By Ilias Karagiannis.
The 5th “Beyond Borders” International Documentary Festival kicked off on August 23 on the Greek island of Castellorizo. The festival was launched in 2016 by the Hellenic History Foundation (IDISME), co-organised with the Region of South Aegean and internationally supported by the Association Ecrans des Mondes in Paris.
The festival also enjoys the support of both the Australian Embassy and the Australian community, as well as the Society for the Restoration of Megisti.
The aim of this “eclectic” Documentary Festival is to honor remarkable examples of cinematic art and storytelling, with themes centered on history and society. ‘Beyond the Borders’ concerns the history of today, of before, here and everywhere.
To find out more about the festival, The Greek Herald spoke exclusively to its Artistic Director, Irini Sarioglou, as she carried out an imaginary tour on behalf of our readers who are unable to attend this year’s event.
1. The 5th Beyond Borders International Documentary Festival is just around the corner. The opening night is set for 23 August. Would you like to give us an imaginary tour to this year’s version of the festival and the important documentaries that will be screened?
This year has been a difficult year in the shadow of the pandemic. Nevertheless, more than 300 documentaries made by Greek and foreign filmmakers submitted an application to participate in the 5th Castellorizo International Documentary Festival. Out of these, the preliminary committee selected 24 documentaries (18 long/medium and 6 short-length films) from 18 different countries such as the USA, France, Australia, Israel and others.
This year’s Festival has the pleasure to launch three new awards. Thus, in addition to the awards for Best Historical Documentary, Best Socio-Political Documentary -both with the kind courtesy of the Hellenic Parliament- and the Special Award “Mediterranean Friendship” established by EKOME, the awards will also include the Best Short Documentary award, the Best Greek Documentary award established by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, as well as the Special Award of “Odyssey”, established by the General Secretariat of Greeks Abroad, which will be awarded to a Greek director abroad.
The difficult process of awarding the prizes is undertaken again this year by distinguished members of the world film community, while the chairman of the jury is the producer and director Barbara Wackernagel-Jacobs.
The Festival honors each year two institutions for their contribution in their field: a media outlet and an Academic Institution. This year, the Film Department of the School of Fine Arts at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki will be honored for its commendable contribution to the promotion of the new generation of Greek artists, while the Festival will honor the ALTER EGO MEDIA group for its contribution and imprint in news coverage.
In previous years, BBC, RAI, ERT, Ecrans de Mondes were the honored media. The festival is under the auspices of the General Secretariat of Greeks Abroad (MFA), the Municipality of Megisti, the Embassies of Australia, USA and Israel, while it has the kind support of the Hellenic Parliament, the General Secretariat of Island Policy, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, ERT and EKOME.
This year’s opening night will host a special tribute to the “patriarch of Rebetiko”, Markos Vamvakaris. Sofia Papazoglou will give a tribute concert to him and to “our own foreigners” Rosa Eskenazy, Stella Haskil and Marika Ninou, together with a group of renowned musicians. As part of the tribute, there will be a screening of Nikos Skarentzos’ documentary “Markos”, which participated in the official program of the 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
Of course, a big surprise awaits the attendees at the closing ceremony of the festival, as the excellent documentary “Saving North” by Mitchell Johnson will be screened in its first world screening. The curtain of the Festival closes with the great musician Dimitris Bassis and his solo musicians.
2. The festival is held, as every year, in the remote island of Castellorizo. At a particular historical juncture, with the veil of concern spreading due to the tension in Greek-Turkish relations. Are you at all worried about this and what messages could this important cultural event, with its global impact, have to offer?
I will quote a very favorite writer from Castellorizo, Christina Efstratiadou. In her book Stories of Castellorizo, she vividly describes her island at the beginning of the 20th century where she grew up herself. Efstratiadou therefore states “14,000 people, at the dawn of the 20th century and despite the wars, the emigration, the conquerors, we survived. We survived, because we’d rest on something very strong. On our culture. Culture was action.”
We try to revive this rich spiritual tradition of Castellorizo with a sense of responsibility but also a high sense of debt…
3. An intense Australian scent emanates from this festival. Would you like to explain to us a little about Australia’s contribution to the organisation of this festival?
