Athens 09: Black Metal, Zombies and Ouzo
Posted on Friday October 2, 2009, 14:35 by Nev Pierce in Under The Radar
There is more to Greece than feta cheese and ouzo, though both have much to recommend them.
I discovered this while serving on the jury at the 15th Athens International Film Festival, last week.
This is perhaps the only festival in the world yet to be visited by this blog's regular writer, Mr Damon Wise, but I'm hoping he doesn't read this and realise it, because I want to go again.
As well as the hospitality of the festival and the fascinating nature of a city full of culture and contrasts (from the ancient Acropolis to rather more modern anarchist graffiti), there were two films, in particular, which deserve much wider attention.
All Tomorrow's Parties is a concert film with a difference - from the ever-industrious and inspiring Warp Films (This Is England, Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee). Directed by Tarnation's Jonathan Caouette and, as the credits have it, ‘all tomorrow's people', it puts you in the thick of a series of festivals staged at holiday camps, started by Belle And Sebastian back in 1999.
The line-up is eclectic - from Battles to The Gossip to Nick Cave and Grinderman - but the choice of music is almost incidental, in as much as even if you dislike (or don't care) about the act in question, the mosaic quality of the film - sourced in part from festival attendees amateur footage - puts you in the middle of the live experience. Try and catch one of the ATP events around the UK or buy it on DVD in November - it captures what is beautiful about live music: communion.
One of the key contributors was video-director Vincent Moon, who has worked with everyone from REM to Tom Jones and also staged an event - ‘Temporary Athens' - at the festival, shooting various live acts in one, long delirious take that will, I imagine, appear at some point on his YouTube channel or the French site La Blogotheque. This from his Twitter feed: "Temporary Athens, DONE - 16 bands, 45 min one shot, a few mistakes but some incredible energy for one of our fav nights." It was terrific.
A rather darker film than ATP eventually triumphed in the ‘Music And Film' section I was among the judges for - but it is no less worthy of your attention. Until The Light Takes Us is about Black Metal. No, it is not - as a friend of mine supposed - an expose of a burgeoning African-American hardcore metal scene, but an exploration of a bleak, discordant music movement in Scandinavia in the '90s.
American filmmakers Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites moved to Norway for two years to get close to the key figures in his movement - a disturbing group of individuals who appear to define themselves against virtually everything and everyone and whose antics turned extremely nasty, from burning down churches to more brutal, bloody acts.
To reveal too much would be to spoil the surprises of this expertly made documentary, which teases out a gripping story, refuses to judge its participants and also, eventually, shows how even the most ferocious underground movement can be corrupted and commodified by the media.
A disturbing, sad, fascinating film, it deserves to secure UK distribution and an audience beyond either the art-house or music scenes, as it's themes of loneliness and clawing for the truth are universal. You can see it this week at the Raindance Film Festival in London, if you are quick.
Until The Light Takes Us was the unanimous winning choice of the jury - consisting of myself, Variety's Leslie Felperin, Screen International's Finn Halligan, Les Inrockuptibles's Geraldine Sarratia and Yiannis Petridis, a radio producer and presenter who, in shorthand terms, can be described as the Greek John Peel.
A charming man, still enthused after decades in music, he was the subject of a documentary playing out of competition - Once In A Lifetime - which proved not only an interesting look at a devoted professional, but also, almost incidentally, an absorbing account of Greek popular culture and societal change over the last 40 years. It won't secure a cinema release over here, but would sit nicely on BBC4.
Not likely to appear on BBC4, but well worth seeking out if you are a horror or zombie-film fan is Evil - In The Time Of Heroes. A sequel to 2005's Evil - Greece's first ever zombie film, apparently, and a big hit - it is a dizzying action-comedy with enough broad humour and splat-appeal to cross borders on DVD. It has an extended cameo from none other than Billy Zane and, come the conclusion, I hadn't the faintest idea what was going on, but it was a bloody blast. Imagine Shaun Of The Dead as directed by Timur Bekmambetov and you're half-way there.
The international competition was judged by a jury of young filmmakers, from universities around Europe. They opted to award In The Loop and Moon (a very happy Duncan Jones was on hand to collect his Golden Athena) and a movie I'm afraid I didn't catch - Flickan (though its director, Fredrik Edfeldt, came on day trip to the Temple of Poseidon and his children were very well behaved).
An eclectic, hugely enjoyable festival, then - just don't tell Damon...
The 15th Athens International Film Festival - The Winners
The Golden Athena Best Music & Film Award: Until The Light Takes Us (dir. Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites)
The Golden Athena Best Film Award: Moon (dir. Duncan Jones)
The City Of Athens Best Director Award: Fredrik Edfeldt (Flickan)
The Best Screenplay Award: In The Loop (Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, Ian Martin)
The Audience Award: Flickan (dir. Fredrik Edfeldt)