Weird wave movies and classics like Zorba come together at first Vancouver Greek Film Festival

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      One of the more memorable characters in the history of the movies is returning to the big screen tonight (June 16) in Vancouver.

      Zorba the Greek, starring Anthony Quinn, kicks off the first Vancouver Green Film Festival, which runs until June 19 at the Cinematheque.

      The 1964 movie, set on Crete, has the larger-than-life Zorba guiding a buttoned-down Greek-British writer raised in the U.K., played by Alan Bates, around the island. 

      Written and directed by Michael Cacoyannis, it's based on Nikos Kazantzakis's 1946 novel The Life and Times of Alexis Zorba.

      Bates's character, named Basil, had come to Crete with the intention of reopening a mine where his father owns land.

      There are several plot twists along the way as the two men form a friendship—even though they seem at first to be diametric opposites.

      Video: A memorable scene from Zorba the Greek in which Anthony Quinn's character teaches Basi (Alan Bates) how to dance.

      Greek Weird Wave films will be screened

      The festival is being held in advance of the return of Greek Day on Broadway on June 26.

      The Vancouver Greek Film Festival is also focusing attention on contemporary Greek cinema and Greek auteurs, including the opera singer Maria Callas.

      It's screening three films by Athens-born director Athina Rachel Tsangari, who's part of the "Greek Weird Wave".

      Attenburg, released in 2010, was Greece's entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. It's about a young woman who's looking after her terminally ill father and who experiences life through David Attenborough's wildlife documentaries. She finds herself attracted to a stranger who arrives in her town by the sea.

      It's being shown at 6:15 p.m. on Friday (June 17), followed by Tsangari's 35-minute French-language film "The Capsule", which was released in 2012. It revolves around seven girls in a mansion on one of Greece's Cycladic rocks.

      The third Tsangari film, the feature-length Chevalier, will be shown on Friday at 8:50 p.m. It pokes fun at masculinity and male competitiveness through six middle-aged characters who are on a luxury yacht in the Aegean. Variety's Guy Lodge described it as "expertly executed" and "profoundly eccentric".

      On Saturday (June 18) evening, the Vancouver Greek Festival is screening a digitally restored version of Dmitris Gaziadis's 1930 film The Apaches of Athens. It's believed to be the first Greek film made with sound and remained lost for decades until it was discovered seven years ago.

      The famed filmmaker Gosta-Gavras helped bring it back to life, giving audiences a glimpse of what the neighbourhoods of Athens looked like in this era.

      Later on Saturday night, the festival will present Georgis Grikorakis's 2020 Digger, which won 10 Hellenic Film Academy Awards for its depiction of a farmer facing down industrial interests intent on digging up the nearby forest.

      Video: Watch the trailer for Digger.

      Festival closes with Harry Killas film memoir

      Digger will be preceded by Vasilis Kekatos's short film "The Distance Between Us and the Sky), which won the Short Film Palme d'Or and the Short Film Queer Palme at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

      On the final day of the festival, there will be a 2 p.m. matinée screening of the documentary Maria by Callas, directed by Tom Volf. It will be introduced by Vancouver opera singer Lambroula Pappas, who traces her roots back to Greece.

      The festival concludes on Sunday (June 19) evening with a 7 p.m. screening of Vancouver director Harry Killas's documentary Greek to Me. Fittingly being presented on Father's Day, it centres around Killas's lighthearted exploration of his own Greek identity and his father's efforts to get him to visit the country.

      Killas, who curated the festival, will join the festival's cofounder, Christos Dikeakos, in conversation, followed by questions from the audience.

      Video: Watch Harry Killas's interview with CBC's Gloria Makarenko about the Greek Film Festival.

      Early Greek immigrants settled on Deas Island

      People often think of West Broadway as the heart of Vancouver's Greek community—and for good reason. That's where you'll find the Parthenon grocery store and deli, the city's first Olympia Pizza, and many other businesses operated by people who trace their roots back to Greece.

      But some of the earliest Greek settlers to the Lower Mainland actually settled on Deas Island near the mouth of the Fraser River. They set up a community there in the late 19th century after immigrating from the Aegian Islands, especially Skopelos.

      According to a 2015 display at the Vancouver Public Library's Kitsilano branch, about 60 Greeks were living in two- and three-room cabins set on pilings on Deas Island, making a living in the fishing industry.

      The Kitsilano branch of the Vancouver Public Library put up this display in 2015 in advance of Greek Day.
      Charlie Smith