Ecofilms festival, June 20-25

The Ecofilms international festival of films and visual arts on Rhodes, running from June 20-25, promises exciting viewing with 114 films from 39 countries. Seventy-four of the films will compete for prizes in four categories: feature-length, medium-length, shorts, water and wetlands and, for the first time, Greek films. All screenings are free and many of the directors will be there to discuss their films in an atmosphere that Ecofilms artistic director Lucia Rikaki, introducing the festival program to the press on Wednesday, likened to that of the Ancient Agora. What’s on? Rikaki mentioned a few highlights. «Echoes of War» (Netherlands) is a feature-length documentary with animated sequences about child survivors of wars and violent conflicts. Director-producer Joop van Wijk was inspired to make it after producing a series of short documentaries about projects for psycho-social care in refugee camps in post-conflict areas. «The Socialist, the Architect and the Twisted Tower» (Sweden) by Fredrik Gertten, tells the inside story of Turning Torso, Europe’s highest residential building and the first skyscraper designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. «In ‘Hamas: Behind the Mask’ there are no clearly identifiable monsters, only competing claimants to a harshly, passionately contested strip of land,» writes Canadian filmmaker Shelley Saywell. «Memory and Detention» (Morocco), by Jillali Ferhati, follows a young man just out of prison as he traces a relative of a former detainee who lost his memory during his long years behind bars. Ferhati wanted «to honor all these people who spend their lives confined in darkness.» Other treats include tributes: to veteran Lithuanian filmmaker Jonas Mekas, the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl, Rhodes and the Dodecanese with rare audiovisual material, as well as to Yiotis Papathanassis, who opened the first cinema on Rhodes. An exhibition of photographs, «Eden: Marshlands of Mesopotamia,» is being shown during the festival at the Auberge de France. The exhibition is sponsored by the Canadian Embassy and supported by Ramsar, MedWet, Ecofilms and the prefecture’s organization for Cultural Development. Ecofilms «has become an institution,» said Deputy Mayor Yiannis Tsigaros. And it is a growing one. «This year also marks the enlargement of our collaboration, after Ramsar, with another very important international environmental institution: The Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Program joined forces and will be participating in the festival,» said Spyros Kouvelis, Ecofilms president. Rikaki thanked the Dodecanese prefecture and local administration for their ongoing support, this year to the tune of 250,000 euros: «It is the only international film festival in the country that is supported exclusively by local authorities,» she said. The Culture Ministry also contributed 20,000 euros.

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