Rhodes, Greece
September 2003




Ecocinema 2003 awards its prizes

Ecocinema 3rd International Environmental Film Festival awarded its prizes on Saturday evening at the Rodon open-air movie theater in Rhodes, Greece under a full moon. The juries of both competitive sections voted unanimously, selecting among 18 feature length films and 38 short films from 20 countries (France, Canada, Russia, the United States, Germany, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Finland, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Serbia & Montenegro).

The jury for feature length films, formed by Kai Nordberg (Finland), Yiannis Leontaris (Greece), Michel Ferry (France), Yiannis Zisis (Greece) and Gaetano Cappizi (Italy) awarded the first prize for best feature length film to MIGHT IS RIGHT (LA RAISON DU PLUS FORT) by Patric Jean from Belgium. The movie depicts the life of the poor and especially the young immigrants in Europe, where zero-tolerance policy tends to crack down less on poverty than on the people who suffer from it. Yorgos Giannopoulos, the mayor of Rhodes who handed out the prize of 10,000 euros sponsored by his municipality, gave a very strong support to the film during the award ceremony as he powerfully reminded the audience that we could all face such a dreadful fate one day.

Poverty is a constant concern for the director of Le bonheur économique (2001) and Les enfants du Borinage (1999) from his youth in the coal-mining area of Mons-Bergen in Belgium to his creation of Nemo, a magazine sold in the street by homeless people.

The second prize for best feature length film went to WINDOW OF THE SOUL (JANELA DA ALMA) by Joao Jardim and Walter Carvalho from Brazil. This award of 6,000 euros sponsored by the Ministry of Aegean crowns a touching evocation of how visual impairment can affect our personality and the way we see the world. Fortunately, famed director of photography Carvalho’s first stint as a co-director was scheduled twice in Rodon open-air theater, like some other competitors who had a 35mm copy suitable for outside screening (a rarity for documentaries usually come in Beta SP copies). This welcome opportunity enabled most people to dive into the soul of the 19 people interviewed in the film, from director Wim Wenders to neurologist Oliver Sacks.

The jury for short films formed by Mohamed Hasham (Saudi Arabia), Marc van Fucht (Netherlands, Second Prize at Ecocinema 2002), Panos Papadopoulos, Michalis Kaikis and Ioanna Tachmintzis (Greece) handed out the first prize for best short film consisting of 7,000 euros to TREES (ARBRES) from France. The 52-minute long documentary co-directed by former assistant to acclaimed photographer William Klein, Marc-Antoine Roudil, and his wife Sophie Bruneau-Roudil, shone during the festival with its poetic comparison between trees and Man.

The jury also awarded the Prize for best Mediterranean film, a prize of 5000 Euros offered by the United Nationa Mediterranenan Action Plan, to LIKE FOSSILS by Luca Pastrore from Italy. This experimental documentary portrays abandoned factory buildings in Italy as dying witnesses of a once thriving industrial past with a visual style and a soundtrack where past, present and future seem to clash in violent echoes.

As a festival taking place in the medieval city of Rhodes, Ecocinema honored two Greek films with two special awards aimed at encouraging the local production of documentaries with an environmental content. But since there were only two Greek films vying for the feature length award, the French member of the jury, Michel Ferry, wittily remarked in his introduction speech that “a competition of two is not much of a competition. [...] The positive aspect is that if you lose, you’re still number two. The negative aspect is that if you win, you are second to last”.

Both prizes went to independently funded films, as Diagoras Chronopoulos, President of the Greek Film Center put it, stressing on the difficulty their authors faced to finance their work without the help of Greece’s film body, a counterpart of France’s CNC (Centre National du Cinéma) and the sponsor of these awards.

The first prize of 5,000 euros for best Greek feature length film went to DIVERS OF THE BLUE by Demetres Anagnostopoulos. This documentary depicts the century-old struggle of the sponge divers in the Greek island of Kalymnos to carry out their death-defying job now endangered by changes in the environment. Unfortunately, the producer didn’t provide the festival with a copy subtitled in English, unlike all the other films spooling at Ecocinema, so that the international audience couldn’t enjoy all its qualities. As for the first prize of 4,000 euros for best Greek short film, it went to another documentary about those same sponge divers, THE SPONGE DIVERS DANCE by Vassilis Vassiliades.

The 4th edition of Ecocinema International Environmental Film Festival will take place in Rhodes on June 1-6, 2004. All films will have to be submitted before March 1st, 2004. For more information, visit the official website of the festival at ecocinema.gr

By Olivier Delesse ()