Lights, camera, Rodos Ecofilms

The ninth edition of the Ecofilms Festival runs June 23-28 on Rhodes, with 120 films from around the world. In addition to documentary and fiction films on environmental themes, visitors can expect to see previously unpublished archival film from the War Museum, and a tribute to innovative Greek filmmaker Stephanos Tsivopoulos. Films in competition will contend in three categories, short, medium and feature length, and this year it’s Ecofilms’ turn to confer the Green Award from the Environmental Film Festival Network. Presenting the program to the press on June 16 in Athens, the organizers emphasized the Rhodes connection. Not only does the festival receive most of its funding from the island’s municipal authority, plus a contribution from the Dodecanese prefecture – support that has outlived changes in political leadership – but it also achieves an impact on Rhodes that would be hard to attain elsewhere. Aspiring local filmmakers are emerging, as the Ecokids spin-off attracts active participation from schools, and islanders have embraced the festival. «Ecofilms is a model of thinking locally and acting globally,» said the festival’s artistic director, Lucia Rikaki, who believes that people were more likely to be inspired to take action «in the heart of the country» than in large urban centers. Kathimerini English Edition sampled some of the films on offer. Esteban Larrain from Chile uses purely cinematic means to create visual poetry in his hauntingly beautiful documentary «Alicia en el pais» (Alice in the Land). Alicia Esquivel, a young Quechua woman, re-enacts a 180-kilometer walk she did in her early teens, crossing from Soniquera in Bolivia to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile seeking work. That is what we see: a girl, alone, striding through sun, rain and snow, living outdoors in a majestic landscape of rivers, plains, mountains and glaciers. Apart from brief encounters with villagers, there is nobody else and no dialogue in this 86-minute film, just music. Only at the end do we learn why she is walking, that she was deported from Chile as an illegal immigrant within a month of getting a job as a housekeeper, and that her trek echoes the traditional maturity rituals of Quecha adolescents. By then the film has cast its spell, taking us into Alicia’s world as if we too were walking. «Hair India» by Italian filmmakers Raffaele Brunetti and Marco Leopardi also shows rather than tells. A family of villagers have their hair shaved off at a temple as a sacrifice, praying that the deity will cure the son’s eyesight. For them it is a matter of tradition and they have no idea what becomes of the hair. Meanwhile in Mumbai, a high-flying magazine editor orders hair extensions from Great Lengths, a company whose executives we see bidding for hair auctioned by temples. The film shows the complex interplay of needs in a rapidly developing country. «Addicted to Plastic» (Canada) uses more conventional means to send a message about the alarming amount of plastic we produce and discard. Director Jim Connacher uses a mix of interviews and animation to show the extent of the problem. As one speaker says, «Plastic is being thrown away and the biggest problem is that there is no ‘away.’» Yet there is some hope. Connacher also shows people working on alternatives and solutions: railway ties that are made not only from plastics but also trash; water-soluble bio-plastics made from plants; even a Sony PlayStation cover that is biodegradable in orange peel oil. Screenings are at the Municipal Cinema and Rodon Open Air Cinema in downtown Rhodes, Admission is free.