Tonia Mishiali • Artistic director, Cyprus Film Days
“We are trying to spread our wings even more”
- Cineuropa chatted to Tonia Mishiali, one of the artistic directors of the Cyprus Film Days, about the present and the future of this local gathering that aims high in the festival community
Celebrating 15 years of existence, the Cyprus Film Days International Festival is the most important cinematic event in the Mediterranean country. Cineuropa had a chance to sit down with Tonia Mishiali, one of the artistic directors of the festival (along with Dr Costas Constandinides and Marios Stylianou, who all comprise the artistic committee), about the present and, more importantly, the future of this local Cypriot gathering that aims high in the festival community.
Cineuropa: What are the challenges of organising a film festival in a small country like Cyprus?
Tonia Mishiali: It is not a hard task to keep a film festival going in Cyprus, so as it is organised by people who love it and have the necessary knowledge, the job is rather easy. The difficult part comes when you need to find a way to maintain a festival that is constantly growing and is becoming well known worldwide, but which has a relatively low budget. Even though the gathering has been established as one of the most important and biggest cultural events in Cyprus, in recent years we have been making efforts to build up a more attractive and substantial international character.
Do you already have a strategy in order to become more attractive to the international market?
We are trying to spread our wings even more and get closer to the international festival circuit by attracting both audience members and film professionals from abroad, alongside the Cypriot audience. For that reason, we have been exploring the possibility of initiating a mini-film market, which, in conjunction with a more systematic series of co-production workshops, could gradually make the festival a central meeting point for Europe, Asia and Africa, the three continents that surround the island. This is our main goal for the coming years.
Do you feel that Cyprus’ geographical position also affects your selection?
Undoubtedly; our geographical position is an important factor that we have been taking into consideration in terms of the character of the festival and the selection of films. We also believe that even in the coming years, when we will hopefully have a larger market to work with, this character will remain, enticing professionals from neighbouring countries to visit us and actively participate in our workshops and other actions that we will introduce.
Regarding this year’s iteration, what has changed compared to past editions?
Our main aim is still to present masterpieces and discoveries from world cinema, with films that stand out for both their artistic consistency and their anthropocentric character, but which also make a “sharp” social commentary. This year, we had applications from important films, and this gave us the opportunity to create an elevated competition section, thus satisfying the local audience as well as presenting our international jury with films of a high artistic value. Furthermore, the modest number of films that can participate in the competition and the period when the festival takes place give us the opportunity to screen films that have already been tried and tested on the festival circuit. In addition, we strive to host films from neighbouring countries and continents. In comparison with other years, we have had an increased interest from them this year, and this is helping us to maintain the “three-continents” character of the festival.
Cyprus Film Days is the country’s official festival; do you feel a responsibility to present everything from the local film production?
Any country’s official festival has a national competition. In our case, since Cypriot productions are not so plentiful, we cannot have a national competition every year. Of course, in recent years we have seen a rise in production; we should note that 2015 was the first time that we had a national competition section in which four films participated. For that reason, when we have a Cypriot production, we feel obliged to present it. This doesn’t mean that if a Cypriot film is not worthwhile then we will include it in our selection, but we believe that supporting local productions is extremely important. For example, this year we had two remarkable Cypriot films – Adonis Florides’ Rosemarie [+see also:
film profile] and Petros Charalambous’ Boy on the Bridge [+see also:
film profile] – and we thought that both could compete in the international section of the festival. Florides also won the Best Film Award, which was handed out by an international jury (see the news). This made the Cypriot film community very proud. Only one other Cypriot director has ever won this award in the past, Yiannis Economides, but this is the first time that a purely Cypriot production has won the festival’s top prize.
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