The Greek Film Industry. Time for a Change?

by Maria Tsouvali


No one would believe that Greece between 1955 and 1969 was making the highest number of films per capita in the world. For many years it produced around a hundred feature films; a number which dramatically declined since 1970[1]. Despite times of war, political censorship and now financial crisis, the Greek film industry dominates the domestic market, and has experienced occasional international recognition and success. [2]

One of the foremost directors of that international success is Yiorgos Lanthimos[3]. Lanthimos gained international notice for the very first time in 2008 with his controversial movie “Dogtooth”[4] and his most recent movie ‘The Lobster[5]’. ‘Dogtooth’ picked up the Prix un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated by the Academy Awards (OSCARS) for Best Foreign Language Film[6]. Critics and cinephiles now look Greek cinema as a contemporary avant garde new genre, called the ‘Greek Weird Wave’[7].

Movies of the Weird Wave, find their origins in the subversive cinema of Lars von Trier and the documentary approach of Michael Haneke. The Wave is characterized by a deep criticism to the structure of the society through a depressing motif caused by the catastrophic consequences of the financial and human crisis in Greece. The concept of the Weird Wave can be summarized in what Edward Lawrenson calls Antonioni’s feel for the ‘expressive emotional potential of urban landscapes’.[8]

Greek cinema shares all the potentials to flourish and give back to the country economic growth. According to Mr. Tsakanikas[9] scientific assistant of the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research in Greece, if the country produced 20 Greek films per year with an average cost of 450,000 euros that would lead to a 14.2-million-euro increase of the annual GDP, as well as an establishment of 272 jobs.[10] But what are the reasons that led to the country’s current state, where directors struggle to finance their works and producers are being cautious in investing?

According to Article 9 of the Greek Copyright Act[11] the director of an audiovisual work is considered the author of the work and therefore is the copyright holder. The Producer has only related rights. As you may realize Greece is a civil law country following the tradition of the so called ‘droit d’auteur’ systems. On the other hand producers in common law countries such as the U.S are recognized as sole authors of the works. [12]In accordance with the US Copyright statute, copyright protection can be vested not only to natural persons but to legal persons as well. In that case producers find it easier to secure financial assistance for their projects. The difference is obvious. In the U.S the focus is on the investment. If the film is an economic success it will bring profits to the studio and more productions will be made in the future, while in Greece, films are produced giving emphasis to the artistic value of the film in order to be accepted in film festivals and other artistic fora.

It is worth noting that except from the copyright status that may impede film industry growth, financial failings of the Greek government also make it difficult to film artists and producers to find funds and financial assistance for their movies. Further, Greece has a troubling record of corruption and lack of enforcement. In 2010 a new film law (Law 3905/2010)[13] was implemented which obliged  the State broadcaster and cable TV broadcasters to apply 1.5% of their annual gross revenues for the production or the co-production of films. However, obtaining the funding remained only a promise on paper.

Konstantinos Karamaghiolis[14], a talented young director from Greece, known for his two short-movies Sphinx (2012) and a feature documentary with title ‘The Iron Island, Serifos'(2014), describes the reality of making a movie in Greece:

Unfortunately things are worse than you can imagine. The state funding in cinematographic works is inadequate, films seem worthless to the heads of state, the audience avoids Greek movies and the only safe harbor for the directors are the international festivals. Only if we get awarded, funding will get to us; even though it is not guaranteed that it will happen in the end.’

One thing that has been well documented before the global financial crisis he says is that:

‘Greece is characterized by a culture of corruption, favoritism and bureaucracy which gives no incentives to producers to invest and to artists to create. The creative process is damaged as we struggle every day to do the only thing we are meant to do. Create Art’

Moreover, the absence of law giving incentives to foreign investors is another issue to consider. Croatia for example promises 20%[15] of the production costs to be returned to the production company, if they spend more than a million to the country. Greece is a country with breathtaking landscapes and rich history. Movies like ‘Boy on a Dolphin’, ’Zorba the Greek’ ‘The Big Blue’, ‘Mama Mia!” and ‘The Two faces of January’ [16]were filmed in Greece.  The production of foreign films can benefit not only the film makers but also the country. Domestic production will facilitate employment of local people, knowledge transfer and the development of new technologies.

What more to ask for a country trying to resurrect from its ashes? Changing the law and making efforts to support artistic creativity and economic investment in the film industry will help the country which gave birth to civilization, to be reborn.

Maria Tsouvali

Assistant Editor, QMJIP








[8] Lawrenson, Edward. “Wrocław, Reykjavik.” Film Quarterly, 64.2 (2010): 69-71. Print.

[9] Angelos Tsakanikas is assistant professor at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and IOBE’s scientific advisor (This is the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research in Greece).




[12] Sotiris Petridis, ’Comparative Issues on Copyright Protection for Films in the US and Greece’, Journal of Intellectual Property Rights,Vol 19, July2014, pp 282-292.