Prior to establishing ALEXANDROS FILM, its founder, Iannis Smaragdis was already an accomplished director with various feature films under his belt such as ZERO CELL, THE HOMECOMING SONG, ALALOUM, the hit TV series HADJIMANUEL, as well as many documentaries.
What shaped Iannis Smaragdis’ artistic and cinematic career, however, was his first Television Feature Film GOOD NIGHT TO YOU, MR. ALEXANDER… A small masterpiece. It received excellent reviews and aired hundreds of times on the National Greek Television. It was also screened at the University of Harvard and the Museum of Modern Art in Paris (Centre Georges Pompidou).
When in 1985, I. Smaragdis decided to form his own production company and having ascertained that his best work so far was GOOD NIGHT TO YOU, MR. ALEXANDER, he named his firm ALEXANDROS FILM. He kept the same name when he changed the company’s legal entity to a limited company in 1998. One more reason for keeping the same name was because he named his only son Alexander. ALEXANDROS FILM Co Ltd. exists to this day.
Through ALEXANDROS FILM Co Ltd. and with the invaluable help of his lifetime partner Eleni, Iannis Smaragdis created many feature films, hit television series and documentaries.
The company’s most important works in the audiovisual industry are:
The exceptional series developed for television “Hush… Our Country is Sleeping” (1987). A collection of 13 one-off episodes based loosely on 13 short stories by Jaroslav Hašek, with an army of exquisite actors and the best scriptwriters of the time. It was the year when Eleni Smaragdi began her new career at ALEXANDROS FILM Co Ltd, as producer. It was a happy time for both the company and the director. The series officially participated at the Golden Prague International Television Festival in 1989, received major reviews and ratings reached 60-70%.
“…Loose interpretations of Hašek’s short stories that so successfully transport the Czech writer’s bitter satirical wit to a Greek community abandoned and ruined by civil war. A conservative educational system, “excessive nationalism by trade” and vicious prosecution of leftists, election riggings, sexual oppression, slick scammers pocketing the Marshall plan money, raging hypocrisy throughout the Greek countryside and sentimental misery, political crookedness and opportunism. These are a fragment of the topics featured in the most successful TV series of Greek Television”.
Stathis Valoukos, Greek Television (Television Guide 1967-1998), AEGOKEROS Publishing, pgs. 174-175
“In his sleeping motherland, Iannis Smaragdis demonstrates both his sensitivity and his high quality as a cinema director”. Minas Christides, Tachydromos, 23-29 March 1989
“Hush… Our Country is Sleeping is an excellent example of visual script, production flow and of realistic and vivid dialogue. It has a whole constellation of recognized actors who were fortunate enough to be guided, minute by minute and shot by shot, by an inspired director. That is immediately obvious when we watch the series, because as everyone knows, big names are not enough for a high-quality result. At the end of each episode, we have a feeling of repletion and satisfaction. What more need we say?”
Ifigenia Yannopoulou, Epikairotita, 30 January 1989
Another great moment was the completion of the film CAVAFY. The film officially participated in more than 50 International Film Festivals all over the world, in Berlin, Toronto, Mar del Plata, Sao Paolo to name but a few. It won a plethora of awards and drew rave reviews! It did well in Greek movie theatres (190.000 admissions) and the artistic film theatre at Paris’ Cartier Latin screened it for 12 consecutive years.
Composed of stunningly handsome painterly tableaux, the film tells of Cavafy’s childhood in Alexandria, and specifically his complex relationship with his mother. CAVAFY is dedicated to the great Greek musician Vangelis (Chariots of Fire, Missing) whose moody musical score contributes immensely to the film’s ambience.
Emmanuel Levy, Variety
The film CAVAFY describes the life of the great poet C.P. Cavafy and Iannis Smaragdis offers an impressive vision of his disclosed sexual preferences, which the director handles with great respect and humanity. The superb images compete with the magnificent music of Vangelis.
The manner in which he uses the leading actor as a sort of mask – he doesn’t utter a single work throughout the film – speaking only in voice off, as in thought, requires of actor Dimitris Katalifos an expressive technique of major competence that is sheer triumph…
The successive scene in the museum where beauty, the classical and the pure are extolled, in contrast to the dancing in the cave, a Bacchian and frenzied image, have an admirable plasticity.
Armando Rapallo, Clarin, Argentina
Smaragdis has made a monumental film that manages to convey the infinite through the everyday, creating a violent but sensitively portrayed vibration, in each movement, in each gesture, in each colour, in each sound. The direction, with a masterful handling of the shot, is impeccable at every moment- one of the film’s most important virtues- and follows the spirit of classical analogy that the filmmaker desired and managed to achieve. Surrounded by Vangelis’ imposing music, it is one of those rare films that perhaps reach the edges of perfection.
