World Cinema Horizons in Cyprus
babelmed - 03/12/2003
"The Return" by Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia 2003
The third Cyprus international film festival has opened in Limassol and Nicosia. Showing twelve independent films and two documentaries, most of which were produced during 2003, the festival will show new works by young directors and present some prize-winning films by respected directors to Cypriot audiences. Its unashamedly ‘indie’ bias will provide ‘a form of entertainment that goes beyond the stereotypical boundaries of commercial movies’ according to the festival’s artistic director Dimitris Eipidis.
The films featured draw on a wide geographical base to offer sharp social commentary and imaginative film making from across the world. The acclaimed Russian film, The Return, won the Golden Lion Prize in this year's Venice Festival, and, together with Julie Bertelucci’s Since Otar Left, a joint Georgian/French film that won the Golden Camera at Cannes 2003, features family drama in the context of the ex-Soviet Union. The film by Iranian director, Samira Makhmalbaf, At Five in the Afternoon, won a prize at the Festival in Poussan, and the documentary-style film by Greek artist-director Kyriacos Katzourakis, The Way to the West, explores the lives of illegal immigrants in Greece and was awarded a prize at the Thessaloniki Film Festival.
“The Way to the West”, Kyriacos Katzourakis, Greece 2003
Katzourakis has been exploring the theme illegal immigration for a number of years and an exhibition of his paintings from this series is part of the festival. As he says, “my intention was not simply to record the life of refugees in my country, but to understand, through so many new faces – which constantly change – why things are as they are. To see behind the image of fear depicted on their faces.” His film uses the expressive qualities of the medium to add to the images that the artist-director has collected and is exhibiting here, to bring out the reality of displacement in contemporary Greece.
A further part of the festival is a retrospective show of work by the acclaimed Iranian artist, Shirin Neshat. Born in Iran in 1957, Shirin Neshat is best known for her self-portraits in which she appears in a body-covering black chador, occasionally carrying a weapon. Gender politics is her subject, and the repression of women, whether through fundamentalism or cultural exoticism, is her target. Since 1984, Neshat has steadily gained a reputation for powerful, confrontational photographs that invert the expectations Westerners have of Middle Eastern culture. Her determination to eliminate Western assumptions about Middle Eastern women – in particular the often-disturbing ties Westerners make between overt violence and hidden sensuality – results in imagery that wrests aesthetic and political freedom from the dominant culture. In Neshat's case those dominant cultures are both the imperial West and fundamentalist Iran.
The documentaries featured include the controversial American film The Trials of Henry Kissinger. This film by Eugene Jarecki is based on an investigative book by Christopher Hitchens and explores the accusations that continue to haunt the Nobel prize winning former statesman. Though focussing on the Vietnam War, Chile and East Timor, as Kissinger was US Secretary of State at the time of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1973 and remains a controversial figure in both Greece and Cyprus. Leonidas Liambey