Syros film festival hits its stride

Syros film festival hits its stride

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 drive-in, 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.

What makes this year’s festival different from past editions?

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.

What makes the event different from other film festivals, in general?

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.

For more information on the festival, which runs to August 1, go to

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