Boats bob around on the gentle waves in Syros port. Then the first narrator starts to speak about the sea, something they all have in common. The fisherman, the priest and the boy each explain the role it plays in their lives. The child talks about its grandeur, explaining how he “sometimes loves it, but other times fears it.”
Their stories were put together to form a short film documentary, directed and produced by a group of youngsters attending Cinemascope, a filmmaking lab for teenagers which is a collaboration between the Onassis Cultural Center and the Syros International Film Festival (SIFF), where it screened for the first time this summer. “We have a program called ‘Making Cinema’ at the cultural center with students aged 13 to 18. Cinemascope began three years ago on Syros as a result of the program we’d already been running in Athens,” Cinemascope co-director Constantinos Antonopoulos told Kathimerini. “This year, youngsters from the program in Athens collaborated with other teenagers on Syros and the results were spectacular,” said Oliwia Twardowska, the program’s other co-director.
Sixteen-year-old Markos also attends Making Cinema workshops in Athens. “Our teacher asked if anyone wanted to take part in SIFF and I jumped at the chance. I’ve loved going to the cinema since I was little and want to work in the business. Taking part in SIFF was a great experience, especially because it gave me the opportunity to network. It was nice too that the project was a team effort. I helped with the editing, making everything look amazing on screen! We learned to help one another too, building great relationships in the process. The free trip to the beautiful island of Syros was pretty nice as well,” he said.
Regina, another participant, was just as enthralled with the experience as Marco. “As soon as I started, I knew it was what I wanted to do,” she explained, adding, “It amazes me that with cinema, you can put your thoughts and visions into practice for others to see.” What did she think of the filmmaking lab? “We had to work with people we did not know and make a movie within a week. I enjoyed the process. All of us in the team shared a common purpose. It was also cool to see all the other projects at the film festival.”
Artemis, 18, a permanent resident of Syros, says she is now committed to pursuing filmmaking as a career. “I joined Cinemascope when it started three summers ago and never regretted it. It was the best thing I ever did. We obtain practical knowledge. We made a film almost entirely on our own, with a purely professional approach tailored to our age group. I’m always very happy when I take part in these kinds of projects,” she said.
Fifteen-year-old Marieva quickly overcame her fear and total lack of experience. “I didn’t know anything but I was ready to get into something new and productive. When I first arrived, I presented my ideas and, luckily, there was a positive response from other members of the team and support from the directors. At the same time, I knew that I wasn’t there for those who would see my films, I was there for myself, and if I still enjoy it in the years to come, I will pursue it as a career. When I joined the program I felt a sense of freedom. I felt more confident because I got to do camerawork and editing. I made friends, worked with local residents, and then ended up with a beautiful final product,” she said.
“First, we show the students some films to stimulate their imaginations. Soon a basic idea emerges, and they start production. Although it’s difficult, they do it on a practical level. They are still very young, but most have watched a lot of films during their young lives. Most importantly, they manage to combine their strengths and talents with others in an amazing show of teamwork,” said Antonopoulos.
Regarding her own experience with Cinemascope, Twardowska said: “It’s not just the program. It’s the wider experience. I get to form many relationships with the participants. I’m not just trying to pass knowledge on to them. In fact, the learning goes both ways. They are very bright kids. We are obliged as artists to move culture into education. There is no ‘art for art’s sake’ – it exists for the evolution of mankind.”