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Costa-Gavras to Receive USC's Eisenstein Award

Costa-GavrasDirector, screenwriter, and producer Costa-Gavras, 74, never one to shy away from inflammatory themes, will be honored with the second-ever Eisenstein Award handed out by the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.

The Sept. 28 ceremony will launch a two-day Costa-Gavras mini-festival, with screenings of four of the director's films: the Academy Award-winning 1969 political thriller Z, one of the best examples in the genre; Amen, a 2002 drama about the Catholic Church's silence during the Holocaust; Missing, a first-rate 1982 political thriller starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek as Americans reluctantly involved in the U.S.-backed coup against left-wing Chilean president Salvador Allende; and the subversive The Ax, in which a desperate unemployed man takes some radical measures to get rid of the competition.

On Sept. 29, the director's daughter, Julie Gavras, whose Blame It on Fidel! is currently being shown in Los Angeles, will join Costa-Gavras and several guest scholars in a panel discussion focused on the director's work and on political cinema in general.

All events are free, but reservations are required at cinema.usc.edu/CostaGavras. The festival will take place at the Norris Cinema Theatre/Frank Sinatra Hall. Passes for Parking Structure D may be purchased for $7.00 at USC Entrance Gate 5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Ave., south of downtown Los Angeles.

As per the event's press release, the Eisenstein Award “recognizes visionary and distinguished contributions to the cinematic arts.” Filmmaker Agnès Varda was the first recipient of the award in November 2003.

Schedule and additional information (from the press release):

Friday, September 28th, 2007

6:30PM: Welcome reception outside of Norris Theatre.

7:15PM: Opening remarks; presentation of the Eisenstein Award by SCA Dean Elizabeth M. Daley to Costa-Gavras.

7:45PM: Screening of Missing (1982), 122 min. Followed by a brief Q&A between the filmmaker and the audience.


Amen by Costa-GavrasSaturday, September 29th, 2007

12:00PM: Screening of The Ax (Le Couperet, 2005), 122 min., in French with English subtitles.

3:00PM: Screening of Amen. (2002), 132 min., in French with English subtitles.

6:00PM: Panel discussion about political cinema and the works of Costa-Gavras. Panelists will include USC History Professor Steven J. Ross, Boston College Professor John Michalczyk, SCA Production Professor Jeremy Kagan, in addition to Costa-Gavras and Julie Gavras.

7:00PM: Catered reception in Queen's Courtyard, directly in front of Norris Cinema Theatre.

8:00PM: Screening of Z (1969), 127 min., in French with English subtitles, introduced by the director.



Costa-Gavras was born in Greece in 1933 and attended high school in Athens before moving to Paris to enroll at La Sorbonne and subsequently the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies in 1956. For several years, he worked as the assistant director for such established filmmakers as René Clair, Jacques Demy and Marcel Ophüls.

His debut as a feature film director and screenwriter came in 1965 with The Sleeping Car Murder” (Compartiment Tueurs), which won the National Board of Review's award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967. The film established early-on Costa-Gavras' astute eye for casting and preference for ensemble casts, including future “Z” co-stars Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacques Perrin and Charles Denner.

The critical and commercial success of “Z” internationally in 1969 brought the director such prestigious awards as the Prix Spécial du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1970. Costa-Gavras followed the success of Z with several hard-hitting political thrillers based on real historical events, including “The Confession” (L'Aveu, 1971), “State of Siege” (État de Siege, 1973) and “Special Section” (1975), which brought him a Best Director award at Cannes.

He became one of the most visible and important filmmakers during the height of international political cinema in the 1970s, particularly for his frequent collaborations with screenwriters Jorge Semprun and Franco Solinas.

Missing by Costa-GavrasIn 1982, he made his first English-language film, Missing, which won the coveted Palme D'Or at Cannes and the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Costa-Gavras and Donald Stewart, in addition to nominations for Best Picture, Actor (Jack Lemmon) and Actress (Sissy Spacek) in 1983.

From 1982 to 1987, he served as the President of La Cinémathèque Française, a title that he recently reassumed in 2007. His work throughout the 80s and 90s included “Hanna K.” (1983), “Family Business” (Conseil de Famille, 1985), “Betrayed” (1987) & “Music Box” (1989), both scripted by Joe Eszterhas, “The Little Apocalypse” (La Petite Apocalypse, 1992) and Mad City (1997), with John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman.

His most recent films include “Amen.” (2002) and “The Ax” (Le Couperet, 2005). He is currently working on a new production with co-writer Jean-Claude Grumberg. His honors include the title of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor.



“Missing” (1982) is based on the true story of American journalist Charles Horman, an American journalist who disappeared in the bloody aftermath of the Chilean coup of 1973 that deposed President Salvador Allende. The film follows Horman's wife (Sissy Spacek) and his father (Jack Lemmon) as they investigate the practices of the deadly new regime and possible U.S. complicity in Horman's abduction. “Missing” won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and was nominated for Best Actor (Lemmon), Best Actress (Spacek) and Best Picture. The film won the 1982 Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Ax by Costa-Gavras"The Ax” (Le Couperet, 2005) follows Bruno Davert, a middle-aged, middle-class executive in the paper industry, who finds himself out of work after many years of dedicated corporate servitude. After three subsequent years of unemployment, Bruno becomes all too aware of the abundance of candidates vying for the scarce positions that he qualifies for. In a desperate attempt to land his dream job, Bruno decides to improve his odds in the workforce by eliminating, literally, the competition.

“Amen.” (2002) is an examination of the possible complicity between the Catholic Church and Nazi Germany during WWII. Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur), a real-life chemist and member of the Institute for Hygiene of the SS, is compelled to act against the regime when he learns that the chemical used to purify water for the troops, zyklon B, is being used as a poison to kill prisoners in the gas chamber. Gerstein attempts to notify Pope Pius XII, but is appalled by the lack of response he gets from the Catholic hierarchy. His only ally is a young Jesuit priest (Mathieu Kassovitz), who refuses to accept the Vatican's silence.

Z by Costa-Gavras"Z” (1969), although never expressly situated, is a thinly veiled indictment of the military junta that came to power in Greece during the early 1960s. Determined to eradicate the influence of leftist politics in the country, the government implements a variety of ideological programs meant to indoctrinate the mass public. When a liberal politician (Yves Montand) is murdered in an attack during a peace demonstration, the police and the military try to hide not only their complicity in the assassination, but the entire murder as well. The prosecutor (Jean-Louis Trintignant) must act as a detective to unearth the corruption of a government operating in the absence of accountability. Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Film Editing Academy Awards in 1970, and nominated for Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay. Winner of the Jury Prize and Best Actor Award (Trintignant) at the Cannes Film Festival.

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