The View From Here

Athens Film Festival -- blog the first

Michael Bonner

Stephen Dalton is currently at the Athens Film Festival, where he's serving on the jury. Here's his first report...

Greetings from the strangely wonderful parallel universe of the Athens Film Festival, where your Uncut reporter is serving on the jury of the Music & Film section. A very bizarre experience, being on the other side of the fence for once, doing press conferences and interviews instead of asking the questions.

Especially surreal here in Greece, where Uncut appears to be some kind of unofficial religion. “You must feel like a god,” people keep telling me. “Uncut is The Bible!” No kidding. I can’t help feeling something has been lost in translation, or I am simply the butt of some collective Borat-style joke. But hey - a week in a five-star hotel with unlimited films, food, booze, parties and ego massage? That’s my kind of joke.

Athens is a late night city, teeming with open-air bars and sleazy-rowdy street life. Drinking is obligatory, and a punky disregard for rules spans the spectrum from facial hair to driving habits. Most locals don’t even think about going out until midnight, while heading home before 3am is for wimps and foreigners only.

Film screenings here are boisterous public affairs too, with an obligatory intermission for cigarettes. Often randomly applied by the projectionist mid-scene. Wussy British-style anti-smoking rules clearly have not reached Greece yet.

Athens is one of Europe's younger film festivals, just 13 years old but cosmopolitan in its range and reach (see www.aiff.gr). The Music & Film section is a brand new addition with a similarly eclectic brief: this year’s selection includes documentaries on thrash metal, Swiss yodelling, African blues and New York disco. One standout so far is Heima, a stunningly beautifully tour film featuring Icelandic ambi-rockers Sigur Ros.

There is plenty of music-themed work in the wider programme line-up too. Julien Temple’s Joe Strummer documentary The Future Is Unwritten screened earlier this week, and the festival ends on Sunday with a gala screening of Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan biodrama I’m Not There. Meanwhile, last night saw a packed house for Anton Corbijn’s elegant Ian Curtis epitaph Control.

New Order’s Peter Hook flew into Athens for a Q&A session after the screening. Afterwards, he manned the decks at a nearby upstairs club, which was rammed to the roof with 200 drunken Greek kids roaring along to the Clash, the Pistols and every single word of "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Exhilarating.

As the festival shuts down over the weekend, there will be more films to recommend and more loud, punky gatherings under the stars to report. But right now, my hotel rooftop pool overlooking the Acropolis is calling - did I mention the pool? A bit flash, but then again I am a god here in Athens. I don’t want to disappoint my public.

STEPHEN DALTON


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