Greek Film Festival: Films for cultural explorers

The Hellenic Centre in London turned into an international meeting point for fans of Greek culture from 30th October to 1st November.

The influence of Greek culture on the world is undeniable. Having impacted so many different fields of society from architecture and sciences to sports and politics, there is hardly any part of Western culture without Greek traces. In the humanities, the Greeks initiated the detailed study of humans including history and philosophy instead of simply registering human events. There would be no Olympic Games and certainly no drama without the Greeks, for their civilization  brought theatre forms like drama, comedy and tragedy into being. What is more, they provided us with practical words like psychology, biology, philosophy or anthropology to talk about arts and science. We should therefore not be surprised that it was the Greek community that took up the cause of building bridges between their country and the rest of Europe as they hosted the second Greek Film Festival in London earlier this month.

Thanks to the detailed and warm-hearted organisation of the team around the film director Christos Prossylis, participating in the festival was like diving into the Greek culture with all the senses. Greek wine and the trendy drink “Mastika” were given out to greet the visitors, and later a band performed popular Greek songs like “Ta paidia tou peiraia” (“The Kids of Piraeus”) and “Nychtose choris feggari” (It is Dark without a Moon”). Greek food including filled vine leafs, Tzaziki, garlic bread and meat balls completed the picture.

“The country of myth, light, sea, sand, warm and friendly people” - that is how Sofia Panagiotaki, director of the National Tourism Organisation, enthusiastically presented the country in her speech. She invited film producers to shoot documentaries in Greece, describing it as a “fertile breeding ground for tales” and as “the nicest place in the world for documentaries”.

Her speech was underlined by Bettany Hughes, a British historian and journalist who explained how she fell in love with Greek culture and started to make documentaries about historical themes like the Spartans. To the pleasant surprise of the producers, these historical films became a huge global success. However, for Bethany Hughes one of the greatest achievements was when a Muslim activist wrote her an email saying that he had been inspired by one of her films to build bridges between cultures rather than to destroy them with violence.

The range of films presented at the festival was extremely varied – it included feature fiction films, short films, documentaries, animation and video art. For the first time this year, the festival also invited international artists with an interest in Greece to participate showing the country from different angles, through their own eyes.

The film festival organisers wanted to present Greek people as open-minded, enthusiastic and creative – and that is definitely the impression we had after the festival.
By Julia Sahm

Bringing a documentary back to life

Creative Culture continues its cooperation with Discovery Channel, acting as the local research and interpreting partner on the set of another fascinating documentary.

At the center of the documentary is an incident that happened at the Berlin Zoo on this year’s Good Friday - a dramatic experience between a woman and a polar bear witnessed by many visitors. The woman entered the polar bear enclosure and fell into the moat. Luckily, she was rescued and survived the incident.

It took place at the zoo that had become famous thanks to Knut, the orphan polar bear. Knut was the first polar bear to be born at the zoo and survive infancy. He was rejected by his mother and consequently raised by the zookeepers. The pictures of the cute bear playing with a zookeeper resulted in the “Knutomania” – the animal became a main tourist attraction and remained in the spotlight of German media coverage during the whole year of 2006.

To bring light on what happened at the zoo on Good Friday of 2009, Creative Culture was assigned to carry out the local research. As a first step, we provided the TV Channel with more information on the incident: where and how it happened and who was involved. We also located several witnesses who would later share their experience in the documentary.

The producers were very satisfied with the result of the research and invited us to act as a language expert on set. We were also an active support to conduct the interviews.

The shoot was spread over a few days and took place in two German cities, Aschaffenburg (near Frankfurt) and Moers (near Düsseldorf). We accompanied the crew in Moers, where a fourteen-year-old girl and her grandmother explained what it was like to observe this human interaction with the polar bears. They relived the various moments of the incident with all the facets and human emotions involved.

This experience made us wonder how interactions between polar bears and human beings happen when they are not behind bars. We learned that there have been many interactions between humans and bears around the world and more particularly in Churchill, Canada, the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”. Interestingly, only eight people have been killed by polar bears in all of Canada in the past 30 years, according to Polar Bears International. They even report on amusing incidents: in Churchill, a bear once ambled into the Royal Canadian Legion hall. When the club steward shouted that it was not allowed in, the bear immediately left. On other occasions, the animals were attracted to family houses by leftover food, but would leave the spot before the family returned.

