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Celebrating independent cinema and collaboration

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In a film festival for everyone, the balance between blockbusters and independent film is in focus at Cyprus Film Days says ELENI PHILIPPOU

“There’s definitely a Cypriot film renaissance,” says Argyro Nicolaou, one of the artistic directors of Cyprus Film Days, which this year will see four Cyprus productions battle it out for an award, a section that was skipped last year as not enough works had been completed. Cypriot cinema, she added, is evolving in terms of the concepts covered, the script, the skillset and production quality. All four films will be screened during the festival – from April 12-20 – and subtitled in both English and Turkish.

Apart from local films, a diverse range of films will be screened at Zena Place in Nicosia and Rialto Theatre in Limassol including works that were either directed or shot by the international jury members. Expanding the film genres is the Taste of Indie section with two films that show how artists can get creative, even with limited funds.

“This section reflects the general curatorial approach we took for this edition with Marios Lizides, which is led by the word ‘independent’. What does it mean to be an independent creator? What are the perks that come with having limitations? How far can creativity be stretched?” asks Argyro.

feature2 cyprus film days has something to offer everyone
Cyprus film days has something to offer everyone

What constitutes independent cinema is an ongoing debate within the film industry and the festival shines a brighter light on it this year: big blockbuster movies vs more experimental and socially-engaged film-making. “It is in the tradition of cinema as art, as opposed to cinema as entertainment and the commercial money-making machine. This is an important distinction – what the goal of the film is,” says Argyro.

“A lot of the films that we show in our programme, traditionally, are films that you can only see on the festival circuit. They sometimes will get theatrical release, some are nominated for Oscars or the European Film Academy Awards but had we not obtained these films early on, they would have probably been screened in maybe a bigger cinema complex in Cyprus. But we want to make sure that we get Cyprus premieres.”

Exploring this notion of independent art seeps into more aspects of the festival. At the opening ceremony, artist Lia Haraki will present a performance that highlights the process of independent art with all of its frustrations and joys. Expect a fusion of spoken word, performance art, sound art and stand-up. Master of Ceremonies will be visual artist PASHIAS who will welcome audiences and set the mood as the festival opens with a Cypriot film – Kyros Papavasiliou’s Embryo Larva Butterfly. Nicosia too will have an opening party, on Saturday 13, outside Zena Palace hosted by the artist collective From Berlin with Love with DJs and special video projections.

Establishing and planting new collaborations is a big focus of Cyprus Film Days this year. “We’re a small place. We strongly believe in collaboration and in bridging the interests of festivals and showing the overlaps of our audience as well as introducing one festival and its audience to the other.”

As such, on April 7 the festival collaborates with QueerWave to present a special pre-festival screening of the award-winning film The Blue Caftan by Moroccan director Maryam Touzani at ARTos House.

“It’s important for the festival to reflect the breadth of what cinema is because it’s an art form and an educational tool also. Our Children and Youth Festival, through the workshops especially, and the selection of films is all about creating the next generation of cinephiles, film creatives and professionals. But of course, it’s also an industry, right? One that employs people in Cyprus, in Europe, and the world.”

For the fifth year Dot.on.the.Map will be included in the festival, that helped put Cyprus on the map as a film industry destination. “This doesn’t just mean that people from abroad learn about Cyprus just to shoot here,” says Argyro, “it means learning about Cyprus, its industry people, and creating collaborations.”

A festival for all is what Cyprus Film Days is, bringing people together in cinema theatres. During a time when cinema culture is shifting because of the change in how we consume movies today – streaming services have taken over – going to the cinema theatre is an experience. A big screen, the right sound system, a dark theatre for two hours, a break from using your phone ; your full attention goes towards watching the film.

“Ultimately, a filmmaker makes films for someone to see. They don’t make films for themselves,” says Argyro. “If you’re going to the cinema theatre, it’s totally different to watching a movie at home where you can pause, come back and rewind. It’s about everything around you.

“We’re not trying to be a huge blockbuster festival. We are an intimate, meaningful festival where people can get to know the filmmakers and the jury members personally, hang out, mingle and party and this is very important to us.”

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Cyprus Film Days 2024

International film festival with screenings, workshops and parallel events. April 12-20. Rialto Theatre, Limassol and Zena Palace, Nicosia.

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