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Cyprus Film Days is back

Angeliki Papoulia in 'A Blast'.

By Preston Wilder

Where does Cyprus Film Days fit into the local filmgoing calendar? Its importance is undeniable. It’s our only world-class film festival, showing some of the top titles from the world’s top fests (actually, that’s not quite true: the Limassol Documentary Festival in August is also world-class, but of course much more specialised). Festivals come and go on the local scene – Francophonie, which lasts a whole month; Polish film week, Portuguese film week – but none are in CFD’s league. Starting last Friday, ending next Sunday, we’ll have three different films every night – at 6pm, 8pm and 10pm – each film shown exactly twice: once in Nicosia at the Zena Palace, once in Limassol at the Rialto. It’s pandemonium. (Also note that films are shown with Greek AND ENGLISH subtitles.)

All true; but where does it fit? The question’s been prompted mainly by the inclusion of Whiplash on this year’s slate, in the Viewfinder category. Viewfinder aims to show award-winning films from the past year – and Whiplash certainly qualifies, having won three Oscars, but who’s the audience for this film at this late date? Rabid cinephiles will have heard of it at Sundance 2014 (where it won top prize), others will have rented or – more probably – downloaded it based on good word-of-mouth. Yet it’s also true that many people don’t download; many people only watch TV; many people like films but don’t really follow what’s going on – unless a big annual event like CFD comes along, to shake them out of their apathy.

GLOCAL IMAGES. In short, there’s a broad spectrum when it comes to filmgoing – and maybe that’s where CFD fits in, as a high-profile buffet where irregular filmgoers can enjoy some of the big non-Hollywood titles of the past 12 months. But here’s the caveat: nearly half the slate doesn’t actually consist of big titles. This is Glocal Images, the competitive section made up (inevitably) of smaller films. I’ve seen exactly one of the nine being shown this year (The Goob, a British drama with a teenage protagonist, set in rural Norfolk), and found it delectable but minor. Most of the others I haven’t even heard of – which of course doesn’t mean anything, but be aware that Glocal Images is about discovering little-known gems, and be aware that half of CFD is significantly less world-class than the other half.

Apart from The Goob – which is indeed very enjoyable – other possible highlights include The Chambermaid Lynn (which, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “could be marketed as Germany’s answer to Fifty Shades of Grey”!); the chilling French serial-killer drama Cruel; the Kosovar Three Windows and a Hanging, about the mass rape of women by Serbian forces during the 1998-99 Kosovo war; A Blast, a punky Greek film which made a splash in Greece; and Difret, which deals with the plight of women in Ethiopia and was co-produced by Angelina Jolie. Many of these will be shown with the director in attendance, answering questions in a post-movie Q&A.

VIEWFINDER. Going to a film in Glocal Images is a lottery; going to a film in Viewfinder is a sure thing – at least if you share the taste of the world’s arthouse tastemakers. This year’s slate has been cut down to six films, partly due to the introduction of the National Competition [see below], but all six are massive. Whiplash, the Oscar-nominated Leviathan from Russia, and the French Canadian Mommy (Jury Prize at Cannes) are simply among the best films of 2014 – brilliantly edited, devastatingly sad and blisteringly emotional, respectively. I’m not a fan of Spanish drama Magical Girl (I found the ending horribly misjudged), but it’s won lots of prizes – and I haven’t seen the remaining two titles, Corn Island and Xenia, but Greek critics have been raving over the latter while the former (a film from Georgia) won top prize at Karlovy Vary, so they sound pretty good. Unmissable, in fact.

NATIONAL COMPETITION. The big news in 2015, however, is undoubtedly the creation of a sidebar for feature-length Cypriot films. This would’ve been superfluous in the past, since there weren’t enough local movies to merit a sidebar – but this year, despite or because of the financial crisis, there are four. The arty-sounding Impressions of a Drowned Man, from director Kyros Papavasiliou, has the most impressive pedigree, having previously screened at the Rotterdam Festival (it’s also showing in Glocal Images). The Magic Beans is a dry comedy by Theo Panayides, who is also yours truly (‘Preston Wilder’ can finally be outed as a nom de plume). Conveyor Belt is a one-hour drama about a man obsessed, by German-born director Alexia Roider. And Family Member, from Marinos Kartikkis, is the one most inspired by the crisis – judging by its plot – being about a family who resort to deception in order to make ends meet.

So there you have it. 10 days, over two dozen movies – there’s also a three-film tribute to ‘The Other Cinema of the Fantastic’ (the creepy Goodnight Mommy deserves a look) plus a retrospective of Hal Hartley, US indie king of the early 90s – something, as they say, for all tastes. Full details at the festival website, www.cyprusfilmdays.com, or call the Rialto Theatre at 7777-7745.

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