Some of the world’s most promising film-makers will be among those taking a walk down the red carpet to participate in a ‘feast’ of cinema presented at the 5th Cyprus International Film Festival (CYIFF), when it opens at the Pantheon Art Cinema in Nicosia next Wednesday.

Kicking off with a tribute to contemporary Polish cinema, the Festival’s opening ceremony is followed by the Cyprus premiere of Pedon Papamichael’s Arcadia Lost, the story of two troubled teenagers stranded in rural Greece, set against the breath-taking backdrop of the Peloponnese.

Initially released at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival in June, the $2 million production stars Nick Nolte as the teenagers’ philosophically-unorthodox American guide, alongside Greek film and TV actress Alexandra Pavlidou.

Pavlidou will attend the Festival as a member of the judging panel alongside Cypriot composer Costas Cacoyannis, actor and director Costas Demetriou, US film producer Georges Stephanopoulos, and Greek film critic Alexandros Romanos Lizardos.

The panel will consider the merits of a plethora of international films competing for an assortment of prizes, including seven works in contention for Cyprus’ coveted Golden Aphrodite award, to be presented at a gala finale at the Pallas Theatre on 18 October.

More than 30 shorts will be screened during the five day event, among them are submissions from Greece, Argentina, UK, Australia and six works by Cypriot film-makers in the short film award category judged by the University of Cyprus Cinematographic Association.

A packed Festival program features Q&A sessions with film-makers, a special screening of Costas Dimitriou’s Hasaboulia tis Kyprou, and an educational program for young film-makers run by internationally acclaimed Greek actor and director, Thanassis Sarantos.

The workshops will provide a forum for new and established film creatives to exchange ideas, with an opportunity to collaborate on a short fiction film to be shot and edited in Nicosia during the event and screened at the Festival’s closing ceremony.

Organised by industry volunteers, including event organisers, film producers and multimedia specialists, the Festival enables talented young professionals to develop their preferred audiovisual medium, from feature films to animation, while offering the chance to present their work to a committee of film-makers, directors and actors.

Prizes are supplied in the form of services and facilities, for example, post production and equipment, by private sector sponsors on the proviso that the winners use them to develop a film project in either Greece or Cyprus.

CYIFF CEO, Petra Terzi, describes how the event facilitates the growth of indigenous film-making.

“We are trying to help innovative film expression form and script wise, to prosper, and to include as many films directed by upcoming directors as possible. We have been witnessing during our editions, submissions from many talented Cypriot filmmakers,” she says, outlining the aims of the ‘Nostimon Imar’ section which is designed to showcase the films of Cypriots living overseas.

“We thought that we should create a special section for these people. They are young, talented and prosperous – the next best thing in filmmaking,” she adds. “The fact that the festival is located in Cyprus we thought that bringing Cypriot filmmakers ‘back to their origins’ was a way to thank people of Cyprus for attending and loving this event.”

Terzi predicts a positive future for the local film industry.
“I can say that there are many talented people, and people willing to promote and help them grow so I think it is a matter of time to see the results of this blossoming, which is happening right now,” she confirms.

The industry traces its history to the Cypriot film-makers who began attending the British funded ‘Colonial Film Unit’ during the 1940s. The country’s first independent production, entitled Roots, was released in 1958, spawning a series of award-winning short films by pioneers such as Ninos Fenwick Mikellidis and George Lanitis.

Feature-length movies followed in the 1960s, including those of Michalis Cacoyannis, director of Oscar nominated films Zorba the Greek and Elektra.

Continued division of Cypriot communities has naturally inspired a legion of documentaries and films, from Elias Demetriou’s Pyla- Living Together Separately, to Parallel Trips and Camur, from the partnership of Turkish-Cypriot Dervis Zaim, and Greek-Cypriot Panicos Chrysanthou.

The pair fell victim to political interference from the Papadopoulos administration when it attempted to censor their co-produced, bi-communal love story, Akamas, demanding its withdrawal from the 2006 Venice Film Festival over the inclusion of a scene in which a Greek Cypriot is executed by members of EOKA resistance in a church during Good Friday mass.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC) pledged more support for domestic film-makers in an effort to promote the island and its culture through film, documentary and animation. Applicants are required to fulfil MOEC criteria, for example, by making films in Greek or Turkish language featuring culturally relevant Cypriot characters, to qualify for grants of up to €43,000 under the scheme.

CYIFF is one of a growing number of Cyprus festivals dedicated to the big screen. Annual events include ‘Cyprus Film Days’ and the ‘International Documentary Film Festival’ in Limassol, Nicosia’s ‘Famagusta Film Festival’ and ‘Pantheon International Xperimental Film & Animation Festival,’ and the ‘Countryside Documentary and Animated Film Festival’ held in Platanisteia every August.