The Greek Film Industry’s Hopes are Raised by a Hollywood Flurry
A hefty man with a buzz cut walks down a crowded street, almost colliding with a passing cab. Two Miami police officers stand near their squad car, watching a throng of people.
The man is Spanish star Antonio Banderas, and Thessaloniki, Greece’s northern capital, is standing in for the Magic City, where Millennium Media, the producers of “The Expendables” series, is filming their latest action film.
Banderas’ latest feature, “The Enforcer,” is one of several high-profile shootings taking place in the middle of an unusual bustle for Greece’s film sector, which only returned in May after a pandemic shutdown.
Bond star Daniel Craig will star in the sequel to Rian Johnson’s surprise 2019 murder mystery blockbuster “Knives Out,” as well as David Cronenberg’s sci-fi whodunit “Crimes of the Future,” starring Viggo Mortensen.
Disney+ had previously shot scenes in Athens for “Greek Freak,” a biopic about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s early years as the son of poor Nigerian immigrants before catapulting to NBA basketball stardom, and Netflix had recently wrapped “Beckett,” an action thriller starring Denzel Washington’s son John David.
This season’s film wave, according to veteran Greek producer Panos Papahadzis, represents a “crash test” for the local business after years of stagnation.
Papahadzis, whose business Argonauts is co-producing “Crimes of the Future,” told AFP, “We have been calling on the authorities… to make Greece into a film-friendly country for 20 years.”
“In the history of Greek cinema, there have never been (this many productions filming simultaneously),” says Vasiliki Diagouma, communication and PR manager at the Greek national centre of audiovisual media and communication (EKOME).
Greece has a long history of missing out on foreign films, particularly those with Greek themes, due to “bureaucracy and a lack of awareness among decision-makers,” according to Diagouma.
“Five years ago, shutting down large regions for film shoots would have been unthinkable,” Papahadzis remarked.
The Homeric epic Troy was filmed in Malta and Mexico in 2004, the year Athens hosted the Olympic Games, while Oliver Stone’s Alexander was shot in Morocco.
Sword-and-sandal movies were afterwards made in Hungary and Bulgaria.
“Forty percent of travelers choose sites based on films,” Papahadzis said.
The ultimate insult came in 2016, when a riot sequence from Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne spy thriller was filmed in Spain instead of Athens.
A year later, the Greek government passed legislation to provide cash incentives to foreign productions.
Foreign films, TV series, documentaries, cartoons, and digital games produced on Greek soil now qualify for a 40% reimbursement. Brief News from Washington Newsday.