Hephaestus Wien: Interview with Irini Sarioglou
The 5th “Beyond Borders” International Documentary Festival was held from August 23-30th on the Greek island of Castellorizo.
The festival was launched in 2016 by the Hellenic History Foundation (IDISME), co-organised with the Association Ecrans des Mondes in Paris as well as the Society for the Restoration of Megisti in Sydney Australia.
The festival also enjoys the support of the Australian, US and Israeli Embassies in Athens.
The aim of this “boutique” International 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.
- The 5th Beyond Borders International Documentary Festival has just been completed. Would you like to give us an imaginary tour to this year’s version?
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 had 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 also included 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 was awarded to a Greek director abroad.
The difficult process of awarding the prizes was undertaken again this year by distinguished members of the world film community, while the chairman of the jury was the producer and director Barbara Wackernagel-Jacobs, former Foreign Minister of Germany.
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 was honored for its commendable contribution to the promotion of the new generation of Greek artists, while the Festival honored 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 was held under the auspices of the General Secretariat of Greeks Abroad (MFA), the Municipality of Megisti, the Embassies of Australia, USA and Israel, while it had 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 hosted a special tribute to the “patriarch of Rebetiko”, Markos Vamvakaris. Sofia Papazoglou gave 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 was a screening of Nikos Skarentzos’ documentary “Markos”, which participated in the official program of the 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
Of course, a big surprise awaited the attendees at the closing ceremony of the festival, as the excellent documentary “Saving North” by Mitchell Johnson was screened in its first world screening. The curtain of the Festival closed with the great musician Dimitris Bassis and his solo musicians.
- What messages could this important cultural event, with its international impact, have to offer?
I will quote a very favorite writer of mine – she comes from 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…
- Could you explain to us a little about Australia’s contribution to the organisation of this festival?
The festival was held 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 was a great honor to welcome the Australian Ambassador to Athens and his family on our island this year as well.
- Would you like to share the long-term goals of your international documentary festival?
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 History 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.