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VENICE 2006 Horizons

Akamas: Reconciliation and suppression

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The Horizons sidebar of the Venice Film Festival reserved its last day for a Special Event screening of the Cypriot/Turkish/Hungarian co-production Akamas. The film by Panicos Chrysanthou tells a Romeo and Juliet love story set against the changing political landscape of the island that would see British rule evolve into the eventual partition between Turkish and Greek loyalists.

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The film stars Christopher Greco as Omeris, a Turkish Cypriot who at the age of 10 is placed with a Greek Cypriot family to learn the ropes as a shepherd. He is already smitten with Rhodou, the family’s daughter, whom he will grow to love even as she initially feels more for a EOKA freedom fighter. Filled with Homeric and classical Greek tragedy references and with touches of Shakespeare and Kazantzakis, the film is contemplative to the extent that its particulars take a back seat to the grand sweep of emotions and political upheaval.

The Cypriot Culture Ministry wanted to censor the film’s reconciliatory message after the rejection of the 2004 UN referendum by the Greek Cypriots, who are the majority. At the press conference in Venice, the director read a statement explaining that after it became known that the Venice Film Festival had invited Akamas, the Ministry wanted to cut a scene from the film or halt funding. An ad hoc group then raised funds to complete the film and pay for the print that was shown on the Lido.

"This film represents the other Cyprus [than that of the government]," the Greek Cypriot director stated. Mulayin Husein, president of the Turkish Cypriot Association who helped raise funds, added: "The film became a victim of the lack of [a sense of] history and shows [the government’s] structures of nationalism and intolerance and the fact that it does not recognise the values of the European Union".

The film is a co-production between the Cypriot Artimages Ltd, Istanbul’s Marathon Filmcilic and Budapest’s Creator 4 and was supported by Eurimages, the Cypriot Ministry of Education and Culture, Greek and Cyprus broadcasters and the United Nations Bi-Communal Development Programme.

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