Now in its fourth year, Sy­ros film fes­ti­val hits its stride with a wide spec­trum of screen­ings

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY ELIS KISS

From ex­per­i­men­tal to fic­tion and more re­cent productions to ret­ro­spec­tives, the Sy­ros In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (SIFF) is show­cas­ing a med­ley of cinema gen­res in screen­ings and events tak­ing place on the Aegean is­land, also the cap­i­tal of the Cy­clades.

The fes­ti­val, orig­i­nally es­tab­lished in 2013, brings to­gether lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional productions, as well as work­shops and var­i­ous par­al­lel events. A live ex­plo­ration of the in­ter­sec­tion of cinema and per­for­mance acted as this year’s cur­tain-raiser at the Apollo Theater (also known as La Pic­cola Scala) last night.

Also on the fes­ti­val’s agenda, a mas­ter­class by New York-born, ex­per­i­men­tal film spe­cial­ist Pip Chodorov, a se­ries of sci­ence-fic­tion and avant-garde films se­lected by ex­per­i­men­tal di­rec­tor Peter Lichter, as well as pre­sen­ta­tions of the work of film­mak­ers such as Athina Rachel Tsan­gari, whose di­rect­ing cred­its in­clude “At­ten­berg” (2010) and “Che­va­lier” (2015). Among the fes­ti­val’s high­lights is a trib­ute to Tony Con­rad, an Amer­i­can avant-garde video artist, film­maker, com­poser and sound artist who died ear­lier this year.

Be­sides the Apollo Theater, screen­ings and events also take place at the Tarsanas ship­yard, Komito Beach, the Va­po­ria dock, the Pal­las open-air cinema, the Aghios Athana­sios church court­yard and the De­la­grazia drivein, among other venues. The fes­ti­val’s main spon­sor is the Onas­sis Foun­da­tion and Onas­sis Cul­tural Cen­ter.

In a joint in­ter­view, fes­ti­val or­ga­niz­ers Ja­cob Moe, Cas­san­dra Ce­lestin and Aaron Khan­dros spoke to Kathimerini English Edi­tion about the an­nual event.

We’ve hit our stride. Over the past three edi­tions, we’ve tested many dif­fer­ent mod­els for the fes­ti­val and feel like we have fi­nally reached the ver­sion of the fes­ti­val in our fourth year that we’d like to stick to: no com­pe­ti­tions, a wide spec­trum of films not nec­es­sar­ily tied to the gen­eral film fes­ti­val cir­cuit, and a sched­ule that al­lows for both pro­grams geared to­ward cinephiles and a more gen­eral au­di­ence, all the while re­main­ing com­mit­ted to us­ing and cre­at­ing spe­cial screen­ing sites that cre­ate an en­gag­ing at­mos­phere for the films and bring at­ten­tion to Sy­ros’s in­cred­i­ble his­tory. It took many tri­als to reach this point.

Per­haps SIFF stands out as a fes­ti­val where “film fes­ti­val” and “film screen­ing se­ries” come closer to­gether. Es­pe­cially by fore­go­ing com­pe­ti­tions, we feel there is space for a far-reach­ing pro­gram that touches all coun­tries and times, bring­ing film to­gether less as a cel­e­bra­tion of the past year of pro­duc­tion and more as an of­fer­ing of di­verse cinema that gives a spe­cial back­ground to watch­ing the con­tem­po­rary film that is in our pro­gram. Also, tak­ing place where we do on Sy­ros, far from the film events and nexuses that ex­ist in big cities, SIFF of­fers per­haps more of an ap­proach­able com­mu­nity. How piv­otal is the role of Sy­ros when it comes to the fes­ti­val?

Sy­ros is the start­ing point of the whole fes­ti­val: from the be­gin­ning, we sought out unique lo­ca­tions em­bed­ded in the is­land’s ar­chi­tec­tural and cul­tural his­tory, in­clud­ing the ship­yards of Er­moupoli (still func­tion­ing to this day), the Apollo opera house and the sea­side Va­po­ria dock. We then looked for ways to bring cinema to more far-flung lo­ca­tions: Komito Beach, a sea­side ma­rina, an empty soc­cer field turned drive-in cinema. So the place of Sy­ros func­tions as a con­stant in­spi­ra­tion for the fes­ti­val. On an or­ga­ni­za­tional level we’ve gained es­sen­tial sup­port­ers on the is­land over the past four years. From the Sy­ros Mu­nic­i­pal­ity to the South Aegean Re­gion, from lo­cal tech sup­port to the tire­less ice man (cool­ing the beer and wine at our out­door screen­ings), the Sy­ros com­mu­nity is in­stru­men­tal to what this fes­ti­val has be­come. We can only hope to give back with some of our pro­grams, es­pe­cially the more ed­u­ca­tional ones like the film­mak­ing work­shop for teenage is­landers co­pro­duced by SIFF and the Onas­sis Cul­tural Cen­ter.

Be­sides the Apollo Theater, screen­ings and events take place at the Tarsanas ship­yard, Komito Beach, the Va­po­ria dock, the Pal­las open-air cinema, the Aghios Athana­sios church court­yard and the De­la­grazia drive-in, among other venues.

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