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Hellenic Film Society USA Celebrates Greek Bicentennial

Greek bicentennial
A still from the classic 1963 film “America America” by Elia Kazan, which will be offered for free to viewers in celebration of the Bicentennial of the Greek War of Independence. Credit: Still from America, America/Youtube

The Hellenic Film Society USA will celebrate the Greek Bicentennial of the War of Independence this month with a series of Greek films streamed and offered for online viewing.

“America America,” written and directed by Elia Kazan, is only one of the classic films portraying the Greek experience that will be available for streaming from March 19-21.

The film follows the story of a young man leaving his impoverished village in Asia Minor for Constantinople in the 1890s, eventually fulfilling his dream of emigrating to America.

Elia Kazan’s favorite film

This classic black and white movie was Kazan’s favorite among all his 19 feature films.

Produced and written by Kazan himself, the work was adapted from his own book, published in 1962. Seen in the light of the Greek bicentennial, it is a moving story of the Greek struggle to survive in the modern world.

Inspired by the life of his uncle, Avraam Elia Kazantzoglou, Kazan used little-known cast members, with the entire storyline revolving around the central performance of Greek actor Stathis Giallelis, who was twenty-two years old at the time.

Gialellis was in virtually every scene of the nearly three-hour-long movie.

Chosen for preservation by Library of Congress

In 2001, “America, America” was included in the annual selection of 25 motion pictures added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, after it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and recommended for preservation.

The Hellenic Film Society (HFS) is marking the bicentennial of Greece’s Independence with a special program of eight such classic features.

Seven films and an original Netflix episode, all inspired by Greek history, from the Persian Wars to the Greek bicentennial to the present day, will stream worldwide from March 19-28. Each presentation will be accompanied by conversations with filmmakers to provide historical context and insights about the making of the film.

2019’s “Cliffs of Freedom” Celebrates Greek bicentennial of War of Independence

To celebrate this milestone in Greek history, the HFS is presenting two features free of charge: the recent “Cliffs of Freedom,” set during the Greek War of Independence in 1821, and the pilot episode of the hit original Netflix series “Blood of Zeus,” which is of course based on Greek mythology.

Viewers may purchase tickets for the remaining six films individually or buy a pass to all for the special price of $18.21.

The eclectic offerings include the work of distinguished Greek-American filmmakers, past and present, from Kazan to Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, the minds behind the Blood of Zeus series.

Selections will appeal to nearly everyone, ranging from Hollywood epics to indie documentaries, the original Netflix episode, and two films that focus on the Greek Revolution of 1821.

“Beneath the Olive Tree” documentary on female political prisoners

“Beneath the Olive Tree,” directed by Stavroula Toska, offered in Greek and English with English subtitles, is from just last year. This award-winning documentary unearths the story behind secret diaries found buried on the Greek island of Trikeri.

Written by female political exiles during the Greek Civil War in the late 1940s, the journals reveal inspirational stories of thousands of women imprisoned in Greek concentration camps. It is narrated by Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis. Awards that this film have garnered include Best Documentary at the Santa Fe Film Festival.

“The Hellenic Film Society is committed to marking this important milestone in Greek history with a film celebration that honors the Greek struggle and the journey of the Greek people since gaining their independence from the Ottoman Turks,” said Jimmy DeMetro, Hellenic Film Society president.

“Through the years, Greek history has captured the imagination of filmmakers, and we are happy to present this terrific lineup of eclectic selections.”

This special program celebrating the Greek bicentennial is sponsored by The Greek Online School, which offers live Greek language courses online to children and adults. “Cliffs of Freedom” is made available, free of charge, courtesy of the National Hellenic Society. The “Blood of Zeus” episode is made available, free of charge, courtesy of Netflix.

For further information, or to purchase tickets to these films, please visit the Hellenic Films USA website.

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