Conversation with Greek filmmaker, Costas Gavras

Event Date: 
Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 14:30

Costa Gavras is known for his rare talent to merge controversial political issues with the entertainment value of commercial cinema. Law and justice, oppression, legal/illegal violence, and torture are common subjects in his work, especially relevant to his earlier films such as "Z." Costa Gavras is an expert of the “statement” picture, an art form slowly vanishing from the studios of cut-throat, capital-driven cinema. In the five decades of his career as writer and director, Costa-Gavras has explored some extremely difficult terrain. State of Siege (screenplay, 1973) concerns the systems of torture and violence present during the conflict between Uruguay’s government and the Tupamaro guerrillas in the early 1970s. L'Aveu (The Confession, direction, 1970) follows the path of Artur London, a Czechoslovakian communist arrested for treason and espionage by Stalin’s regime. A more recent work, Amen, (screenplay & direction, 2002) returns to the WWII story of Pope Pius XII, who refused to publicly condemn the holocaust despite repeated pleas from an SS officer, Kurt Gerstein. Costa-Gavras was born to a poor family in the village of Loutra Iraias, Arcadia. His family spent the Second World War in a village in the Peloponnese, and moved to Athens after the war. His father had been a member of the left-wing EAM branch of the Greek Resistance, and was imprisoned after the war as a suspected communist. His father's record made it impossible for him to attend university or emigrate to the United States, so after high school Costa-Gavras went to France, where he began his law studies in 1951. In 1956, he left his university studies to study film at the French national film school, IDHEC. After film school, he apprenticed under Yves Allegret, and became an assistant director for Jean Giono and Rene Clair. After several further positions as first assistant director, he directed his first feature film, Compartiment Tueurs, in 1965. Costa-Gavras was president of the Cinémathèque française from 1982 to 1987. This event was sponsored by the Alexander Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA)