The Paphos International Film Festival (PIFF) is an annual festival held every June in Paphos in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. PIFF is an independent not-for-profit organization committed to supporting authentically independent films and it aims to research, promote and develop the art of independent filmmaking. We support low (or no) budget films because we strongly believe that they are worth a chance. PIFF is a platform giving a voice to directors and filmmakers who work with very little, but have a lot to give.
Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?
Nicolas Iordanou & Sylvia Nicolaides: Paphos International Film Festival is the only film festival of the city of Paphos, which is also the European Capital of Culture in 2017. Our aim is to support, promote and develop the art of independent cinema. We want to support films that were produced with a low (or sometimes zero) budget, because we believe that they are worth a chance. PIFF is a platform giving a voice to directors and filmmakers who work with very little, but have a lot to give. We, the directors of the festival, understand this because we are also independent filmmakers and we recognize the difficulties.
Each year, in each category, there is an Audience Award, where the audience gets to vote for the films that were the most inspiring to them. We believe that it is a great honor to receive an award given by the audience.
We also arrange a ‘meet and greet’ get-together with the directors and producers/distributors that attend the festival, and encourage them to exchange ideas, interests and create possible new collaborations.
MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?
NI & SN: Three days of open-air cinema, with ice cold drinks with friends and of course a great selection of independent films from all over the world.
MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?
NI & SN: We appreciate and value independent films that were made from directors and filmmakers who have something to say that is essential and genuine. We look for filmmakers that manage to connect themselves in a personal way with their film and at the same time reflect the issues that concern today’s society.
MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?
NI & SN: Some films get lost due to the large number of submissions that the festival receives and that’s where we come in: because we want to take on the films that did not make it in other film festivals, just because they have not been filmed with the best cameras, the best lighting, etc. We support these productions that despite the difficulties, they have strong and essential ideas, they have quality, and we can see their potential.
MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?
NI & SN: Our own personal experiences as independent filmmakers. We also have to work sometimes with very little, and we would like to show our support and give a voice to all the filmmakers out there who have a vision, a passion, and want to tell compelling and inspirational stories.
MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?
NI & SN: It is only our second year, but we are determined to keep improving and keep this festival growing and becoming part of the city. PIFF has four categories: International short films, Cypriot short films, Student short films and a Special Category. The Special Category’s thematic is changing every year: last year we dedicated this category to films about refugees and immigrants and we had many powerful films and documentaries on that subject. The most moving part was that because of this, we had many Syrian refugees in our audience who came especially to watch them and this brought them closer to the locals who were attending the festival. This year, we dedicate the festival to our dear friend and a great Cypriot artist Costas Economou (1925 – 2016), so our Special Category is devoted to films about art, artists and art forms.
MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?
NI & SN: We hope to start a tradition of cinema in our city, a film festival that will inspire people and that will bring people together. Our aim is to make this festival part of the city. We are working on growing and evolving our network, bringing together different elements of the industry, like filmmakers, distributors, producers, actors, artists, and start a constructive dialogue about social, environmental, political and personal issues that are essential to us, through new collaborations between us.
MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?
NI & SN: Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (Π). We love its thematic and the fact that he produced it with such a low budget by asking friends and relatives to support him with small amounts of money. We appreciate the spirit of making a film possible without having a budget. What is admirable, and that is what we would like to pass to the emerging filmmakers, that no matter the difficulties, there are always ways to make a film and share it with the world.
MT: In one sentence, what makes a great film?
NI & SN: A great script and the desire to translate it in the best possible visual way.
MT: How is the film scene in your city?
NI & SN: Unfortunately it is very limited and almost nonexistent. That is why both of us, as filmmakers and as the directors of this festival, we are now creating the environment through filmmaking courses, workshops, lectures and through the festival itself and everything is encompasses. Our mission statement is that instead of complaining of all the things that do not exist in our city, we ourselves with our community, are trying to cultivate the film culture here with our vision and actions.
Sylvia Nicolaides studied Fine Arts in Chelsea College of Art and Design (University of the Arts) London and received a Master’s Degree in Audio-Visual Studies in the Academy of Performing Arts, in the Film and Television department (FAMU) in Prague, Czech Republic. She participated in several group art exhibitions and her films were awarded and screened at several film festivals both in Cyprus and internationally. In 2013 she participated in the exhibition ‘Catharsis/Rebirth’ in Paphos, Cyprus and co-directed a short film presentation from it, which was selected and presented in the Louvre Museum in Paris as part of the Michelangelo Pistoletto’s exhibition ‘Annee Un – Le Paradis Sur Terre’. She is the co-founder of Kimonos Art Center in Paphos, and the co-founder and co-director of the Paphos International Film Festival (PIFF).
Nicolas Iordanou studied Photography at Columbia College Chicago. From 2001 until 2006 he worked as a photojournalist, dealing with conflict and postwar photography in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Palestine/Israel, Uganda, Lebanon and also covered the September 11 attacks in New York City. He also collaborates pro bono with the United Nations (UNHCR). In 2005 he was invited by the Goethe Institut as a reviewer in the 1st Photography Festival of Berlin. In 2007, he was assigned to photograph an international project called ‘Challenging Walls’ in collaboration with Akademie der Künste – Berlin and Sibylle Bergmann, whose goal was to bring conflicted communities closer, having a common vision of peace and coexistence. In 2013 he participates in the exhibition ‘Catharsis/Rebirth’ in Paphos, Cyprus and co-directs a short film presentation from it, which was selected and presented in the Louvre Museum in Paris as part of the Michelangelo Pistoletto’s exhibition ‘Annee Un – Le Paradis Sur Terre’. He directed documentaries and short films that were awarded and screened around the world. He is the co-founder of Kimonos Art Center in Paphos and co-director of Paphos International Film Festival in
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to http://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.