ASTERO

Gaziadis Dimitris

Greeece, 1929

EDUCATIONAL GUIDE

INTRODUCTION:
The Teacher Guide consists of useful notes, bibliographical information and approaches to film, and is supposed to function in support of the activities designed for the proposed film. Key information are provided on the historical and social context within which the film was produced.
This will enable a better understanding of the creators’ motivations and intentions by students. The formative elements of the genre, in which the film belongs to, are presented and accompanied by film reviews. All material is designed to broaden teaching approach within school and to renegotiate learning process through use of film.
TIPS:
1. Before proceeding to the activities proposed, please refer to Glossary section.
2. Activity 1 may be linked to Literature, Grade ASenior High School. The first set of questions will help students identify the common characteristics between literature and film. For instance, literary heroes turning into film characters, the expressive means of language (metaphors, similes etc.) rendered through camera movement, space and time lapses as handled by editing process and many other. To complete Activity 1, please refer to the following texts Astero, the “Political” and The Other Side found here below.
3. Activity 2 may be combined with Essay Writing, Grade B-Senior High School (Essay Writing text-book p. 157-170, 261), Chapter: Presentation
– Criticism – Summary. Reading and analyzing film reviews may help students improve their summary writing.
4. Activity 3 demonstrates individual responsibility and group work necessary for film crews in order to perform successfully.
5. Activity 4 provides ground for dicussion as per film studios go and delivers information on unforeseen difficulties film crews face (refer to Manuals: Setting).
6. Activity 5 may start with improvisation in class and may even conclude with a short film production depending on the teacher’s aims, objectives and project duration. Students should explore the ways in which social behaviors are constructed at present. are designed to serve the educational needs of diverse student groups and are flexible in terms of implementation duration.
7. Activity 6 links Film with Computer Science. It aspires to trigger students’ creativity, imagination and artistic ability.
8. Activity 7 familiarizes students with casting and encourages critical thinking. Split students in two groups (Jury vs. Artists).

THE FILM

CONTEXT

So many idylls were unfolded around the ranches, in the grasslands, Under the beeches and the firs,
So many shepherds and stockbreeders had their hearts
Stolen by gorgeous shepherdesses,
So many pure emotions have flooded the young
hearts.

Astero was shot in 1929, in a period defined, today, as Greek cinema’s Golden Era (1927–1932). During this period, Greek films progress in building a “national” cinema that combines foreign elements with Greek indigenous characteristics. Within this context:
• Comic idylls, novels of manners, folk tales and Greek literature become sources of inspiration.
• Pastoral drama becomes the Greek counterpart of the imported melodrama.
• The semiotics of Foustanella appear in a series of films of the time.
• Comic idyll is seen as the Greek equivalent of foreign comedy. Kinimatografikos Astir, the emblematic film magazine of the period, apart from introducing foreign films to Greek readers and vividly illustrating the developments in Greek cinema, it, also, contributed in the creation of a local star system, in the birth of certain idols and romances, which provoked the conservative Greek society.
At the same time, silent cinema had reached its peak worldwide. Early filmmakers introduced themes of social injustice and revolt, giving a social
dimension to their works confronting audiences with issues dealt solely by literature and drama up until then.
D.W. Griffith had already directed The Birth of a Nation, Chaplin, his wondrous comedies, Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin, Carl Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Pudovkin, Mother. “Dag Films needs to fight if its people want the films to stand on their own and create a film tradition !” (Mitropoulou, 2006).
“Fustanella” means
Astero, a Greek fustanella film, belongs to the pastoral film genre and more specifically to the subgenre of “drama idylls.” These films were popular from 1914 to 1932 and their main features are were the following:
• Female names in the titles: Golfo, Astero
• Mountainous locations/traditional costume/
flock/flute
• Film adaptations of popular novels
• Representation of folk tradition and pastoral landscape
• Use of local dialect, the patois
• Idealized representation of countryside
• Class segregation/family vendettas
• Patriarchal structure and the hegemony of the rich
According to Yannis Soldatos, (2000:41), these films were the Greek counterpart to American Westerns – however, not as successful as the American genre. According to the Greek critic Alexis Dermetzoglou (2000), these films, provided a nostalgic iconography of Greek countryside and community. Produced during an era troubled by the notion of national identity and by a sense of patriotism, these films seemed to offer their own interpretations of what it means to be Greek. After 1922, when the Great Idea is irreversibly over and audiences become interested in national, patriotic films, Greek cinema redefines its scope of a “national” cinema.

