Greece - 'The Choice of Hollywood'

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Hollywood and other film makers have long been attracted by the beauty and diversity of Greece in which to film their epic stories. The advantages of having movies set in Greece are threefold; Greece has amazing scenery, fabulous Mediterranean climate and it is economically viable. The added advantage is that it boosts the Greek tourist industry.

 

According to Wikipedia there are a total of 87 movies that are set in Greece. There are four that are set on Corfu namely the 1960  black and white movie 'Rendezvous in Corfu’ , the 1981 Roger Moore James Bond thriller ‘For your eyes Only’ , The Countess of Corfu’,  a 1972 film  with Rena Vlahopoulou, about a Corfiot aristocrat who has fallen on hard times and  Sissi – Fateful Years of an Empress’  a film entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival about the Austrian empress Elisabeth, Sissi, who is diagnosed with tuberculosis so comes to Corfu for its moderate climate.

 

 

 

The most famous Greek movie would have to be Zorba the Greek’, a 1964 black and white, comedy drama written, produced, and directed by Michael Cacoyannis and starring Anthony Quinn. Based on a novel called ‘Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas' by Nikos Kazantzakis, it epitomizes the Greek spirit. Filmed on Crete, it showcases the beauty of this island. An English writer, Basil, who is travelling to Crete to join his parents business, meets the colourful Greek, Zorba, a musician, who teaches him how to enjoy life. The two become friends and Zorba teaches Basil the sirtaki (the Zorba Dance) which Basil battles to grasp, finding his failed attempts hysterically funny. They finally dance the famous sirtaki together on the beach.

 

 

 

‘The Greek Tycoon’ is a 1978 American drama film, loosely based on Aristotle Onassis’ relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy and again stars Anthony Quinn in the title role and Jacqueline Bisset as Jacky Kennedy.

 

 

 

Shirley Valentine’ rightfully received awards. Pauline Collins won the BAFTA Best Actress in a Leading Role award and received an Academy Award nomination. The film got the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in the Musical or Comedy category. From the sensitive, amusing script of screenwriter Willy Russell we travel with Shirley, a disgruntled housewife to Mykonos where she finds romance while doing some introspection. This is just one of the ‘feel good’ movies that attracted tourists to Greece.

 

 

 

'My Life in Ruins' is set in Athens, Delphi and Olympia and has some fabulous scenery and tourist attractions featured. This delightful comedy features Nia Vardalos as Georgia, a Greek-American tour guide, who has to learn to adjust to the Greek way of doing things and becomes romantically involved with the Greek bus driver on her tour.

 

 

‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’, based on Louis de Bernières’ 1994 novel, was filmed on Kephalonia and created a huge tourist influx to the island. It tells the story of Italian Captain Antonio Corelli, (Nicholas Cage), who falls in love with Palegia, (Penelope Cruz), the village doctor’s head-strong daughter. Set during the Italian occupation of Greece during WW II, it is an epic love story. This loosely fact-based movie depicts the conflicts and atrocities of war.

 

 

 

As above, the 2008 musical Mama Mia’filmed on Skopelos, drew throngs of romantics to this picturesque island to tie the knot at the quaint chapel utilized in the movie. The simple story line is that Sophie wishes to find out who her father is so invites her mother’s three most likely ex-suitors to her wedding without her mother’s knowledge. Featuring ABBA’s greatest hits plus a star cast it falls into the romantic ‘feel good’ category and was the most popular movie to be shot in Greece!

 

 

 

‘I Am David is a 2003 American drama movie based on the novel by Anne Holm. David, a 12 year old, escapes a concentration camp with the aid of a guard who gives him the gift of a compass and points him in the direction of Greece. He goes in search of his mother, facing hunger and danger along the way. He has interactions with numerous people whom he does not trust and some he learns to trust and finally gets united with her in Denmark.

 

 

 

‘Meteora’ is a Greek drama movie directed by Spiros Stathoulopoulos. It competed at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in 2012.  Filmed at the sanctified area of Meteora, at the Byzantine Monastery of the Holy Trinity and the Agios Stefanos Monastery, the scenery is absolutely spectacular. It tells the bitter-sweet tale of a young Greek monk who falls in love with a lovely Russian nun and portrays their struggle between religious devotion and their love and desire for one another. The medieval monasteries perched on the apex of the gigantic sandstone columns are awe-inspiring and the views breath-taking enough to watch the movie for this alone!  

 

 

 

One that is not featured on the Wikipedia list is ‘Lieutenant Natassa’ (Ipolochagos Natassa) also known as Battlefield Constantinople’. Released in 1970, this Greek film, starring Aliki Vougiouklaki as Natassa, and Dimitris Papamichael as Orestis, was expertly directed by Nikos Foskolos.

 

 

The movie starts in 1965 when Natassa revisits Dachau where she was held captive during WW2. She returns to Greece where she meets Orestis at the beginning of the Greek – Italian war. With the invasion by the Germans Orestis joins the Greek army. Set on Crete, It is a heartfelt story about the German occupation of Greece and the brave resistance by the Greeks.

 

I would put Lieutenant Natassa on my Top 10 list of movies I have ever seen and can without doubt say that this movie was responsible for sparking my interest, as a teenager, to visit Greece.  

 

 Written by Adelia Cook for MyKerkyra.com

 

 

 

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