The festival is under the auspices of the General Secretariat of Greeks Abroad (MFA), the Municipality of Megisti, the Embassies of Australia, the USA and Israel. But we have had and continue to have a closer relationship with Australia, mainly because the largest community of migrants from Castellorizo today lives and prospers in faraway Australia. The Society for the Restoration of Megisti has been our helper and co-organizer all these years. It will be a great honor and pleasure to welcome the Australian Ambassador to Athens and his family on our island this year as well.
4. Although this year taught us that everything is uncertain, would you like to share the long-term goals which you expect to fulfill by continuing to expand this institution?
First of all, the reason for the establishment of this festival was the last production of the Hellenic History Foundation back in 2016. It was a volume and a historical documentary dedicated to Castellorizo entitled “On the Edge of the Aegean, Castellorizo, 1890-1948”. In fact, this documentary won the First Prize for Best Historical Documentary in London that same year. Our wish was to show this film on our remote island as well, which eventually led us to the idea of establishing the “Beyond the Borders” International Documentary Festival of Castellorizo, to help the island regain its rightful place in the cultural scene.
And I emphasize the word “regain”, because few may know the culture that the island had until the Asia Minor tragedy. It always looked up to the greatest city of Ionia, Izmir, and that is why the people of Castellorizo always brought the best products to their island … From methods of learning French without a teacher to Ceylon scarves!
The team behind the Castellorizo International Documentary Festival is the rare, beautiful Greece that speaks with works, life stance and attitude … It focuses on the essence, the high-quality documentaries and the cultural activities that have a reason to come to Castellorizo. I remind you that, after 110 years, we brought professional theater to the island… Then the role of the co-organizers is very important; one in Paris (Ecrans des Mondes) and the other in Sydney (Restoration Committee of Megisti).
Our goal is to bring the whole world, Greeks and foreigners to Castellorizo and to transfer the history and culture of Castellorizo to the ends of the universe. And for this reason, with its completion, the Festival travels inside and outside Greece every year, screening its award-winning films.
John Barboutis: “We are proud of the cultural heritage of Castellorizo”
As evident, the Society for the Restoration of Megisti contributes significantly to the organisation of the festival. Therefore, The Greek Herald also spoke exclusively to a member of the Sydney-based society, John Barboutis.
“I was in Greece watching TV. I was about to leave at that time and suddenly I saw an advertisement with Castellorizo on TV. It was about the “Beyond the Borders” festival. It was then that I first discovered this effort for the festival and also saw that there was advertising for it everywhere. Castellorizo became the focus of my attention for a few days,” Mr Barboutis tells The Greek Herald.
“When I returned to Australia, I found Irini Sarioglou’s number and contacted her. I told her that all this advertising for Castellorizo was amazing. Awesome. So I talked to some of the members of the society, there was some money, and we decided to contribute with an amount for its better organisation.
The main goal of the Society:
We asked Mr Barboutis, what is the main goal of the Society for the Restoration of Megisti?
“It was the construction of infrastructure in Castellorizo. This was a difficult task because before the festival, few people headed to the island. Transportation is not its best point. But today, during the festival, more than 200 people are there and strengthen the local economy. So infrastructure can be built more easily. It is estimated that the turnover of the local economy increases by 20%,” Mr Barboutis answers.
“For about a week, Castellorizo has the attention of many people in Greece since it is advertised everywhere, but even in many countries in Europe. That is why we continue to support it. My daughter was at the festival two years ago and she told me it was amazing.”
The committee that supports the documentary festival for Castellorizo is the Society for the Restoration of Megisti. This committee is independent, however, overseen and supported by the Castellorizian Association of NSW Ltd.
The Castellorizian Association of NSW Ltd, was founded in 1924 and during its existence has a long history of supporting Castellorizo.
“Our organisation is a subcommittee of the Association, as some members of the Board of Directors participate in the rehabilitation committee, including myself, Ross Karp and John Koutsoukis,” said Mr. Barboutis.
“Our long-term goal with this festival is to safeguard our cultural heritage. The heritage of Kastellorizo for which we are very proud.”