ASTERO
“A NEW GREEK FILM IN THE RANCH, IN THE THYME BUSHES, IN THE GRASSLANDS” was the title of an article for Astero published in the newspaper Patris (i.e. “homeland”) on 7/4/1929. The article reported the completion of the film’s shooting two weeks before its official release date. The newspaper Esperini published the following article on May 6 1929, a couple of days after the film’s premiere: “Astero is the new film production of Dag Film company. The film’s director is Dimitris Gaziadis, while camera operator is Michalis Gaziadis. Gaziadis brothers insist on selecting their screenwriters from a pool of Greek writers; this time, they have commissioned the academic Pavlos Nirvanas for the adaptation of Ramona, a foreign novel, for the big screen. At a time when cinema was considered the popular art of the plebeians, the collaboration with an academic bridged film with “high” society. However, high society got rather mad with Nirvanas. This a pastoral idyll in the footsteps of Golfo (directed by Konstantinos Bahatoris in 1915), but with a happy ending. The film appealed to audiences and became a local box-office success while finding its way to international markets. The film was appreciated not just by Greek diaspora, but also by international audiences; this was the starting point for Greece’s main cinematic export: the folkloric film. The collaboration with great actors, like Veakis, Dendramis or Moussouri, the onscreen beauty of female actresses, as well as newspaper and magazine advertising attracted a large number of viewers and reassured Gaziadis brothers of the feasibility of their film production attempts.

Yannis Soldatos, A Century of Greek Cinema, Vol. I 1900-1967, Athens: Aegokeros editions, 8th edition, 2001

ASTERO IN THE MOVIE THEATRES

ATHENS

Premiere, 22/4/1929 in “Splendid”

The film premiered on 22/4/1929 in “Splendid” movie theater where screenings were scheduled to last until May 1. After the Easter holiday period, the film was screened in the capital’s local movie theaters. The Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos, who watched the film from a specially designed balcony on April 25, expressed his appreciation, congratulated Gaziadis brothers and promised to take measures to support the Greek film industry. What impressed him the most was that after the end of the film, he watched a film extract of his entrance in “Splendid”. Prepared within half an hour, this was a record-breaking film documentation!
THESSALONIKI
Premiere, 20/5/1929, “Pallas” Theater
ALEXANDRIA
Premiere, 30/5/1929
The film is very successful among Alexandria’s community and is screened for several weeks at the “American Cosmograph” theater. The director
and three of the film’s protagonists attended the premiere. In May 1930, when sound cinema had already taken by storm audiences and Greek films humbly attempted to strike back, Astero was screened again in Athens, all “sound and singing” (the synchronized sound recording was made possible through gramophone records) in “Atticon” theater from 19/05/1930. Sound processing was done in France and this was why the film was screened several times there. For example, it was screened in early 1931 and in February 1932 under the title Astero, la bergere with the indication that this was “the first Greek film edited in France”.
NEW YORK
Premiere, 1934
In 1934, Astero was screened for the first time to the Greeks living in New York. It was such a success that the movie hall remained packed ten days consecutively with 500 viewers standing! The film was a huge success among the Greeks in Chicago, where it is said that 1000 people got to watch the film within a single Sunday.

