A new international film festival in the Eastern Mediterranean will be an important launch-pad for home-grown talent and help bring the best of world cinema to local audiences, a packed North London venue was told yesterday evening. Kicking off in November 2014, the Golden Island International Film Festival (GIIFF) will take place annually in Cyprus. Yeşim Güzelpınar, the festival director, and its two patrons, actor Tamer Hassan and Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece OBE, were part of a briefing event that launched the new festival to British Cypriot and Turkish filmmakers.
Opening the briefing at the Turkish Cypriot Community Centre in Harringay, Baroness Hussein-Ece commented on the significance of film in society, both culturally and economically. Holding up the UK as an example, she said that in spite of the recession, the latest figures show film contributed £4.6bn to the British economy in 2011 and employed some 44,000 people. She said a fraction of this could make a massive difference to the depressed economy in Cyprus – the home of GIIFF. She pointed out that North America currently dominates the film festival market: 70% of the world’s 3,000 annual film festivals are hosted there, while Europe hosts 18%. She said GIIFF would, “help give a bigger share of voice to the other 12%”.
The inaugural GIIFF will run from 7-13 November 2014, screening a combination of shorts, documentaries and feature length films from around the world. Festival director Güzelpınar explained that the festival had six strands this year: Cypriot Cinema, UK Cinema (guest country), Environment, Human Rights, Journeys, and Women. Films related to the country strands – Cyprus or Britain – must have been mainly produced by Cypriot / British film-makers or largely shot in Cyprus / the UK.
To support local filmmakers, Güzelpınar said GIIFF is holding a competition for shorts and documentaries in the Cyprus strand. Overseen by two separate juries, prizes of €2,000 will be awarded to the best film and best newcomer.
With the exception of Cyprus Cinema entries, all other films submitted must have been completed after 31st December 2010. It’s free to enter films into GIIFF, although the deadline is just a few weeks away on 31 July 2014. Filmmakers should complete and submit the online form, which they must then print, sign and send, along with three hard copies of their film. Full details and rules are on the website: www.GoldenIslandFilmFestival.org.
British Cypriot film director-producer Erim Metto also addressed the audience. His film resume includes the 2006 documentary, I Used to Live in Cyprus, about six Turkish Cypriots who had moved to the UK in the 1960s. Talking about the “power of film”, Metto said they provided, “an important legacy for future generations to understand the experiences of the early Cypriot pioneers in England, many of whom are now dead”.
Closing the briefing was GIIFF patron Tamer Hassan, who gave a rousing talk in which he stated there is no reason why Cyprus could not be, “the next Cannes, Berlin or Venice – people just have to believe.” The famous actor has starred in over 50 feature films alongside the likes of Morgan Freeman, Richard Gere, Daniel Craig, the late Bob Hoskins and, more recently, with Sir Ben Kingsley in the soon to be released movie Robot Overlords.
Hassan stated that Cyprus was in a unique strategic location, able to reach out to the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa. He argued that a new studio on the island and tax incentives would help entice major productions, citing his experience on the multi-million pound Clash of the Titans, which had been filmed on location in the Canary Islands. He said his management team were ready to use their industry contacts to support emerging regional talent that featured in GIIFF by bringing the major distributors, stars and media to the festival. The key, he said, was “good content” and he urged filmmakers to submit their films to GIIFF and for Cypriots to get behind the festival.
After the briefing, the panel of four joined the audience for networking and light refreshments supplied by Cyprus Kitchen and Tees Limited. Among the attendees on the night were Ivor Benjamin, Chair of the Directors Guild, Aysin Yilmaz, chair of the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations (KONSEY), Selcuk Can, Turkey’s Culture & Tourism Attache, Enfield Councillor Tahsin Ibrahim, and numerous filmmakers, actors, media, UK Turkish, Greek and Cypriot community members. The TRNC Representative Oya Tuncalı, Turkish and Greek Cypriot ambassadors, Abdurrahman Bilgiç and Euripides L Evriviades, were among those who could not attend, but had sent their apologies and best wishes for the UK launch and festival.
GIIFF is backed by partners such as the Independent Film Trust, Raindance Film Festival, the University of East Anglia (Film Dept), and the Home for Co-operation (UN Buffer Zone, Nicosia). The main sponsors are Creditwest Bank and GirneAmericanUniversity. The festival is organised jointly by UK-based Balik Arts and the Golden Island Arts Association in Cyprus.