Oscars: Greece Selects 'Amerika Square' for Foreign-Language Category

Amerika Square - Still 1 - Vassilis Koukalani - H 2016
Courtesy of Yannis Sakaridis

A tattoo artist, his racist friend and a Syrian refugee collide in Yannis Sakaridis' contemporary drama.

Greece has selected Yannis Sakaridis' timely story of the opposing forces facing today's humanitarian crises, Amerika Square, as its candidate for consideration for the best foreign-language film Oscar.

The film, the second feature by Sakaridis, premiered last year in Busan and has won awards around the world since, including best feature at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival this year.

In the pic, tattoo artist Billy (Yannis Stankoglou) and his best mate, the unemployed Nakos (Makis Papadimitriou), often hang out in the eponymous Athens square of the title. Nakos blames immigrants and refugees for his country's problems, projecting his own sense of inadequacy on others. Billy believes welcoming refugees is the correct response to the crisis of people fleeing war. When the two meet Tarek (Vassilis Koukalani), the stage is set for their own conflict.

Although the film exhibits some plot lines and relationships that stretch credulity, The Hollywood Reporter critic Deborah Young dubbed it "one of the best European films to date on the subject of immigration in all its painful implications."

Amerika Square is based on a novel by Yannis Tsirbas, who was one of an ensemble team of scriptwriters. Sakaridis, who began his career in the cutting room, both directed and edited the pic.

Produced by ERT, Marblemen, Athens Filmmakers' Coop in Association with True Motion Pictures and the Greek Film Center, world sales are being handled by Patra Spanou and theatrical releases are already planned for the movie in the U.S. via Corinth Films and in Spain (CADA Films) this fall.

Greece has a long history of submitting films to the Oscars and has been nominated five times — most recently in 2010 for Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth — but has never won the coveted statuette.