Source: Argyris Tsiapos, The First Films in Greek Cinema (The Historyof Pre-War Greek Cinema), Serres: Self-Published Edition, 2015

ASTERO THE “POLITICAL”
The following extract can be used in support of Activity 1 (question group 4). It can be used in relation to the topic of “Mass Media” (Essay Writing, Grade A – Senior High School).
According to Ethnos newspaper, the success of Astero motivated “a crowd of intellectuals” who aspired to imitate Pavlos Nirvanas. The newspaper also quoted Eleftherios Venizelos commenting: “…since Greek academics and artists collaborate on Greek cinema, there is no doubt about the promotion of Greek landscape and about the accuracy of the Greek ethos and tradition represented.”
Τhe newspaper –which fervently opposed Venizelos’ politics– reacted fiercely by commenting on the absence of state funds to film production
companies and on the state’s inability to apply protective tax policies for local film industry. Nevertheless, the official premiere of Astero was the first event in Greece to be recorded on newsreels. Michalis Gaziadis shot Eleftherios Venizelos as he entered the movie theater. Immediately after
that, he took the negative print, went to his lab, developed and dried it by “lighting up a liter of alcohol.” Within 90 minutes, and as soon as the
screening was over, Venizelos, who had seen himself in the meantime on the big screen, got enthusiastic and promised he would apply a different tax policy in order to achieve a 10% revenue – and that’s what he did!

Source: Aglaia Mitropoulou, Greek Cinema (Ellinikos Kinimatografos), Athens: Papazissis editions, 2nd edition, 2006.

INNOVATION
The following can be used in combination with the first two minutes of Astero’s extract and in support of film language questions found in
Activity 1 (question group 3).
“For the first time, the camera seemed to change angle and follow the action, inviting the viewer to engage in a dialogue with what was happening on the screen… The camera seemed to change angle and follow the action, inviting the viewer to engage in a dialogue with what was happening on the screen… Gaziadis seems to have understood that the camera is not simply the eye of the director, but the eye of the viewer. …There is an excellent scene where the camera rests on the head of a dog as it is barking over the dead body of its master: the camera rotates around the mountainous landscape, giving the audience the immediate sensation of an endless immensity of space and the human helplessness within it. The landscape acts as a speaker amplifying the dog’s barking, as though nature is echoing the pain of human tragedy.”

Karalis Vrasidas Α History of Greek Cinema2012 New York Continuum

THE OTHER SIDE
The following extract can be used in support of
Activity 1.
Astero got raving reviews at the time of its release. In 2012, Prof. Vrasidas Karalis, who approached the film from a sociological point of view, wrote:
“Gaziadis avoided confronting or criticizing patriarchal morality or the given female representation conventions. Social roles, as depicted in the
film’s pastoral setting and Greek village iconography, idealized an ever lost way of living. Gaziadis, however, through his nostalgic recreation of lost innocence and through an authenticity sought after by urban masses, implicitly criticized roles and institutions, which after the Asia Minor Catastrophe had lost legitimacy and moral value. Astero may be perceived as a narrative of consolation if placed against the background of cities filled with poverty stricken refugees. At the same time, Gaziadis addressed national gender relations, representing women as the core of moral integrity, endurance, and stability. Referring to the relationship between local film production and the need for stronger national morale, the writer presents an extract where Pavlos Nirvanas notes that as screenwriter he obeyed conventions, wrote platitudes and tried to satisfy audience expectations by producing a film “full of Greek-ness”: “My constant concern, from beginning till end, was to mould film characters identified as Greek, feeling and behaving Greek, speaking Greek and even fall in love Greek way.”

