The 18th Annual San Francisco Greek Film Festival will take place online April 16-25, 2021, with all screenings available in the United States and Canada free of charge. This year’s line-up of films includes 15 short films, including “Bella” by Thelyia Petraki, “Goads” by Iris Baglanea, and "Iro /he.ro:/" by Alexis Koukias – Pantelis, and 4 documentaries. The 7 feature films of this year’s lineup include “The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” by Syllas Tzoumerkas, “Not to be Unpleasant but we need to have a Serious Talk” by Yorgos Georgopoulos, and “Tailor” by Sonia Liza Kenterman.
Launched in 2004, the San Francisco Greek Film Festival (SFGFF) is the first and longest-running Greek film festival in the United States. The SFGFF has showcased some of the most highly regarded Greek/Cypriot films produced over the past 18 years. Since its founding, the film festival has screened nearly 320 films, hosted some 50 filmmakers as guests, and inspired, engaged and entertained over 9,000 attendees. The San Francisco Greek Film Festival and all its initiatives are sponsored by the Modern Greek Studies Foundation. The Modern Greek Studies Foundation supports the study of Modern Greek language and culture in academic settings and presents public programs reflecting and celebrating the importance and beauty of Hellenic culture.
On the occasion of the Festival’s 18th Edition, Greek News Agenda spoke to* SFGFF co-director Katerina Mavroudi-Steck on the challenges of going digital. Born and raised on the island of Crete in Greece, Mavroudi-Steck came to the United States to complete her studies in Economics and has made it her home for the last 36 years. She worked for several years at Silicon Valley for a high tech company, but for the last ten years, she has worked for the San Francisco Greek Film Festival and other events which celebrate and promote the arts, history, and culture of Greece.
How has the Festival faced the COVID-19 crisis challenges in this year’s edition?
Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic for the last year and a half, the 18th San Francisco Greek Film Festival will be held virtually, as it was last year. This has been a learning curve for all of us on the film festival team. We have had to learn how to navigate new electronic platforms and use different organizational tactics. Last year’s festival was a big success, and we hope this year’s will be as well!
On the positive side, the electronic platform allows us to screen all over the United States, and for the first time this year, we will screen in Canada as well. Moreover, the electronic platform allows us to include more films in our program than we could in the live version of the film festival.
"Bella", dir. Thelya Petraki (2020)
What were the criteria for this year’s line up?
We always try to have a potpourri of films, including documentaries, dramas, comedies, and films addressing social themes. The films are from Greek and/or Cypriot filmmakers from around the world. We would also consider films whose theme is Greek or have Greek actors in them.
What are the highlights of this year’s program?
This year’s line-up of films includes 15 short films, 7 feature films, and 4 documentaries. Unique to this year’s festival is that 8 of our films are by women filmmakers! Also, this year we have 3 films with LGBTQ themes.
"Tailor", dir. Sonia Liza Kenterman (2020)
What about the side events of the Festival?
We will have a drive-in event.
How has the COVID crisis influenced cinema-goers?
In the live version of our film festival, we usually get 1500-2000 attendees. Last year with our virtual format we had 5,000 viewings of our films. Viewers can watch the films anytime they want during the film festival week and we can therefore reach a wider audience by using the electronic platform.
The trade-off for this increase in viewers is the absence of the shared experience of the cinema, the loss of the social events surrounding the film festival and the opportunities for the invited guests from the film industry to interact with the audience.
* Interview by Florentia Kiortsi
Read also: The 15th San Francisco Greek Film Festival returns with a vengeance (and a new award), Syllas Tzoumerkas on successfully getting out of quagmires, Thelyia Petraki explains why the eighties again, Giorgos Georgopoulos on a deadly virus and toxic masculinity, Sonia Liza Kenterman on life and films made to measure, Iris Baglanea on the Liberating Power of Trauma, Alexis Koukias - Pantelis on Difficult Goodbyes