The LGBTQ Community of Greece Through Film
The 17th Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (LAGFF, www.lagff.org), an HFPA grantee, took place in DTLA and West Los Angeles this month. It included several films about the LGBTQ+ community in Greece. Two of them stood out: Dodo, Panos Koutras’ feature which premiered last year at Cannes; and Tilos Weddings, a documentary by Panayiotis Evangelidis. Both directors have been active members of the Greek and international LGBTQ+ communities. Their films are dedicated to plots and characters that focus on aspects of queer life.
Panos Koutras, a Sorbonne and London Film School graduate who served as a juror at this year’s edition of the Cannes Festival, is well-loved in the European film world. His film Strella (2009) marked a pivotal moment in Greek queer filmmaking as it brought up issues of exclusion and homophobia but also had a high entertaining index. Xenia (2014) rode the same wave, celebrating diverse and alternative lifestyles while always anchoring the story in fundamental human emotions.
Dodo (2022) examines the mishaps of modern Greek life as represented by a once-wealthy couple who now rely on their daughter’s marriage for their survival; a Russian maid who betrays her lifelong mistress; a bougie wedding planner that desperately tries to maintain a façade of joyous control; a trans woman who is misunderstood and mistrusted by all; an angry unacknowledged son; the disenchanted young bride who’d rather fool around with the bisexual wedding-crew assistant; an elderly gay man who’s been there done that; a dubious young Syrian refugee; and last but not least a dodo, a bird that went extinct after human persecution in the 17th century but which is miraculously resurrected amidst this funny lot, causing chaos.
It is chaos that Koutras has always been after. In an interview with Vogue-Greece last November, he said that, out of all the characters, he feels the closest to the extinct bird. At about the middle of the film, the live story is interrupted by a brief animated history of the dodo. Being unable to fly, the bird became prey to Dutch invaders of the African island of Mauritius in the 16th century. In less than 100 years, the last dodo expired. A combination of its weird, prehistoric look and history of persecution may be what prompted Koutras to say this.
In Greece, the LGBTQ+ community still struggles for rights that have been long acknowledged in the rest of the Western world. Although some progress has been made, same-sex marriage is still not protected by Greek law. Such is the subject matter of Tilos Weddings, a film by Panayiotis Evangelidis. It chronicles the first-ever same-sex weddings in Greece in 2008, on the small island of Tilos, endorsed as a necessary public declaration of LGBTQ+ rights to equality by the former mayor Tassos Aliferis. The documentary was completed last year as a later reflection on what happened in 2008 and the community’s struggles in the courts since then.
Adept in the art of personal documentaries, Panayiotis Evangelidis is known for insightful and LGBTQ+ themed works such as They Glow in the Dark (2013), about an aging gay couple who move to New Orleans and survive by making and selling trinkets; and Irving Park, about four gay men in their 60s living together and leading unconventional lives spiced up by sadomasochistic games.