Juan Pablo Neyret –Capital Newspaper, Argentina, 1996
However, it was in 2007 that the team hit gold with their film EL GRECO. It was a Greek-Spanish-Hungarian co-production, the largest production ever made in Greece with a budget of 6.333.000€ with Spain’s first ever participation on a Greek project.
It won eight (8) State Awards including Best Picture, Best Direction, Photography, Music, Editing, Sound and Make-Up, as well as the Audience Award at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Juan Diego Botto received the Prize for Best Actor at the Cairo International Film Festival and costumer Lala Huete won the Goya Award for the film’s superb costumes. The film officially participated in many other Festivals, such as TIFF, Sao Paolo, Guadallahara, Pantalla Pinamar in Argentina and many more.
EL GRECO managed one of the highest box office hits in Greece with 1.200.000 admissions and was released in Spain, Hungary, Russia and France.
The film EL GRECO by Iannis Smaragdis is a film full of light, indicating art’s liberating force in the form of renowned painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos (1520 – 1614). It combines history with myth, adventure with benevolence and deep reflection, love with friendship… It is a film – an artistic achievement that appeals to a varied audience, working class and cultivated alike. A hymn to Greco’s spirit, the “light” that can be found in art and freedom; this film goes beyond the Greek borders. It has all the requirements for an international career.
Giorgos Vidalis, ELEFTHEROTYPIA, 19 October 2007
EL GRECO is a multilayered film, starting with its aesthetic and technical superiority. Then its the story and the public’s acquaintance with acclaimed painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos. And of course, it is Iannis Smaragdis himself, who made it into the realm of distinguished directors. With his film EL GRECO, Smaragdis went a step further, leaving behind the miserable local productions, and can now compete with the worldwide cinema… Iannis Smaragdis’ EL GRECO is an opulent film! It lacks nothing! All the actors are stupendous. Aris Stavrou as director of photography has never been better. The photography is so alive. Damianos Zarifis designed and supervised the construction of the ever so elegant and practical sets. Not to mention Vangelis’ music… All collaborators have a unique sense of comprehending a world language. The film’s classical narration tells the story of Theotokopoulos’ epic life. From the island of Crete to Venice, his acquaintance with the great artists of that era and his escape to Spain, his second country! We can visualize the history surrounding the painter growing up and becoming the great Cretan and world renowned artist (16th century). We see Crete rebelling against Venetian rule, Italy’s wavering aristocracy in Venice, the powerful Holy Inquisition in Spain… The viewer comes out of the theatre informed and content… This is indeed a beautiful and productive moment for Greek cinematography!
Newspaper RIZOSPASTIS, 18 October 2007
In October 2012 another major moment came true for ALEXANDROS FILM and its team, with the film GOD LOVES CAVIAR, with a varied and wonderful cast of top European actors such as Sebastian Koch, John Cleese, Catherine Deneuve, Juan Diego Botto, Evgeny Stychkin and many more. The film participated at the Toronto International Film Festival, at the Shanghai International Film Festival, at Pantalla Pinamar, to name a few. Furthermore, it was that same year that director Iannis Smaragdis was voted the most popular artist in Greece.
“The film GOD LOVES CAVIAR about Greek benefactor Ioannis Varvakis looks like the enigmatic male figure that is created by the incomparable Leonardo da Vinci: St. John the Baptist who, although eternal darkness envelops him like a deathly shroud, is radiant and smiling, with one hand on his heart while the other, the right one, points up, to the sky… But isn’t this the ingredient which is so obviously and distressfully missing from contemporary cinema? The creator’s regard towards the vital source… The divine. Nowadays, there are many master directors-poets of decadence who are very interesting cinematically, because they imprint on celluloid the decomposition that is dominant all around us. But dissolution demands synthesis. And this is the problem of art today. That all of a sudden lost its belief in synthesis and principally in beauty. Modern art looks only inwardly where there is nothing to be found but ruins, the mirror of our world: everyone wants to descend into the realm of the mother, of the primordial womb, of the darkness, without possessing Faust’s key. I do believe that the destination of the artist –and also of human being– is to try to get hold of a key and to open closed doors with it. Ancient Greek tragic poets, Plato, Shakespeare, Goethe, Jung, Kubrick, and many more achieved that goal. But one of our contemporary Greek directors, Iannis Smaragdis, has succeeded it too, as at the end of his film it is the children that hold the keys, it is lost innocence that opens the door of prison and leads the hero to freedom…”
Mimis Tsakoniatis - Film Critic, The Intelligent
In the meantime, ALEXANDROS FILM has set a course for the actualization of yet another ambitious project. Our new film NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS is unfolding before us and is inviting us to realize it, despite the ever more difficult financial situation in our country and the rest of Europe.