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Greek audiences started watching films and going to the cinema in the beginning of the 20th century and more specifically in 1897. This is when the Greek audiences firstly acquire their first impressions from the moving screen. Great debates over the matter start and the cinema is the top issue for discussion amongst people who with great enthusiasm rush to the cinema rooms.
The first notable movies made in and about Greece and the Balkans start being produced in 1906 still within the framework of the collapsing Ottoman Empire in the country. In 1907, the first cinema opens in Athens and the production of long movies starts for the first time. During the First World War, many artists and directors start to stand out because of their innovation and touching thematology about the war and its atrocities. After the First World War, in 1932 the first talkies show up in the Greek big screen. During the Second World War, cinema has already marked a big success and a definite change in the history of visual art while artists start getting awarded for their roles such as the famous Katina Paxinou in the Greek version of the movie “For whom the bell tolls”.
The Greek movies, like any artistic legacy, has followed the history of Greece throughout its progress. So, during the war, Greek artists have suffered persecution and poverty like any other in Europe. In the ’50s however, the cinematic culture is starting to blossom again and a celebrity system with famous actors and actresses is developing. In the ’60s, the first cinema festival in Thessaloniki is organized and gives the opportunity to many Greek artists to make their work known to the wider public while Greek artists start gaining recognition abroad. In the ’80s, Greek cinema is seeing a decline since many bad quality movies are being produced that make cinema look like a supermarket. However, the last decade of the 20th century is characterized by a new fresh comeback of the cinema with fresh ideas and a chance for a brighter cinema future.
Many foreign movies start being produced in Greece as well or have scenes partly filmed in one of the beautiful landscapes of the country. “Mamma Mia”, the well known musical includes scenes from Skopelos, Skiathos, and Pelion. Anthony Quinn in his famous “Zorba the Greek”, embodies the Greek Spirit with a view of the Cretan landscape. James Bond’s movie “For Your Eyes Only” is also filmed in Greece with a backdrop of Corfu while even movies like “Lara Croft” with the famous Angelina Jolie contain shots from the Cyclades and more specifically from Thira, Santorini.
Many important Greek actors, directors and film producers have made their appearance known in the Greek cinema industry. Important film directors such as Theo Aggelopoulos or Pantelis Voulgaris have marked the history of Greek cinema history with their innovative and strong ideas. More contemporary artists such as Costas Gavras and Yorgos Lanthimos have also contributed greatly with their ground-breaking movies and political and social criticism.
Nowadays in Greece, many events take place to honor Greek cinema and cinema in general. Once a year in Thessaloniki, the International Film Festival as well as the Documentary Festival take place where thousands of cinephiles crowd the rooms to watch all new movies from both Greek and foreign upcoming cinema artists. Moreover, there is a very active film industry in Greece right now which is mostly inspired and enhanced by the political, social and financial circumstances. New talented actors and directors mark the “Greek Hollywood”, thus promising a bright future for the Greek cinema culture.