Eco wake-up call on big screen

Already in its seventh consecutive year, the Ecocinema International Film Festival is scheduled to open its doors this Thursday, through February 27. The event, which will take place at the Attikon and Cineak theaters near Piraeus City Hall, aims to sensitize as well as encourage audiences to participate in a developing global dialogue on ecological issues. So far, the festival has showcased more than 400 films from over 50 countries. Over the years, critically acclaimed directors, such as Phillip Noyce, Stephan Jarl, Thierry Michel and Pantelis Voulgaris, among others, have presented movies such as «Ten Minutes Older,» «Corporation» and «Whale Rider» – works which subsequently went on to do well commercially. These films not only inspired society in general, but the cinema industry as well. Documentaries now have their own visible place in the world of mass entertainment. This week, festival visitors will enjoy free entrance to both Korai Square cinemas, which will be presenting 80 recent film productions from all over the world. The event features a variety of tributes focusing on issues regarding society and its ecological dimension, including environmental problems, poverty, social exclusion and underdevelopment – all facets of a globalized economic and political system. The festival’s five themes – man and his environment, globalization, societies in crisis, war and production and consumption systems suggest insight into these problems on the one hand, and, on the other, the solutions sought by those who resist. «All these years, we have made tremendous efforts to create links between climate change and immigration, poverty and globalization, underdevelopment and the failure of Third World regimes, consumption and production, industrial accidents and the ideology of progress,» says Elias Efthymiopoulos, Ecocinema president. «No matter how much people think that television viewing, journalistic reports and the power of the image have brought societies closer to understanding major environmental issues, the reality is quite different,» he says, in an attempt to explain the choice of documentary as a vehicle of communication. «Continuous passive exposure to repetitive televised messages operates in the exact same way as when the human organism stops reacting to antibiotics, due to addiction. Take the recent fires, for instance. They are nearly forgotten, along with all other unhappy moments in our lives. What we need is a kind of profound ideological procedure and cinema is an art genre which develops a consciousness.» Festival highlights include the «The Big Sellout,» a film by German director Florian Opitz. Produced in 2006, the director traveled to South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States, tracing people whose lives changed dramatically following financial upheaval in the aftermath of privatizations in their countries. Whether amusing or dramatic, the events that occur in the film are nevertheless encouraging to all those who are confronted daily with the negative aspects of privatization. The festival also includes another two categories: a focus on industrial accidents as well as a series of short films from the «SOS Live Earth» campaign headed by Al Gore. Screenings in the industrial accident category include «Minimata: The Victims and Their World,» a film directed by pioneer Japanese documentarist Noriaki Tsuchimoto, along with three new film productions presenting fresh approaches to major industrial accidents such as those in Seveso, Bhopal and Chernobyl. The mission of ‘SOS Live Earth’ The mission of the «SOS Live Earth» campaign’s cinematic leg was the creation of a series of both educational and entertaining short films on the subject of climate change and some possible solutions. More than 60 award-winning directors, covering a wide range of genres (from fiction to documentaries, music videos, advertising and animation), are participating in the campaign with short films running from one to 10 minutes. The shorts’ character ranges from realism to dramatic narrative and from comedy to fiction. The upcoming festival includes films by Roman Coppola, the Quay brothers, Kevin MacDonald, Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck, among others. The festival is organized in collaboration with the City of Piraeus Cultural and Communication Association and the Environment and Public Works Ministry. Parallel events include a screening of «Kalimera Nychta» (Good Morning, Night,) a short film by Yiannis Economidis produced in 1990, along with «The Yes Men,» a caustic, humorous documentary tracing the actions of the well-known pranksters and activists Yes Men. In Piraeus, the latter will be presented by its director Dan Ollman. An open discussion on the use of media and the Internet, particularly by the anti-globalization movement, will follow.