By Evie Andreou
IN TIMES of economic depression love and devotion in one’s own art often becomes the driving force behind creative ideas.
In order to make their idea a reality three young Cypriot artists, Loris Loizides, director Nicolas Koumides and TV presenter Stavros Kyprianou took a giant leap of faith when they decided to fund their own film, and so To pouli tis Kyprou (Bird of Cyprus) was born. “This is the first local film made with no government assistance at all,” Loizides told the Sunday Mail.
In the first week after it premiered on March 28, some 20,000 tickets were sold. The number has now risen to more than 50,000.
the film, a local-style comedy, has an all-star cast including Cyprus’ most well-known and popular actors and TV personas. The cast includes Antonis Katsaris, Marios Demetriou, Loris Loizides, Fotis Georgides, Lenia Sorokkou all of whom have appeared in popular TV shows with high ratings.
Greek actors like Gerasimos Skiadaresis, Giorgos Pyrpasopoulos, Nicos Orfanos, Yiannis Bostantzoglou and Nicoletta Karra also appear in the film as does Christiana Artemiou, co-author of the popular television series Aigia Fuxia, and Vicky Hadjivasileiou.
Loizides, who is also the script writer and a lead actor in the film, said he chose the specific cast because they were people he works with.
They are talented, good associates, and that’s why he wrote the script for them, he said. “It cost more than €300,000 to make and we are still estimating total costs,” said Loizides.
The plot which is reminiscent of The Full Monty is based on four unemployed men trying to find a way to earn money. They abduct a famous Greek actress in order to make a porn film.
Judging by the comments of those who saw the film, not everyone liked it and others expected more, yet almost a month after the premiere it still fills up cinema theatres. “I heard that it wasn’t great, but it is a Cypriot production and I wanted to give it a chance, and to support their effort,” said one cinemagoer.
For many though, the draw remains the cast itself. Antonis Katsaris and Lenia Sorokkou are loved and familiar faces for at least two generations of viewers. Loris Loizides, Fotis Georgides and Marios Demetriou are Cyprus’ guys next door.
They all found popular recognition from their role in sketches in CyBC’s hugely popular weekly satirical show Patates Antinahtes, which has been running for nine seasons. People seem to relate to them because they appear as simple folk, commenting on and satirising Cypriots, and making it look bearable by always finding the funny side.
So why would this film be any different? In response to why he thinks the film was such a huge success, Loizides said: “It is a simple original Cypriot comedy, with no fancy shots and any other fancy effects. People come to watch the film, relax, enjoy themselves for an hour and a half and go home in good humour”.
Nicolas Koumides, the director of the film, is also the director and producer of Patates Antinahtes, and the director of Aigia Fuxia, which was aired on ANT1 Cyprus and ran for two seasons from 2008-2010. It used to climb up to 70 per cent in the ratings.
Koumides, told the Sunday Mail that with the film they wanted to pass along a message. “We wanted to prove that in these difficult times in which we find ourselves, this production hired local crew and produced a film that 55.000 people actually went to watch. Other producers receive huge sums as funding for films nobody ever watched,” he said.
An official at the education ministry’s cultural services – which helps fund the Cypriot film industry said it was very pleased that To pouli tis Kyprou, was made and that an independent production company was doing so well. “The crisis has led to a development of independent productions in Europe as well and here goes to prove that love and devotion to cinema are being revived in periods of economic depression,” the official told the Sunday Mail.
“Each year’s funding budget is being decided by the ministry of finance and since 2012 no new calls for proposals have been made due to significant budget cuts. We use the money to help running projects to finish instead,” the official said. “As a result, 2014 and 2015 will be relatively poor both in short and full length films”.
He said despite the lack of official funding there had been an increase in local productions. “Several years ago audiovisual productions amounted to 3-4 short length films, one documentary and maybe one full length film per year but by 2012 production rose to 8-10 short length films, four documentaries and 1-2 full length films per year,” said the official.
Since 2003, the ministry has been managing the film sector through the “Programme for the Development of Cyprus Cinema” and its priorities are cinematographic production, education and professional training.
It finances international co-productions, high and low budget feature films, short films, documentaries, animation, experimental films, as well as the local distribution and circulation of Cypriot films in theatres.
It also provides financial support for filmmakers to participate in international film festivals and markets and in various educational seminars and workshops abroad. Until now, the government has allocated financial support for more than 130 films. The annual funding budget four years ago was €1.5m. The next year it was reduced to €900,000 and the last two years was further cut to only €700.000.
The history of cinema in Cyprus began at the end of the 1940s, when the British colonial government started to train Cypriot film makers at the Colonial Film Unit. With the advent of Cypriot television in 1957, the first short-length films, mainly documentaries, began to be produced.
The pioneers of Cypriot cinema during the 1950s were George Lanitis, Ninos Fenek Mikellides, Renos Watson, Polys Georgakis and others who directed and produced short-length films. including: The Island of Aphrodite, Salamina, Botrys of Cyprus, Epikoinonia (Communication), To Heri (The Hand) and Rizes (Roots) by Nikos Lanitis and George Stivaros.
Feature-length films were produced much later in the 1960s. George Fills in 1963 directed a film depicting the traditional Cypriot wedding, Agapes kai Kaimoi (Love Affairs and Heartbreaks) in 1965, and soon after To Telefteo Fili (The Last Kiss), 1821, and Cyprus. In 1969, George Katsouris and Costas Farmakas directed the comedy O Paras o Maskaras (Money the Clown).
To pouli tis Kyprou is currently playing at K-Cineplexes and RIO Cinemas islandwide. Provided there is adequate viewer interest, it is scheduled to run until June 6. The producers are also discussing with a Greek distribution company the possibility of airing the film in Greece.