Athens Open Air Film Festival at 2023 ELEUSIS European Capital of Culture: A cinematic exploration into the city of mysteries
The unforgettable cinematic four-day event co-organised by the Athens Open Air Film Festival and 2023 ELEUSIS European Capital of Culture was concluded on Monday 26 th July. With cinema as its compass, it was a journey through emblematic and sometimes hidden gem locations of Elefsina.
From the 23 rd to the 26 th July 2021 great films of world and Greek cinema were brought together under the unique location of historic Elefsina to start a touching and atmospheric interaction between members of the audience (citizens, visitors, crew members of the event organisers) and unexpected - even undiscovered - locations of the city.
The programme included five (5) free-admission screenings in five different locations of exceptional aesthetic and historical importance, thus showcasing the ever-changing landscape of Elefsina and offering a new opportunity to “study” five brilliant films.
The cinematic journey began on Friday 23 rd July wth the Final Cut of Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece “Apocalypse Now”, at the impressive location of “Blycha”. The wild vegetation, the element of water, wrecked ship hulls resting in the night and the image of lit up refineries in the distance made for a fittingly eccentric atmosphere in which members of the audience could experience Coppola’s legendary masterpiece. The screening was preceded by the speeches of Ms Maria Panayides, CEO of “2023 ELEUSIS European Capital of Culture” and Mr Loukas Katsikas, our Festival’s Artistic Director.
On Saturday 24 th July, the beautiful Old Olive Oil Mill Theatre of Elefsina hosted a unique and unprecedented screening of the unsurpassed “Nosferatu” with Nikos Veliotis producing haunting music to accompany Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s gothic imagery. Nikos Veliotis, one of the most important and multi- talented artists in Greece, took on the task of composing original music with which to “dress” a timeless masterpiece of world cinema, which captivated the fortunate viewers who attended the screening.
Adding to the mystical atmosphere was the stunning July full moon - as it gradually rose over the Theatre space - along with the reverence with which the audience watched the screening and the sounds of the town’s old bell tower, as if they emanated from Murnau’s shots. Before the event commenced, journalist and author, Marianna Tziantzi, on the occasion of the story she tells in her latest book “Αντίο στις αυλές των θαυμάτων” (Goodbye to the courtyards of miracles, published by Kastaniotis in 2016), bowed to the city of Elefsina for inspiring the plot of her beautiful novel.
On Sunday 25 th July audience members journeyed to the glorious Art Cinema of the 70s with the screening of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “The Passenger”. The film was screened in the Parking Lot of the Old Olive Oil Mill with its unique aesthetics. The screening was preceded by an introduction by the Artistic Director of the Athens Open Air Film Festival, Mr Loukas Katsikas and the Director of Cultural Development of 2023 ELEUSIS European Capital of Culture, Ms Georgia Voudouri. Both spoke warmly about the importance of such synergy and the valuable reciprocity of the convergence of cinema and urban landscapes as a means of highlighting and discovering a new way of experiencing art in (your) city.
The last stop in this cinematic four-day event and the culmination of the activities of the Athens Open Air Film Festival in co-organization with “2023 ELEUSIS European Capital of Culture” was on Monday 26 th July with a double screening- experience in two emblematic spaces of Elefsina where a cinematic event took place for the first time.
Only 70 lucky spectators were given the chance to attend a screening of the much loved “Mourning Rock”, in the presence of its director, in a special 20 th anniversary screening. This unprecedented screening took place at the exceptional Archaeological Site of Elefsina in the presence of the General Artistic Director of 2023 ELEUSIS European Capital of Culture, Michail Marmarinos, the director Filippos Koutsaftis, who introduced the film and presented for the first time a 10-minute excerpt of his new film “The Eleusinians” (produced by 2023 ELEUSIS European Capital of Culture), the Director of Antiquities, Ms Kalliopi Papaggeli, and the Artistic Director of the Athens Open Air Festival, Mr Loukas Katsikas.
