It has been nearly three decades since a film was last screened at Cine Apollon, an open-air theater in the seaside resort of Edipsos, on the northern shore of the Greek island of Evia. But the arrival of several hundred spectators on June 15 for a screening of French director Coline Serreau’s “La Belle Verte” offered a much-needed sense of rebirth: for the cinema, and for an island devastated by wildfire disasters. forest last summer.
As part of wide-ranging efforts to revitalize struggling communities and boost the local economy, organizers of the Thessaloniki Film Festival this year launched the Evia Film Project, a five-day event that highlights the dangers of climate change and offers the film industry a chance to explore the possibilities of eco-friendly film production.
When audiences gathered at the Apollon for the opening of the festival, which ran from June 15-19, it also raised hopes that the ravaged island was ready to turn over a new leaf.
Addressing a crowd of several hundred on opening night, Thessaloniki festival director Orestis Andreadakis recalled the devastation caused by last summer’s fires, a tragedy that forced management of the festival to take action. “The images we saw last year really moved us, and we felt compelled to come and plant a seed of culture here,” he said. Insisting that “Evia can be reborn,” Andreadakis added, “Your strength is our strength, and your love for this land is also our love.”
The Evia Film Project was organized within the framework of Fotodotes, a development project specially created for the reconstruction and restoration of Evia under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture and Sports. With events spread across three venues in the north of the island, the festival received support from the Region of Central Greece and the Greek Film Center, in collaboration with the Municipality of Istiaia-Edipsos and the Municipality of Mantoudi- Limni-Agia Anna.
Their support has been designed to help local businesses, many of which are still struggling to recover from last summer’s wildfires. “We planned to spend all that money there – on facilities, hotels, restaurants, jobs, food. That was our goal from the start,” Andreadakis said. Variety on the eve of the festival. “We are going to contribute to things that will stay in Euboea,” added project manager Leda Galanou. “We don’t want to make projections and leave. We want to leave something behind for the locals to enjoy later.
Festival screenings were open to the public and took place in open-air cinemas at three locations in northern Evia. Along with Serreau’s opening film, a comedy about an alien who lands in Paris and must convince its people to change their consumerist lifestyle, the program included Benh Zeitlin’s Sundance Award-winning “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” about a New Orleans community ravaged by rising tides, and “Megara”, a 1974 documentary by Sakis Maniatis and Yorgos Tsemberopoulos about a rural uprising against plans to build an oil refinery in a small farming community. The festival ended on June 19 with a screening of the documentary “The Forest Maker”, by Oscar-winning German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff (“The Tin Drum”), who was present at Evia.
Before last summer’s wildfires, Greece’s second-largest island was famous for its honey and resin production and was a popular summer destination, especially for tourists from northern Greece and the Balkans. According to Greek mythology, Edipsos was the first seaside resort in the world: Hercules came to relax in its hot springs after completing each of his 12 labors.
But nearly a third of Evia was destroyed in a scorching summer that saw an estimated 300,000 acres of forest and bush incinerated by forest fires across Greece; in parts of the country, soaring temperatures reached a record 115.3 degrees.
The climate crisis has become an inescapable fact of daily life, with each new and unprecedented meteorological phenomenon solemnly reminding us that it is time to act, if there are still any left. For the management of the Thessaloniki festival, last summer’s wildfires have only underlined the urgency for the global film community to reset its relationship to the environment and rethink old ways of doing business, and to do it in a place where “we can see the consequences of global warming”. firsthand, Andreadakis said.
Throughout the five-day event, screenings took place in open-air cinemas surrounded by hills still bearing the scars of last year’s fires. Shuttle buses ferrying guests between festival venues passed fields where blackened pines and olive trees stood like burnt matches. Although the event was graced with abundant sunshine and temperatures that hovered in the mid-80s, scientists predict another difficult summer in Greece, where catastrophic wildfires have become an annual event.
On Saturday, as industry guests gathered for an awards ceremony celebrating participants in the festival’s pitching forum and locals gathered in the village of Agia Anna for a concert by Greek singer Kostis Maravegias, firefighters were battling to contain a raging forest fire in the center of Evia. , where the inhabitants of a village had to be evacuated.
The fire underscored the scale of the challenges facing the people of the island. Yet these challenges have also prompted the festival’s management to redouble their resolve to help Greeks plan for an uncertain future, with the Evia Film Project organizing an educational program designed to educate local school children about environmental issues and teach them about sustainability. Other highlights include a workshop led by WWF Greece dedicated to improving preparedness ahead of the wildfire season, and an extensive discussion among European filmmakers offering tools and best practices for green film production. .
It is certainly a daunting task for a film festival to try to address the perils of climate change, but the organizing team insists that the first small steps taken by the Evia Film Project are a seed that will bear a day its fruits.
“I know it seems a little naive to think that a concert and film screenings are going to help an area that has been so badly affected by the fire, but it has a ripple effect,” Galanou said, citing the need for a collaborative effort. between local communities, civic organizations and groups, and government. “Everyone is doing their best and hoping things will get better soon.”