CULTURE

When the body becomes the issue

We’ve all been in this kind of situation: During a pleasant evening with friends, the conversation turns to the subject of a friend or acquaintance facing serious health issues. Not long passes before someone asks: «Can we change the subject, please?» Health issues are unpleasant, off-putting, almost taboo and not to be mentioned. Only a few years ago, people with physical and mental disabilities in Greece were often a source of shame to their families, while words like «cancer» were frequently replaced – even nowadays – by phrases like «that horrible thing.» It is understandable, therefore, that the gamble taken by the municipality of the island of Kos and director Lucia Rikaki in organizing the 1st International Health Film Festival «Ippokratis» is of great importance. The festival runs on the island from tomorrow to September 6. The films scheduled for screening on the island of Hippocrates essentially pose a timely, not to mention delicate, question: What happens when our body, the one we have always taken for granted, suddenly becomes – whether by its own devices or due to a cruel twist of fate – the central issue? What separates an ailing, hospitalized person from the healthy relative, companion or friend sitting next to them, holding their hand? How valuable is a person’s willpower but also the power of love, solidarity, companionship – or are all these one more romantic, idealized, rounded version of human tragedy and vanity? Plenty of questions will be posed through a series of outstanding as well as singular documentaries exploring difficult subjects. The festival includes 85 films (all recent productions) stemming from 31 countries, on the subject of health and mankind. On the Greek front, 12 films are participating in the competition section, while another eight will be screened in the Panorama section. Expected in Kos are Greek and foreign directors as well as people representing the festival’s films, all of whom will meet with the public and answer questions. All screenings will take place at the municipal, open-air Orfeas Municipal Theater in Kos town. A number of participating films will be like a slap in the face – in Geoffrey Smith’s «The English Surgeon,» a British doctor travels frequently to Ukraine for pro bono work, struggling with moral and ethical questions all along – while others offer subtle humor along with a glimmer of hope, exuding a paradoxical notion: the idea that illness can bring out plenty of life. For more information on the event, visit www.healthfilmfestival.gr.