Speaking about the film, Michail Marmarinos said that “ “Mourning Rock” is Elefsina. I think it should be screened all the time. We should be educated by this film. It is a lesson that Elefsina taught itself”. He went on to thank the Festival and Loukas Katsikas for the collaboration and stressed the importance of being in the Archaeological Site of Elefsina as “these films and the dramatisation of these films promote viewer experience. It is not just about the film itself but also the location where it is screened, as locations which may otherwise not have stood out are suddenly brought to life through the emotions experienced. Through art we see them anew”.
Director Filippos Koutsaftis warmly thanked the audience for attending the screening and said: “I don’t suppose I need to introduce “Mourning Rock”. I would like to thank certain people [...] and warmly thank Ms Papaggeli once more as thanks to her and thanks to the change in logic of a civil servant, she allowed me back then to be present along with my camera where the excavations were taking place, where things were happening”. Ms Kalliopi Papaggeli closed the introduction - on the epilogue of the four-day event- with warm and emotionally charged words about the film and Elefsina: “ I am deeply moved to be at the same site, the same rocks on which Filippos and I first collaborated 12 years ago. The film itself is touching. The Elefsina you will see in the film is not the Elefsina of today. The melancholy that emanates from the film has become a smile and perhaps Elefsina is no longer a Mourning Rock. We are two of the few survivors, Filippos and I, the last survivors much like Dumas’ novel “Twenty Years After” ”.
Loukas Katsikas thanked the audience and those in attendance and claimed to be moved: “I am truly overjoyed by this initiative, with this specific collaboration, as the crew and audience of the Athens Open Air Film Festival were given the chance to discover Elefsina together, to see different aspects of it and to discover landscapes which are hidden treasures, to use cinema as a starting point to delve deeper. At the same time we were able to witness the mystery that takes place when a film interacts with its surroundings, when a screening becomes a performance and reality poetically violates fiction. And that was the point of this four-day event in Elefsina".
Following the first screening, a unique performance took place, a dialogue and a tribute to the memorable “Mourning Rock”, by actor Tasos Vasileiou in the presence of and with the participation of the General Artistic Director of “2023 ELEUSIS European Capital of Culture”, Michail Marmarinos.
On the same night, a few minutes apart from the screening of the film “Mourning Rock”, in yet another emblematic location of Elefsina (the area of Karnagio Gefyra), Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre was screened amidst ships with illuminated hulls, moored boats and with the moon rising right above the big screen, adding an extra romantic touch to an already beautiful evening.
Film Lovers' beer of choice, Fischer, accompanied the cinematic nights.
The audience was kept refreshed by Zagori Go Green water.
On behalf of the Artistic Director of the Athens Open Air Film Festival, Loukas Katsikas, and of the General Artistic Director of “2023 ELEUSIS European Capital of Culture”, Michail Marmarinos as well as on behalf of the entire team of collaborators of both organisations we would like to offer our heartfelt thanks for their support to:
The Municipality of Elefsina and the Mayor Mr Argyris Oikonomou as well as the Deputy Mayor of Culture, Mr Fotis Takakis for their mediation and collaboration in this ambitious endeavor.
The Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of West Attica, Ms Christina Merkouri and the Head of the Department of Prehistoric & Classical Antiquities, Ms Kalliopi Papaggeli who embraced the event from the very beginning and allowed us with their gracious support to hold a film screening for the first time at the Archaeological Site of the city.
The Elefsina Port Authority and especially the Managing Director, Mr Apostolos Kamarinakis, as well as the Elefsina Coast Guard and specifically its Head, Mr Aggelos Grammateas as well as Ms Georgia Zontirou and Mr Antonio Fourakis, thanks to their invaluable support screenings were held for the first time at the locations “Blycha” and Karnagio “Gefyra”, respectively. Finally, we would like to thank all of you, from the bottom of our heart, for honouring us with your attendance and mainly we wish to thank the city of Elefsina for all its beauty.
Till next time.
Throughout the event, all the necessary measures were observed for the protection of public health and the orderly attendance of members of the audience to screenings, both in terms of the reservation of seats and tickets, as well as social distancing and the use of protective items such as masks, gloves and hand antiseptic.
The four-day film event is part of the People / Society" thematic axis of the artistic program of 2023 ELEUSIS European Capital of Culture, and specifically it is one of the activities of the Cine ELEFSIS program.