THE DIRECTOR REMEMBERS
The following extract comes from an interview the director gave to Iris Skaraveou, the film critic of Kinimatografikos Astir, on February 14,
1929. Use the extract to complete Activities 3 & 4. The text may help students understand the difficulties faced by the director and the cinema
policies of the time.
… In more or less ten days, in other words, on March 7, we’ll start shooting our third film. It is a pastoral idyll, the screenplay of which was written by Pavlos Nirvanas. It is a bucolic morality tale, full of peasant romanticism. Its moral message will satisfy the viewer – as I’d like to believe. The length of film to be used will amount to 2,200 meters, and might exceed a bit. We will start shooting soon as we would like to finish before April 15. Imagine that we have already made arrangements for the music score that will accompany the screening. Mr. Labelette was commissioned to do it.

Cast
-…So far, we have ensured collaboration with Mr. Em. Veakis. The script will enable us to make the most out of this great actor’s talent.
– Who will act by his side while he performs the
father?
– For the time being, the roles haven’t been fully distributed. The procedure will be completed by March 7, the date set for departure to Arachova
and Parnassos, where we will be shooting for 11 days, from March 9 to 11. We will meet again by the day of our departure. Ms. Louvari’s participation seems quite probable.
– Regarding our country’s film production, can we hope for something better?
– Of course, cinema in Greece follows its own path. It might take some time, but the outcome will be positive. Audiences are supportive. Producers increase production and at the same time improve the quality of films. Take our films for example, after Love and Waves, came, The Harbor of Tears. In the future, we will offer audiences something even better.
– What is your impression regarding State’s attitude towards your work?
– State’s attitude towards filmmakers is absolutely cruel. In our case, the State appears to be executing film and the country’s emerging film industry. In neighboring countries, where local/national cinemas are already established, governments remain vigilant and supportive to the point of boycotting foreign films while offering tax benefits to locally produced ones – or, sometimes, have them even tax-free. In Greece, the State has every reason to be supportive of filmmakers. Yet, it follows the most inappropriate policy by imposing harsh taxation instead of funding filmmakers who create films of national specificity. It is really frustrating to think of that. Besides, I forgot to mention that the commercial exploitation of a foreign film by the so-called “colossi” costs just 60-70 thousand drachmas. To create a Greek film costs ten times more. Under these circumstances, it is easy to understand why local cinema is still newborn.

Iris Skaraveou, Kinimatografikos Astir, 14/2/1929

PRE-PRODUCTION
The following extract can be used in support of Activity 7.
On May 6, 1927, Esperini newspaper announced Gaziadis brothers’ ambitious plan to build the first ever Greek movie studios. Until construction was over, shootings were to take place in Pachis’ building, at Syntagma square, where the family’s studio was located. Ground and middle floor could serve the needs of the shooting. Dag Film aspired to become established as a talent incubator and for this reason had announced an open call for young men and women who aimed in having a film career. A thousand people responded to the call and the appointed jury selected
the most suitable. The stage names of those chosen betrayed a deep desire for international career: Attika, Wango Menos, Maria Kirki, Aris Parnas, Mirna Violanti, Ras Staro, Ira Doris, Louis Gris, Liko Olympo, Rita Oza, Man Oli, Doly Gray.
Lack of specialization was an obstacle to this intense desire. For this reason, an acting school was founded where students, who wished to prepare for the big screen, could attend acting classes given by a trained teacher. The goal of these lessons was to bring the actors in touch with their emotions lso as to perform facial expressions and convey mood swings without exaggeration.
Esperini 10.5.1927

“It is perfectly set in a small, yet elegant and fully furnished salon,” where “everything is set masterfully and with such grace, that first impression is positive. At the same time it compels respect. On the one side of the room you can find the ‘stage’, so to say, where classes are delivered, and on the other you can find future movie stars who watch and observe. Everything is quiet. You can hardly hear any sound. Everyone is looking the professor into the eyes. To show him they’re knowledgeable. You can hardly believe that anyone is alive there. Yet, so many hopes and dreams fluttering about this wonderful environment.”

Yannis Soldatos, A Century of Greek Cinema, Vol. I 1900-1967, Athens: Kochlias editions, 2001

ACTIVITIES

GENERAL GUIDE

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