The education ministry’s cultural services on Thursday denied claims of discrimination by film director Panicos Chrysanthou who went on a hunger strike over the debt he amassed for one of his films in 2006 because it was banned.
Chrysanthou, who began the hunger strike last week in protest over “discrimination and exclusion in the field of cinema”, had called on the education ministry to deal with the problems he was facing as a director, which, he said, concerned the very structure of the system in which Cypriot cinema is produced.
He also said that he has amassed €180,000 in debt for his 2006 film “Akamas”. He blames the cinema advisory committee of the education ministry (Sekin), for “deliberate delays in payment, administrative measures, breach of the cogeneration contract and a ban on the film”.
Chrysanthou said that the then government did not take direct action to stop the film production but it made it very difficult for its successful completion by withdrawing crucial funds and severely limiting its market potential by making distribution almost impossible and by banning it from Cypriot TV and Cypriot cinemas.
The ministry’s cultural services and advisory committee said on Thursday despite the fact they recognised and appreciate Chrysanthou’s contribution to Cypriot cinema, they “do not intend to succumb to pressure because they operate in accordance with democratic and prescribed procedures for the development of the cinema sector”.
The cultural services said Chrysanthou received in total €375,610 for the film “Akamas”, and an additional €138,000 from the European Cinema Support Fund (Eurimages).
It also said that “Akamas” has been included in a special box edition along with other Cypriot films, whose copies have been sent to the embassies of the Republic of Cyprus across the world for screening. It did not address the issue of the ban at home.
The announcement said the cultural services supported Chrysanthou’s other business activity – a cinema archive – and said he also participates in a number of other ventures.
“Cinema and funding for its development are insufficient for the livelihood of a creator over a lifetime, so in order to live with dignity, the overwhelming majority of directors are forced to work in other productions and /or lines of business,” it said. “The need to borrow for the completion of cinematographic productions is a frequent phenomenon and this exists in all countries of the world”.
The most recent film by Chrysanthou is the “The Story of the Green Line”, which premiered at Nicosia’s K-Cineplex in March and the public’s response was massive. The story focused on bonds formed between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.
Chrysanthou, is still at the end of Ledra Street where he started his hunger strike. He is also holding a photo exhibition titled “Dear Ingmar, can I say I have become a director?”
A comment by film director Michael Papas
Panicos Chrysanthou is not a friend of mine. In fact, he has criticised my work fiercely in the past.
But I cannot stand by and not support him in his dramatic attempt to stand up against what is rotten in the state of Sekin (Advisory Committee on Cinema), which is the sole source of funding for filmmakers in Cyprus.
I have experienced worse than Panicos Chrysanthou, and decided a long time ago to have nothing more to do with the diseased situation that exists in my country, but his action now obliges me to speak out.
Sekin is run by civil servants who have no professional knowledge or experience of film-making but have the audacity to dictate to film makers how to do their job, how to write their screenplays, and to exercise censorship at any stage of the creative process.
For over 15 years Sekin has operated with the same people handling the public funds allocated for film production and wielding the power to dictate which films are made and which are rejected.
It is unacceptable that government after government should maintain and support this flawed system for almost two decades without change (unheard of anywhere else in Europe). It is particularly unacceptable that this system operates under the ministry of education and culture with a complete lack of informed film policy.
Sekin operates with Orwellian tactics behind a smokescreen of subordinate and submissive committees, and “accommodating” film directors, thus preventing the healthy development of film production in Cyprus for more than two decades. It is responsible for a tragic waste of talent, opportunities, and public money.
The case of Panicos Chrysanthou deserves a proper hearing and solution. The system of film funding in Cyprus must be re-structured, and must operate under a new and independent organisation.