'El Greco' looking for buyers at Toronto fest

Film about painter is Greece's biggest-budget film

TORONTO --Movie producer Helen Smaragdis has come to the Toronto International Film Festival to entice international buyers with Greece's biggest-budget film ever, "El Greco."

Directed by husband Iannis Smaragdis ("Cavafy"), the largely English language biopic about the 16th century Spanish painter El Greco -- who was really Cretan-born and christened Domenikos Theotokopoulos – was produced at a record cost of 7 million euros.

"My husband is the director and he too is from Crete and wanted to do a quality, commercial film that's a period drama and has lots of costumes – that's difficult to do in Greece," Smaragdis said of the ten-year journey the film took to reach audiences as she does the rounds in Toronto.

"El Greco" comes to the Toronto International Film Festival for its international premiere after its earned 6 million euros at the Greek box office and garnered eight national awards, including best director and best picture.

Now Smaragdis hopes the financial spin-off will continue in Toronto as Notro Films shops the Greek-Spanish-Hungarian co-production here.

Loosely based on a biographical novel, "El Greco" follows the famed painter as he makes his way through courts in Crete, in Venice, where's he's proclaimed El Greco, and then on to Toledo where he confronts the Spanish Inquisition, not to mention betrayal and love.

The movie stars Nick Ashdon as Greco along with Juan Diego Botto, Laia Marull, Lakis Lazopoulos and Dimitra Matsouka. The movie's score comes by way of Vangelis, and the lavish costumes from Lala Huete, whose credits include Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth."

"El Greco" has its first public screening on Friday at the Isabel Bader Theater, followed a day later with a second outing at the Scotiabank Theater.
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