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The Reel Queens: Greece’s critical, commercial hits get rare showing in boro

Astoria has one of the largest Greek populations in the world, but films from the Mediterranean nation are rarely screened in Queens or any of the other four boroughs. But this week, cinephiles will get the chance to view one of Greece’s most popular recent hits and two other films at screenings in Astoria and Forest Hills.

The third-annual New York City Greek Film Festival, which screens films in Manhattan for its first week and in Queens during the second week, will show two films Thursday from Greece — a social comedy and a drama about intolerance — at the Cinemart Cinemas & Theater Cafe in Forest Hills.

On Saturday, the festival will culminate with a free screening of “Just Broken Up,” a romantic comedy that was a big hit in its native country, in the Tony Bennett Concert Hall at Astoria’s Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.

Jimmy DeMetro, a retired City University professor who acts as director of the city’s Greek film festival, said the movies will provide film lovers with a glimpse of Greek cinema, which is rarely seen on U.S. screens.

“The critical establishment has not really discovered Greek films,” he said. “But that’s beginning to change. There’s a brand-new movie industry in Greece and a whole generation of young people working in it. We want to give this young talent a forum by establishing a presence of Greek films in New York. Our philosophy is to get an eclectic selection of films, from the most commercial to the most artistic.”

This year’s Cannes Film Festival saw the debut of “Dogtooth,” a controversial Greek film about three siblings kept isolated from the world by their cruel parents, while director Theo Angelopoulos (“Eternity and a Day” and “Landscape in the Mist”) has long been a critical, if not commercial, favorite in the United States. Otherwise, Americans have limited access to films from Greece.

The New York City Greek Film Festival, sponsored by the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce, has screened more than 30 films in Manhattan and Queens since it began earlier this month. Movies in the festival this year included short films, features and classic pictures, most of which were filmed in Greece by directors from that country. DeMetro said an estimated 3,300 have attended films at the festival this year.

On Thursday, the festival will show “False Alarm” and “The Mountain in Front” at the Cinemart, at 106-03 Metropolitan Ave. in Forest Hills.

“False Alarm,” which will screen at 3:15 p.m. and 8:10 p.m., is a social comedy in which several residents of an Athens apartment building are drawn to the street by a blaring car alarm. The film then follows the characters into their respective apartments and tells their stories.

“The Mountain in Front,” which will screen at 11 a.m., tells the story of an Albanian shepherd living in a remote village who offers to buy fireworks to be set off at a holy service. But the xenophobic village’s residents take offense to his gesture.

“It’s a wonderful film about intolerance and the foolishness of not accepting your fellow human being,” DeMetro said.

The festival’s closing night film, “Just Broken Up,” will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, at 35-12 35th Ave. in Astoria. The screening, sponsored by Alma Bank, will be free.

The film, directed by Vasilis Myrianthopoulos, is about a group of friends who plan a surprise birthday party for a young woman but, in the process, discover a message on her answering machine in which her boyfriend has broken up with her. They then attempt to hide this information from her for the sake of not ruining her birthday.

“It’s a farce that gets chaotic as more and more people show up at the party,” DeMetro said. “It’s quite funny. People will get to see what a commercial success from Greece looks like. We wanted to choose something popular and not too heavy. It’s a feel-good movie about people trying to do the right thing.”

Seating at the screening will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Read film reviews by Nathan Duke at criticalconditions.net.

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