The cinematographic production in a small country like Cyprus had an inevitable late start and a rather slow development in its early years. The history of cinema in Cyprus began at the end of the 1940s, when the British colonial government started to train Cypriot film makers at the Colonial Film Unit. With the advent of Cypriot television in 1957, the first short-length films, mainly documentaries, began to be produced.
The pioneers of Cypriot cinema during the 1950s were George Lanitis, Ninos Fenek Mikellides, Renos Watson, Polys Georgakis and others who directed and produced short-length films. Some of these were: The Island of Aphrodite, Salamina, Botrys of Cyprus, Epikoinonia (Communication), To Heri (The Hand) and Rizes (Roots) by Nikos Lanitis and George Stivaros.
Feature-length films were produced much later in the 1960s. George Fills in 1963 directed a film depicting the traditional Cypriot wedding, Agapes kai Kaimoi (Love Affairs and Heartbreaks) in 1965, and soon after To Telefteo Fili (The Last Kiss), 1821, and Cyprus. In 1969, George Katsouris and Costas Farmakas directed the comedy O Paras o Maskaras (Money the Clown).
During the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a richer crop of films. George Filis produced and directed Gregoris Afxentiou, Etsi Prodothike I Kypros (Cyprus' Betrayal), and the Mega Document. The cinematographic entrepreneur Diogenis Herodotou also started producing films: Dakrya kai Diplopenies (Tears and Strings), I Diki tou Fitilla (Fitillas' Trial), I Apagogi tis Gogous (Kidnapping Gogou), O Firfiris stin Athena (Firfiris visits Athens), To Ftohopedo tis Kyprou (The Cypriot Pauper), Diakopes stn Kypro (Holidaying in Cyprus) and O Tragoudistis tis Kyprou (the Cyprus Singer).
Since 2003, the Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for the Cinema Sector, through the "Programme for the Development of Cyprus Cinema" and its priorities are the cinematographic production, education and professional training. It finances international co-productions, high and low budget feature films, short films, documentaries, animation, experimental films, as well as the local distribution and circulation of Cypriot films in theatres. It also provides financial support for filmmakers to participate in international film festivals and markets and in various educational seminars and workshops abroad. Until now, the government allocated financial support for more than 130 films. Currently, the annual funding budget is 1.500,000 euro.
More recent feature-film productions include: Kai to Treno Paei ston Ourano (And the Train Goes to the Sky) by loannis Ιοannou (2000); The Road to Ithaca by Costas Demetriou; Το Tama (The Promise) by Andreas Pantzis; Kato Αρο ta Astra (Under the stars) by Christos Georgiou; Bar by Aliki Danezi-Knusten (all in 2001); Kokkini Pempti (Red Thursday) by Christos Siopahas (2003); Kalabush by Adonis Florides and Theodoros Nikolaides (2003); Me tin Psychi sto Stoma (Soul Kicking) by Yiannis Economides (2006); ΜeΙi ke Krasi (Honey and Wine) by Marinos Kartikkis (2006); Akamas by Panicos Chrysanthou (2006); Hi Ι'm Εrrica by loannis Ιοannou (2008); Mikro Egklima (Small Crime) by Christos Georgiou (2008); Ο Teleutaios Gyrismos (The Last Homecoming) by Corinna Avraamidou (2008); Guilt by Vassilis Mazomenos (2009); Apo Thauma (By a Miracle) by Marinos Kartikkis (2010); Deipno me tis Adelfes mou (Dinner with my Sisters) by Michael Hapeshis (2011); Mahairovgaltis (Knifer) by Yiannis Economides (2011); and, Ladi sti Fotia (Fish n' Chips) by Elias Demetriou (2011). Currently, the films Chara kai Thlipsi tou Somatos (Joy and Sorrow of the Body) by Andreas Pantzis and China Town by Aliki Danezi-Knutsen are in post-production, while the film Entyposis enos Pnigmenou (Impressions of a Drown Man) by Kyros Papavassiliou is being produced.
The Ministry of Education and Culture is also responsible for bilateral agreements and the promotion of Cyprus as a filming destination. Possible taxation incentives are being considered in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, and will be implemented as soon as they are finalized. Cyprus is a member of Eurimage, the Media Programme, the SEE Cinema Network, the EFAD (European Film Agency Directors) and the EFARN (European Film Agency Research Network) and has signed the European Convention οn Cinematographic Co-productions.
