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Greek Films in DC:

Peppermint Leaves Bad Aftertaste

Last Wednesday night, we decided to head down to The Foundry in Georgetown to take in a Greek movie.  This rare experience was made possible by the Hellenic Society Prometheas, a local Greek-American organization which is perhaps the most active organization in DC promoting Greek culture.  The first of two films that they were showing was Peppermint, which was shown again on Saturday night.  (You still have a chance to catch the second movie, The Four Seasons of the Law this Saturday.)  Peppermint was a good movie, despite its awkward and sometimes disturbing plotline.

What’s the best way to describe this movie without giving too much away?  Well imagine if the makers of Forrest Gump had decided to focus almost exclusively on Forrest and Jenny’s childhood, with a brief glimpse into their teenage years.  But then imagine if Forrest and Jenny were first cousins.  Starting to get the picture?  Yes, Peppermint is an well-done movie dealing with an awkward subject of what happens when two first cousins spend way too much time hanging out with each other to the point where they start “experimenting” with each other. 

The early sexualization of the main character, Stephanos, is the driving force of this movie.  From his sneaking a look at his father’s porn magazines, to his fear of his comically big-busted algebra teacher in elementary school, to his run-in with a prostitute in his pre-teen years while on a family vacation, Stephanos is being constantly bombarded with images that almost certainly lead to him to seeing his cousin as the object of his affection.  You get a sense that Stephanos is more than a little misguided as this behavior is also coupled with general menacing antics that extend to all facets of his life.  Stephanos is constantly being berated by his father, with the “why-can’t-you-be more-like-your-friend” technique that all Greek fathers use on their children, despite the fact that in all reality, Stephanos is a bright boy, who simply chooses to focus his attention on his obsession with airplanes more so than on his studies.     

Now the movie gets its title from a liquor called Peppermint, made by Sans Rival, the same company that makes those travel-size bottles of ouzo with the handle that you get at the Athens Airport for around 1000 drachmes.  We couldn’t tell if this was a crème de menthe knock-off or something stronger, but Stefano and his cousin Marina were sure getting a wicked buzz off the stuff at age 7.  If anyone knows where we can get our hands on some of this stuff, we’d greatly appreciate it, because I have the feeling that if it’s liquor made by Greeks, it might taste like a girl drink, but it’ll probably give you a kefaliko like all good Greek alcohol.

Despite what you may have thought of the main plot line, the background scenes of this movie made it worth seeing.  The director takes you through about 40 years of Greek pop-culture through the story of Stefano, Marina and their families, including some good old-fashioned Greek superstition and home remedies.  In one scene, Stefano’s mom uses vendouzes, a popular Greek cure-all, to treat her husband’s ailment.  Vendouzes is like a Greek form of acupuncture, where you basically heat the air inside a glass and stick it on a person’s back making a tight vacuum seal, which sounds like a suction cup when removed.    

The soundtrack to this film includes some great Greek songs from 60s, as well as some jazz and R&B and dance songs from the 60s and 70s.  We never thought we’d hear “Mony Mony” playing in the background of a Greek house party scene.  In many ways the soundtrack made it feel like you were watching movies with diverse tracks like Forrest Gump or Swingers.

If you missed Peppermint, there’s a chance in an international city like Washington, DC, you can find it somewhere on video, at any video store that specializes in foreign films.  If you still want to see Greek films on the big screen, head to The Foundry this weekend to catch The Four Seasons of the Law.  For only $5 dollars it’s a good way to spend a couple of hours supporting Greek arts in the DC area.  Check the Events Calendar for show times.   

Read past feature articles.