The Small Island Of Castellorizo Is Growing

in 7th Beyond Borders International Documentary Festival, Castellorizo

by Vassilis Kechagias

It is of particular importance to describe the special geographical location of the island of Castellorizo, the easternmost tip of Greece, a bridge between West and East, completely isolated from the rest of the country. Its position is what turns it into a pole of policy, claims and counterclaims. Art, however, connects geographies on its own, almost automatically. And the organizers of the 7th Castellorizo Festival (and especially Irini Sarioglou) had the brilliant idea to exploit this quality, especially of cinema, under the title “Beyond Borders”.

Far from red corridors and formalities, the festival is characterized as a “boutique” of its kind, a very apt description. After all, Beyond Borders precisely defines the purpose of establishing and holding this unique event. It is a practical proof of cinema’s ability to relate to geography, the narrowness of places and the limits of politics. Bringing together documentary films from all over the world, the answer to all of the above comes as a fatal reminder of why the international language idiom of cinema can bring people together, even if the language of politics seems unable to do so for the countries. FIPRESCI did very well, therefore, and decided to annually award its precious prize to the competing films, the selection of which consistently obeys the logic of universality and Beyond Borders. 

At the center of the selections was, on the one hand, History (more visible in  the parallel programs), on the other hand, the attempt of regional cinemas to broadcast signals about the dystopias and survival anxieties of local cultures and peoples. Limbo, The Forgotten Promise (Limbo, La Promesa Olvidada, 2020) by Antonio Rodrigo, is the most typical case, it takes place in the largest and unknown corner of the planet, which is still under the colonial occupation of Morocco and is an excellent example of what we are describing. A similar case is also The Ghosts of Varosha, 2022 a Swedish production by Angelique Kourounis, starring an occupied ghost town in Cyprus awaiting the return of its refugee residents. A Chinese hard-working family unfolds its hardships in the feature title May 1st 2021, 2022, while the last port acrobats are marginal in their own way, working in the dangerous jobs of cargo security, which cost the lives of their colleagues, in the film with the indicative title You Can’t Automate Me, 2021 by Katarina Jazbec. Yes, indeed some people do not sink into the abyss of automation, but one by one they leave.

On the other hand, hidden artists take the floor as in The Poet’s Wife (Die Frau des Dichters, 2021) by Helke Misselwitz and in I Was There Too And I Was Treated With A Plate Of Lentil Soup, (Hronis Botsoglou: Imoun ki ego ekei kai me filepsan ena piato me faki, 2021). Two painters, Guler Yucel in a Turkish peninsula, in the first case, and a well-known Greek visual artist, Chronis Botsoglou speak on behalf of the artistic anxiety for expression, while the Israeli The Last Chapter of A.B. Yehoshoua, 2021 by Yair Qedar listens to the agony of the last days in the life of a conscious LOATKI writer and the eternal bequest of art to humanity and its impasses. The mental turmoil of such a moment is easily associated with Mourad Hamla’s Algerian My Mother’s Voice, 2021 and the attempt to resolve the eternal Oedipal complex. Almost a mix of the previous films, Zero (Seishin 0, 2020) by the Japanese Kazuhiro Soda, with the psychiatrist Masatono Yamamoto putting into practice what he has been treating his patients for half a century,  trying to take care of his sick wife.

Finally, Village of Women, 2019 by Tamara Stepanyan, visits a village in Armenia and moves among its inhabitants, with the women adequately replacing their husbands when they leave their land to work as immigrants in Russia. In between, family reunification, summer, and then winter again… FIPRESCI also awarded this cycle of seasons and people, but above all, with its presence in Castellorizo, it awarded the festival itself.


Vasileios Kechagias
Edited by Ron Fogel