Filmmaker Niko Franghias revives Greek Film Festival

Filmmaker Niko Franghias, GFFC board president and GFFC co-founder

Greeks in Chicago — the third largest Greek population in the world, with an estimated 450,000 and second only to New York’s 500,000 –- celebrate their culture with a variety of festivals from January through November.  

One cultural event that’s been absent for a while is a film festival, and that will be rectified Sept. 29-Oct. 2 with the first FilmHellenes/Greek Film Fest Chicago! 

The Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge, owned by festival board member Dina Vlahakis, will be one of the venues screening features and the Hellenic Museum in Greektown will showcase documentaries.  

“In 2009, the Greek film landscape began to change and Contemporary Greek films have broken with the past with fresh storytelling points-of-view.  The old school of ‘artistic’ films that communicate to a very limited audience is over,” says filmmaker Niko Franghias, GFFC board president and one of its founders.  

“Now it’s a dynamic period for Greek films, thanks to rising Greek talent and films like Strella (Berlin International Film Festival), Attenberg (Venice, Sundance among others) or Dogtooth (Cannes), which was also nominated for a foreign language Academy Award. We don’t want to lose that momentum.”

For several years a Greek film festival was held in collaboration with the Gene Siskel Film Center, but that ended in 2008 when the Center merged Greek films into its all-encompassing European Union film festival.  

“Last winter we decided to revive the film fest – and more,” says writer/director Franghias of EmberFrames, an 11-year old spot and corporate production company.  

Franghias and EmberFrames’ associate, Terry Jacobs, also produce narrative features supported by the Greek Film Center and the MEDIA Program of the European Union for production development. 

Within short order Franghias formed a board of 12 “film Hellenes,” persons who support Greek cinema.  Two film industry members are  Zoe Itsopoulos Borys, general manager of Fletcher Cameras & Lenses, and directors’ rep Valerie Gobos. 

Board member Valerie Gobos, a Greek film producerGobos was a producer of Greek director Pantelis Voulgaris’ 2004 feature, Brides, a story of a mail order bride who’s on a ship bound for an American husband, but falls in fall with another man.   Having heard that Martin Scorsese was a big fan of the director’s work, Gobos brought him aboard as executive producer.

Also on the board are GFFC co-founder Dr. Alex Papadopoulos, DePaul associate professor; Terry Jacobs; Professor Zizi Papacharissi, head of the University of Illinois/Chicago’s communications department; Art Andros, architect and City of Chicago project manager;  banker Dimitri Kostopoulos, who also teaches Greek language at the Hellenic American Academy; historian Tom Tzouras; Kyriakos Mellos, Daily Frappe co-founder/marketing director; Dino Vlahakis, owner of the Pickwick Theater; and Takis Theotokatos, cultural programming director at the Hellenic American Academy. 

Franghias has laid out an ambitious future for the festival. “In the first year, we will concentrate on the Greek Film Fest Chicago,” he says. “Next year, we hope to create a series of film events throughout the year. For example, we could team up with the Michael Cacoyiannis (Zorba the Greek) Foundation and host a retrospective of his films. 

“We could hold thematical events, such as showing archaeological films, thus partnering with Agon, the archaeological film festival in Athens. There’s so much we can do.”

Entries deadline is Aug. 1. There’s no entry fee, as the board waived entry fees for the fest’s first year entrants.  

Click here for a submission form.