties to my fellow filmmakers in Greece, so I said OK, let’s explore it.


Why promote Greek films?

In Europe, the film landscape has begun to change. Greek films are getting recognition abroad at international festivals. We didn’t want to lose that momentum. People must know that contemporary Greek films are very different. The old school of ‘artistic’ films that communicate to a very limited audience is over. Now it’s a dynamic period for Greek films, thanks to rising Greek talent and films like STRELLA (Berlin International Film Festival), PLATO’S ACADEMY (Locarno Festival), ATTENBERG (Venice, Sundance among others), WASTED YOUTH (opened Rotterdam), HOMELAND (Venice), and DOGTOOTH (Cannes), which was also nominated for a Academy Award.


Who’s part of this alliance?

Besides myself, Kostas Daskalopoulos, Vice Consul; Alex Papadopoulos, Associate Professor of Geography at DePaul University; Kyriakos Mellos of Daily Frappe; Dino Vlahakis, owner of the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge, Ill.; Franghias’ associate Terry Jacobs of EmberFrames; producer Valerie Gobos; Dr. Zizi Papacharissi, Professor and Head of the Communications Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Toula Georgakopoulos of the National Hellenic Museum; and Dimitri Kostopoulos of the US Bank and a Greek language teacher at the Hellenic American Academy.


What are your plans?

In the first year, our non-profit organization (pending) will concentrate on the “Greek Film Fest Chicago!” working toward a fall festival. With this, we strive to showcase Greek films in the Chicago area by embracing Greek filmmakers worldwide.


Next year, we hope to create a series of film events throughout the year. For example, we could team up with the Michael Cacoyiannis Foundation and host a retrospective of his films. We could do thematical events, such as showing archaeological films, thus partnering with Agon, the archaeological film festival in Athens. There’s so much we can do.


You have an event coming up.

To kick things off, we will screen the classic film ZORBA THE GREEK (1964) – one of the greatest movies of all time – on May 1 at 7:00 pm at the Pickwick Theatre.


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