However, the pictures of the cute polar bear Knut can be deceiving: polar bears remain very dangerous animals, especially when they are starving or being provoked. For that reason, we were glad to learn more about the animals and to deal with this extraordinary encounter at the Berlin Zoo – and not the polar bear itself.

By Julia Sahm

Cycling to the Ashes …

… and sharing the culture

Oli Broom, an Englishman in his late 20s, is taking the challenge to cycle to the Ashes. he left London from Lord's cricket ground on Saturday 10th October 2009 heading to Brisbane in Australia which he should reach for the next cricket Ashes competition in November 2010.

He will be cycling through Eastern Europe down to Turkey and Syria and continue his journey on the East coast of Africa to Kenya where he will take a boat to India. From there he will pedal at the edge of the Himalayas through Bangladesh and China down to Thailand. He will reach Australia in Darwin (North) and travel via the East coast to Brisbane.

This very special project aims at “spreading the cricket gospel” as Oli says. Cricket is a historically traditional English sport which was played throughout the Common Wealth. In every country Oli stops, he will be involved in events and activities based around cricket to raise the sport’s profile. He is planning to undertake several talks in schools and sports clubs to share his passion. Oli is also taking this worldwide journey to raise funds for two charities: The Lord’s Taverners which enable kids in complex social and physical situations to enjoy cricket and other sports and leisure activities and BNRT (British National Neurological Research Trust).

The Ashes were created in 1877 as a Test cricket series played between England and Australia only. The name of the Ashes came from a satirical publication of a British newspaper in 1882 when the English lost to the Australians at home. It said that English cricket had died and was cremated – therefore the Australians were taking its ashes back home with them. In fact, the urn (trophy) contains the ashes of cricket equipment as a symbol.

Creative Culture is actively behind this project because we feel that it is an extraordinary way to pass a message and share local culture with the world.

You will be able to follow Oli’s journey live on his website through a GPS system which tracks him in real time. There will also be interesting posts and videos of the adventure along the way. Go and check for more details.

If you are on Oli’s route and interested in putting together an event around cricket for your local community, do feel free to get in touch through his site!

By Melanie Chevalier

The Berlin Wall: “My part in its downfall”

On 1st October 2009, Creative Culture attended the launch of The Berlin Wall - My part in its downfall by Peter Millar at the Frontline Club in London

As the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s downfall approaches, Peter Millar’s book is the opportunity to look back at this fascinating event that would change Germany forever.

At the time, Peter Millar worked as a foreign correspondent for Reuters news agency and was based in East Berlin, the communist capital city.

In his novel, Peter shares his experience of living in East Berlin and Moscow while history provided him with so many stories to tell. Life in the communist city was interesting but not easy when freedom seemed to be something as inaccessible as the goods in Western showcases. The GDR tried to control every part of their citizen’s life. In fact, Peter had to get used to microphones in the walls and would later, when his Stasi files were accessible, discover how meticulous the surveillance had been (it included comments like “He has crossed the road illegally while the pedestrian light was red”). But the author also enjoyed the unpretentious way of living in East Berlin.

With the GDR’s reins slackening and the protest movement intensifying, Peter would later witness first-hand the socio-political revolution that eventually brought the Wall down. He also describes the famous misunderstanding that led to the Wall’s downfall and the following non-stop party in Berlin: in a press conference that was broadcast live on television, a member of the communist government declared, not completely aware of what had actually been decided, that every GDR citizen was from now on allowed to cross the border (in reality, the government had only decided to loosen travel regulations in the near future).

The event was as delightful as the novel. Peter Millar read extracts from his book to a very interested and diverse audience to start with. Later, we also got the chance to question and exchange opinions with the author in person.

Peter Millar’s book is highly recommendable for everyone seeking to gain insight into one of the most important events of German contemporary history.

We also invite you to read the fascinating summary written by the author himself:

By Julia Sahm