Activities / Festivals / Awards
The "Cyprus Cinema Days" festival is held jointly by the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Rialto Theatre. It takes place ten years on, in April every year at Lemesos (Rialto Theatre) and at Lefkosia (Zena Palace Cinema). Alongside the showing of films from the contemporary cinematographic production that have been distinguished during the current festival year and are incorporated in the section "Viewfinder – Looks at the Contemporary International Cinema, the festival introduced for the first time in 2011 the international competition part "Glocal Images."
The festival, upgraded and with an increased number of spectators, has opened new avenues of communication for the Cypriot public with world independent cinema production through a rich program of screenings, composed of films which are characterized by quality, originality and sensitivity in the treatment of their topics.
The "Cyprus International Short Film Festival" that is organized by the Ministry of Education and Culture jointly with the Rialto Theatre, takes place at the Rialto Theatre (Lemesos) around October each year. The Festival includes a competition part, concurrent programmes, master classes, laboratories for children and students, as well as live music at the opening and closing ceremonies. The five-member Jury Panel is composed of personalities from the world of the cinema.
The Three-day Festival of European Short Films - Awards of the European Cinema Academy, is organized jointly by the European Cinema
Academy and the Artos Foundation. Shown in this three-day festival are European short films chosen from the fifteen most important film festivals of Europe, as candidates for the great prize of the European Cinema Academy. The same films are shown in Lemesos, at TEPAK, in the two-day screening program.
The Festival "Images and Aspects of the Alternative Cinema," which takes place every year in the month of June at the "Other Place" of Theatro Ena, gives prominence to experimentation in the language of the cinema, social and existentialist reflection and to critical approach of the established forms and shapes in cinematographic expression.
The festival is organized by the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture in cooperation with "Theatro Ena" and the Cultural Organization Brave New Culture.
The screenings in the context of the program "Summer Projections Marathon" between July and September each year are also a particularly great success. The "Marathon" has been organized by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Theatro Ena and the Friends of the Cinema Club for over 14 years. The screenings take place at Lefkosia's oldest functioning open cinema hall, the "Constantia." The "Summer Projections Marathon" is one of the Ministry's most important events both in terms of promoting the cinema and upgrading the social and cultural life of the country. The films are selected on the merit of quality, the cinematographic education of the public and entertainment. The program also includes a number of films for young cinema lovers.
In addition to the above, the Ministry of Education and Culture subsidizes the following institutions and annual events:
- The Limassol Mini International Documentary Festival (August), held by the organization Brave New Culture and featuring films that have won awards in various international film festivals. In the context of the festival laboratories are organized for film professionals, in cooperation with the Media Office in Cyprus, during which Cypriot and foreign directors present their proposals to foreign professionals in the field of documentaries.
- The Children's International Film Festival with the participation of schools of elementary and secondary education. The Festival is of a bi-communal nature. It focuses on morning film projections with analytical commentary by directors and other cinema specialists, and on evening projections with film laboratories. The Ministry also provides support for the Children's Film Festival in organizing the program "Caramella", which has to do with educational film screenings for children and young people twice a month.
The development of the cinema in rural areas
The Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture, in the framework of developing the cinema in rural areas, have introduced the following activities:
1. Support for cinema theatres in rural areas to function round the year.
2. Projection of Cypriot films in rural areas.
3. Subsidization of the organization "World Aspects" for the staging of an Animation Film Festival in rural areas. The festival hosts specialists in the genre of Animation, who present their films and undertake to hold morning laboratories with Cypriot colleagues.
The Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture provide support for film directors, producers and other cinema contributors to enable their participation in various educational seminars and laboratories abroad. At the same time they cooperate with the European MEDIA programme and its Office in Cyprus for the promotion of programmes aiming at the professional development of various aspects of film production.
1. They subsidize directors to present their films at international festivals and other events, thus promoting Cypriot cinema abroad.
2. They provide financial support for the regular screenings by Cinema Clubs.
3. They provide financial support to the Directors Union of Cyprus in organizing laboratories and special features.
4. They support various other events concerning the cinema through subsidies.