2012 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival Recap & Orpheus Awards

While the people of Greece confront unprecedented challenges, their heartache shared by Greek people worldwide, filmmakers from near and far converged in Hollywood this week for the 2012 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, fully intent on “Defeating the Crisis through the Viewfinder.”

An impressive number of filmmakers attended the event and a record number of tickets and Gold Passes were sold for the critically-acclaimed films and intriguing programs.

Filmmaker Liaison Eleni Arvaniti, a four-year veteran of LAGFF, expressed, “A common sentiment among all the filmmakers is hope—hope that, in spite of what present circumstances may indicate, a way to something new will materialize; and it has. Because of hardships, it seems that the filmmakers are embracing this experience and the opportunities they may find in Los Angeles with greater appreciation and enthusiasm. Having experienced our own hardships and obstacles as well, we are even more enthusiastic and excited to welcome them.”

LAGFF Co-Founder and Artistic Director Ersi Danou added, “We like to think of LAGFF as a hub for filmmakers and professionals in Hollywood at this time of the year. We take pride in the caliber of talent we gather and we certainly want to bring filmmakers in touch with those who have been successful in the entertainment industry.”

Opening the 2012 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival May 31st at the Egyptian Theatre was a story of experience, strength and hope that challenges people to rise in the face of adversity, and inspires them to find new and different ways to live lives infused with integrity and grace while making the world a better place. A GREEN STORY, the narrative feature from writer/director Nika Agiashvili and Paramyth Films, is the triumphant true tale of Van Vlahakis, a Greek immigrant who arrived in America with only $22 in his pocket, but eventually founded the multimillion dollar Green company, Earth Friendly Products.

Watch our interviews with “A Green Story” stars and real characters below:

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Walking the red carpet in celebration of the world premiere of A GREEN STORY was Van Vlahakis and the man who portrays him, Ed O’Ross; Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks and the actress who portrays her, Shannon Elizabeth; as well as other celebrities including Louis Mandylor, Anthony Skordi, Eve Mauro, Thaao Penghlis, Talia Jackson and Alexis Georgoulis.

A highlight of this year’s LAGFF was the tribute to the great filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos who was killed in a road accident five months ago while filming THE OTHER SEA.  The event included both a panel discussion and a screening of ETERNITY AND DAY.

Watch interviews from the 2012 LA Greek Film Festival Red Carpet:

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Filmmakers who attended LAGFF this year in support of their films include WASTED YOUTH Director Argyris Papadimitropoulos; SUPER DEMETRIOS Director/Writer/Co-Producer Giorgios Papaionnaou, Writer/Co-Producer Dimitris Papavasiliou, and Writer/Actor Charalampos Papapostolou; TUNGSTEN Director Georgios Georgopoulos; THREE DAYS OF HAPPINESS Director Dimitris Athanitis, Art Director Stella Kaltsou and Composer Alexis Grapsas.

THE PALACE Director Anthony Maras; ABARIZA Director Elena Dimitrakopoulou; INTERSECTION Director Yeesum Lo and Writer/Producer Dorothea Paschalidou; F—K Producer Tasos Mouhteros; SACRED WHISPERS Director Constantinos Isaias, Actress Alexia Vassiliou and Cinematographer Alexandro Isaias; SUN DON’T SHINE FOR US Co-Directors Pete Stamatelatos and Scott Ackerlund, Producer Joey Allen, Actress Anna Giannotis and Actor George Christopoulos; FORTUNATE SON Actor/Director Tony Asimakopoulos and Producer Benjy Moran; and SAYOME Director Nikos Dayandas.

VIP guests hitting the red carpet opening night included LA Congressman Brad Sherman; Gil Artzyeli, Deputy Consul General of Israel, with wife Vivianna; actors Jesse Woodrow, Stratos Tzorzoglou, Alexis Varouxakis, and Patricia Kara; Greek actor, dancer and legend George Chakiris of West Side Story fame; composer Farhad Behroozi; Sasha Bronner, LA Editor for Huffington Post; STARZ network executive Theano Apostolou; jury and panel members Bob Arentz, Klara Beverly, Andrew Crane, Mark Esola, Mark Halperin, Alexia Melocchi, Steve Muller, Katerina Zacharia and Kevin Iwashina; singer Vassy; and from the Bravo reality series Shahs of Sunset, GG Charachedaghi, Reza Farahan, MJ Javid, Asa Rahmati, Mike Shouhed and Sammy Younai.

While not a gold medal, the big prize at LAGFF is the Orpheus Award—named for the legendary Greek poet and “father of songs”—an annual prize to honor the best in Greek and Greek inspired cinema. The 2012 Orpheus Awards presentation was merged with the exclusive party at Greek Consul General Elisabeth Fotiadou’s residence.

Watch the winners and highlights from the Orpheus Awards ceremomy below:

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The attendess of the Orpheus Awards exclusive event were treated to a three-song set by Greek singer Vassy, whose new album Beautiful Day is gaining in worldwide popularity.

The Orpheus for Best Short Film was awarded to THE PALACE, in which writer/director Anthony Maras explores 1974 Cyprus where a conscript soldier comes face to face with a family in hiding and must confront the brutal reality of war and his role in it.

The Orpheus for Best Feature was awarded to APARTMENT IN ATHENS (Appartamento ad Atene), directed by Ruggero Diapola. Set against a backdrop of the German occupation of Greece in 1943, this drama introduces us to an Athenian family that undergoes a profound change when their apartment is commandeered by an exacting German officer with an inscrutable attitude.

An unplanned Special Jury Orpheus Award was presented to WASTED YOUTH co-directors Argyris Papadimitropoulos and Jan Vogel. The film takes place in Athens on a blazing hot day on which a teenage skateboarder sets out for an aimless day with his friends; a middle-aged policeman struggles to make ends meet; and a simple twist of fate disrupts the course of their actions.

So powerful is SAYOME, the feature-length documentary from Director Nikos Dayandas, it was awarded the Orpheus for Best Documentary and for Audience Choice. After 35 years of living in Crete, happily married to a Greek sailor and raising her two sons, Sayome hears news of her mother’s death and return to her native Japan to reunite with her estranged family.

A personal highlight of this year’s festival for Ersi Danou, and a surprise of awards night, was the Honorary Orpheus presented to Greek Consul General Elisabeth Fotiadou. “This was the least we could do to express our immense gratitude for all the support she has offered LAGFF throughout the last three years, and for hosting, along with her husband Dr. Vasilios Berdoukas, the Orpheus Awards at her elegant residence,” stated Danou. “We are forever indebted to her.”

Produced by the nonprofit Eastern Mediterranean and Balkan Cultural Center (EMBCC) with the support of sponsors worldwide, the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival promotes awareness of Greek culture through the art of cinema.

Sponsors of the festival included  Earth Friendly Products, ERT and the Pabst Browing Company.